In mid-January Michiko Kakutani, the New York Times chief book critic, interviewed President Obama to discuss the books and writers that have influenced his life and presidency.

The interview became an article for NYT. Reading the transcript of that interview was a gemstone for me. My admiration for President Obama has led me to read his books, listen to him speak not only for content, but also for context and his personal attitude, and how all the facets of his speechmaking become congruent.

The interview turned to writing and its personal benefits for President Obama. Aha. Anything about writing is an added bonus for me. I found the answer to this question both inspiring and timely for any phase of life.

“MK: Was writing partly a way to figure out your identity?

Pres. Obama: Yes, I think so. For me, particularly at that time, writing was the way I sorted through a lot of crosscurrents in my life — race, class, and family. And I genuinely believe that it was part of the way in which I was able to integrate all these pieces of myself into something relatively whole.”

I got to thinking about what writing has been for me. When I wrote my first book, Thinking of Miller Place: A Memoir of Summer Comfort, it was my homage to my twinship and gave me a sense of integration with my childhood. When I reread it today I see the literary gaps, the places where it could be so much better. Yet I also see the girl I was at six, eight, and ten. I see more clearly the influences in those years that molded the woman I became at twenty, thirty, forty, and even now looking at the travels I’ll take along the road into my seventies.

Would that everyone would play with words, lay out sentences and sit back and see the colorful scenes that came off the palette of their lives. How do you see yourself in your writing?

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about words, the writing life, people who write, and is always on the lookout for seedling ideas for stories.