Cover Photo: A man holding up a magnifying glass to investigate . . . himself!
Photograph by Marten Newhall/Unsplash

How to Write Personal Essays Through Who You Are

This exercise is meant to let you use a part of your identity as a perspective, rather than just a subject that you’re putting under pressure and scrutiny.


Final Fantasy XIV


write through the lens

write two lists

a list of every possible identity you possesst be an exhaustive list, but, you know, challenge yourself.) It can contain the immediately visible to more invisible things. In my case, the list could look like: Asian, Filipino, and gay as visible things; immigrant—as in, not US-born—and Libra might be less-visible identities I claim. My list would also include things like: cis man, middle class, first-generation US college student, traveler, home cook, type-A organizer, writer, etc.

a list of your passions and interestsRuPaul’s Drag RaceItalophileFrench language learner

Take one item from your list of identities and one item from your list of interests, then “intersect” them

Where does chinoiserie come from and does it have a place with us now in 2022?


’s upcoming Catapult course, 1-Day Personal Essay Seminar for Writers of Color, here!

Matt Ortile is the author of the essay collection The Groom Will Keep His Name and the co-editor of the nonfiction anthology Body Language. He is also the executive editor of Catapult magazine and was previously the founding editor of BuzzFeed Philippines. He has received fellowships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and MacDowell; has taught workshops for Kundiman, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and PEN America; and has written for Esquire, Vogue, Condé Nast Traveler, Out magazine, and BuzzFeed News, among others. He is a graduate of Vassar College, which means he now lives in Brooklyn.