You might balk when I say that personal essay is creative writing, or you might be far enough along to know that non-fiction needs as much creativity as fiction, if not more. There is no such thing as pure objectivity in art. The photograph was supposed to be that, but the eye of photographer, the angle, the subject, all these things —these choices—are included in the verisimilitude of an austere photo. Art is present, hiding but powerfully present.
A personal essay is basically a glorified journal entry. You write something “true” and embellish it with enough art as to focus light on certain things and convey a deeper meaning than a material laundry list. This is how I fell in love with writing.
When I made the jump to fiction, I took this with me. My subject matter became the lives of invented characters, but the work was the same. I took the day to day lives of my imaginary friends inhabiting my psyche and pulled meaning and purpose to the greater idea.
In a way, you see, I’m still writing personal essays, I’m still searching the events of my life with a light of meaning. The events now extend to my imagination. Jung would be proud.
If you want to know an author, don’t talk to them, don’t watch them — read them. Their soul will be writ clear on the pages between the sentences, among the adjectives and conflicts. It’s a glass darkly perhaps, but it’s a close as we can ever come to knowing ourselves or another.
There is nothing created, no art, no sound, no sentence that does not bear the stamp of the author and holds their mind in reflection.