Becoming Part Of The Story

In an excerpt from the book Why We Write, Susan Orlean shares her favorite part about writing:

The best time I’ve ever had as a writer—this is strange, but true—was years ago when I was reporting a story for the New Yorker, and I traveled with a black gospel group for a couple of weeks, writing about their world.

There was this moment when we pulled into some tiny town in Georgia, and we were having dinner in a local diner and I had an out-of-body experience. I couldn’t stop being amazed, thinking, This is my job. I’m in Georgia with this black gospel group, and I’m talking with people I would never have met as long as I lived if this wasn’t my job.

I was feeling the exhilaration of stepping into an alternate universe. If my life had taken a different path, I might have been having dinner at a country club in a suburb in the Midwest, but I’m not. I’m here. I’ve had a version of that experience many times, and it’s always so powerful.