Authorial Intent

Break time with Crash Course is one of my favorite activities. I really like this bit about authorial intent:

As an author,1 I feel like in reading my own writing, I’m always going back and forth finding things I didn’t intend to put into a text, bringing them out, shutting other accidents down.2 It feels subjectively like all the authentic intention comes from my role as reader anyway.

So, then, what is authorial intent? I guess since editing is an aspect of writing, that’s still authorial intent? But the fact that it doesn’t emerge in some pure moment of “writing” in which the mind transfers art neatly out of the realm of the muses and into lexical units, but is rather analyzed and highlighted out of a text, makes me wonder if you can ever really understand what devices you use in the moment of composition anyway. And in what way my authorial intent is different from a reader’s, except insofar as I have the authority to change the text. It’s really just that as a reader, I have more rights over the text.

Please shoot some holes in that theory because I think it must be wrong.

  1. Maybe? Are you an author as, like, an identity category before your book comes out? Or just a writer? Whatever. You don’t even want to fathom the temporal sinkhole of etymological digging this footnote represents.
  2. This is, by the way, one of the big reasons I spend so much time on editing. Anyone who tells you they don’t edit their writing is insane. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, I just don’t believe anyone has the ability to play both roles at the same time, even in a short piece. It’s not just about finding typos, as many students seem to believe.