“Did You Always Know…?” Here’s What’s Weird About That Childhood Question

I get asked some version of this question a lot: “Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer, even when you were a little girl?”

When I wrote a book about plants or bugs, it would be: “Did you love bugs or flowers or gardening when you were a child?”

“Have you always loved to read?”

“Did you draw and paint when you were little?”

I’ve always thought this was a strange question. What does it matter whether a person did a thing when they were a child or not? The world would be a very strange place if we all pursued our childhood interests. We’d have a lot of ballerinas and astronauts, but who would do our taxes?

And anyway, what’s wrong with picking up an interest in something when you’re thirty, or fifty, or eighty?

We like to hear that people who make art must have been born that way. We want a story about how those seeds were planted early.

But I’m delighted to say that it doesn’t work that way at all! Whatever your interest, whatever your pursuit, you can start at any time.

I was at an event recently in which every author was asked to speak about how they got started. Everyone’s talk started with “When I was five…” or “My earliest memory…”

I looked out at the audience, mostly women, all adults, many retired, and thought, “Well, this would be dispiriting for anyone who has a longing to start writing.”

So I said something different. You can watch it here:


This is one of a series of posts I wrote about this notion that the pursuit of art (or any passion, really) is something you’re either born to do or not. Read all of them:

“Did You Always Know…” Here’s What’s Weird About that Childhood Question

Your Sister Didn’t Take Art Away From You.

I’m Calling Bullshit on the Whole Idea of Talent

It Doesn’t Matter How Good You Get