Writing as Creation and Self-Discovery

"Writing is not just an act of creation. It is a process of self-discovery."—Cristina Istrati


“Writing is not just a process of creation. It is also a process of self-discovery.”—Cristina Istrati

Self-discovery draws many writers to the page. We don’t know what we think or feel or even remember until we put pen to paper. Writing answers questions we didn’t even know we had. Some of us lean into this hard.

While I’d always dreamed of being published and had early success writing feature articles in high profile magazines, these finished products didn’t interest me as much as the writing process. As a result, my writing sometimes made it seem as if I didn’t care about the reader.

What about the reader?

When she teaches writing practice, my mentor, Natalie Goldberg, rarely talks directly about audience. It’s not that she doesn’t value her readers. She aims to dive to the bottom of the mind. If a writer goes deep enough, uncovering their own truths, she suggests they will also unearth universal truths—truths that will interest, entertain, and encourage readers.

I had to put that out of my mind while I wrote Depression Hates a Moving Target lest I be so paralyzed I couldn’t write a word. I had to set my white plastic digital timer, go for ten minutes, spill purple ink onto the page.

But as I wrote, my mind returned again and again to a friend I’ve had since childhood. She too struggles with depression, exercise, weight, and self-esteem.

I could see her face.

I asked what she might want to know. How could I explain running to her? What would she wonder about form and shoes and fear? Was there something about anxiety I could share that might help her? Did I know something she might need to know?

The vague notion of writing for an “audience” had left me cold. But imagining an actual person helped me focus. It made me care. I had to write for a living, breathing loved one with a face and a name and a family history. I wrote to her.

As it turned out, she wasn’t the only one who wanted to know.

For more wisdom from authors like Cristina Istrati, please check out You Should Be Writing, the new writing journal from Mango Publishing by Brenda Knight and Nita Sweeney.