What it means to be a writer

You know how sometimes you’re online and follow a random link, and end up reading something that speaks to you in a profound way that feels like you were meant to read it? I was just browsing through YA and middle-grade books on Amazon, as I am wont to do, and clicked on Elana K. Arnold’s book page for “The Question of Miracles.” In her author Q&A, Arnold gives possibly the best and truest answer to the question “Did you always want to become a writer?” I’ve ever read. She sums up not only her childhood aspirations and personal journey but what it really means to identify yourself as a writer. Reading it, I felt like Angela Chase from “My So-Called Life,” when she says “Sometimes someone says something really small… and it just fits into this empty place in your heart.” I hope Arnold and Amazon won’t mind if I quote it in its entirety.

“When I was a kid, I just was a writer. There was no ‘becoming’. Writing was part of me, something I did naturally, almost like breathing. Writing took no effort. As I got older and I learned about limitations—how difficult it is to sell a book, how many other people were writers, too, and, even more painful, my own limitations (who am I to be worthy of publication? Why should people care about my stories?)—I started to feel less comfortable with my identity as a writer. In fact, there were several years during which I didn’t identify as a writer, at all, in a purposeful, almost combative way. I was a reader, I would tell people. I used to be a writer, but I wasn’t, anymore. Of course, this wasn’t true. The truth was that I was still a writer, I am a writer even when I am not writing anything at all. As I grew up, people smugly told me that “Writers write,” but this isn’t the whole truth of the matter. Sometimes, writers read. Sometimes, writers think. Sometimes, writers get married or get their hearts broken or have children or have insomnia or eat too much or don’t eat enough. So, this is a long way of answering the short question, did I always want to become a writer. Yes, I always wanted to become the best, truest writer of my own heart. And I’m still working on it.”

You can read the rest of Elana K. Arnold’s author interview here.