Write to Learn
What it means to discover something? It means to explore things unknown and find something new. “New” means things that have not been considered in the past, things not expected and things that bring a little bit of change into your thinking, habits or identity.
Then, what it means to discover yourself in writing? Writing is a process of getting in the front of a blank page and putting down everything that comes to your mind. Writing, then, by default implies exploration, discovery and learning. You pull out bits of you onto the page, and pull in bits of findings about yourself.
You may learn that you can actually write. Or that you can write in a foreign language. You may learn that when you switch from writing on native to foreign language, the flow of blood in your veins changes its direction.
You may also learn that language can be a form of self-protection. You may want to write in a foreign language because it is less personal and the range of emotions you can express is limited, which in turn protects you from being vulnerable. You just cannot express that much. It is a gift and a curse — it forces you to be creative and workaround your language limits, which is a gift, while the curse is your inability to say things you may want to say. Would you even say the same things that you would on your native language? Just another thing to dig into more.
Learnings and discoveries like these came unplanned and unexpected. I did not certainly expect to dive into bilingualism side of things. At the end of the day, you never sit before your screen with a clear idea of what you want to say. It just comes when you start doing it.
Write and Run
In that sense, writing is like running. This is another unexpected turn. You never know how you will feel during a run until you start. Both writing and running are oldest creative processes. You need nothing to start to write or run. Just paper, pen, shoes, arms and legs and a bit of energy. But you create something as you dive in. Movement creates energy. Thinking creates words.
As you start to run, you feel uncomfortable. Your body is shocked, your brain is asking every second when will this stop, trying to save as many energy as possible.
As you start to write, you feel uncomfortable too. Your brain is suddenly empty and all the things you wanted to say are suddenly gone. It is not willing to help you as this is not a life-saving activity worth spending your energy.
But you keep doing it. Keep running. Keep writing. It felt weird and uncomfortable, but kept doing it and now it feels natural. No force applied. Pure movement of brain and legs. Sentences appear and your hands barely can keep up with your thoughts. Kilometers are passed and your breathing can barely catch up with your legs. It was not such a scary idea, right? This is another discovery you made about yourself.
Steal to Write
But let’s come back to writing. I love running and have written about it elsewhere, but this piece is about writing.
To find yourself in writing you have to steal from other people who create: writers, artists, musicians, anyone who inspires you. You have to read something that makes you wish you could write like that. Makes you pick-up where a story ends and continue it.
And why don’t you do just that? This is a great start. You will adapt the style, the voice and the thinking of someone else to continue their story. But in doing so, you will find yourself. You will get to know what parts of their voice and their style you sympathize the most, and what parts feel foreign. You can take those parts you loved and add something that feels like you and this is how you start discovering yourself.
Another thing you can do — you can re-type a story or book you love. One of my favorites writers is Hunter Thompson and when he started to learn writing he re-typed books by Hemingway and Fitzgerald to “just get the feeling of what it was like to write that way.” Re-typing may feel mechanic and you will do parts of it in auto-pilot mode. But it will allow you to get into a writer’s thinking from the backdoor and understand his choice of words, sequences of scenes and the logic behind allocation of spaces and words to places and people.
Both of these practices will help you to get started and acquire an independent writing voice of your own. And when the next time you will get to write something, it will be your voice, your experience, your thinking and feelings talking back to you. It will be your voice, no, it will be you who channel ideas on the page and let them lead you in the wonders and deep rabbit holes of your own mind. As soon as ideas jump out on the page and start living on their own, they no longer belong to you. But this is exactly when you know that you have put parts of yourself into the page and received them back in the forms of words, sentences and paragraphs. You explored and you found something new. You changed yourself a bit. You came out of it a better improved person than you were at the start of this writing run.
And the finish — the great feeling of knowing that you accomplished something and it fulfills you with calmness, joy and passion for more. And this is a big part of how you discover yourself in writing.