Essays can be some of the easiest and most entertaining assignments you get.
I know that’s not the cliche you’ve been taught about some poor desperate student staring desperately at the blank page as he pecks a key at a time praying to get a single semi-interesting sentences coagulated onto the eye-splitting whiteness.
Yea… then when the poor sucker finally gets something on the page the thought creeps in, “No… I hate that…”
Have you ever experienced that feeling?
I used to experience that same feeling every single essay I wrote. I could write well enough but getting that first sentence down made me wish I had a dentist appointment.
Writing essays can be miserable but they don’t have to be.
Well meaning movies and TV has taught us the completely wrong way to write an essay.
Staring at a blank page isn’t the way you should be starting. There are better, faster, and easier ways.
When you learn these strategies, essays are going to feel…
Good Essays Are Intellectually Orgasmic
I’m dead serious about the extreme I’m using. It will feel that good when you get the hang of it.
To get a general idea of what I’m talking about:
Imagine yourself in a room with some of your closest friends. You’re all talking about something reasonably mundane but you’re all smiling through it because you’re having a good time. Every once in a while everyone in the room breaks out into laughter at some awesome comment or joke.
Everyone is just talking and having a good time. There is no pretense of trying to be or sound like anyone better or cooler or smarter or whatever. You’re all just having fun together.
Have you ever felt anything like that?
That’s the kind of feeling you get when you learn to enjoy writing essays.
No… you’re not trying to sound impressive
You’re just talking with a friend.
You’re just writing your thoughts without any worries about judgement or mistakes.
Write how you think.
And that brings me to the first common objection:
“But I’m going to get graded for it so I have to write like…”
And the solution is simple:
Edit Like You’re The Villain In A Horror Movie
Writing the essays is the hardest part.
If you write passionately then you’ll get tons of stuff on the page. That might sound tough but I’ll get to how you can do that later in this article.
Not all of that stuff is going to be any good. That’s what editing is there to correct.
The best part is: when you write something awesome, it’s more fun to edit it.
At the very least, you should read your essay out loud slowly to edit it. This will help you catch the blatantly obvious mistakes.
If you think you went a little unprofessional or too casual or even a little dirty then you should also go through the essay and clean up those bits. That being said, it might surprise you how well most teachers take pushing the boundaries.
Most students avoid editing because they don’t enjoy their own writing at all.
Once you get good at writing awesome essays, editing is going to be fun.
You might just find yourself editing extra times because you think it’s kinda’ fun.
How To Write Awesome Instead Of Awful – Easily
The hardest part about writing essay should be coming up with a subject.
You might already agree on that point.
The truth is, you should never sit down to write an essay until you have the subject decided already.
Every time you get an essay prompt from the teacher you need to read it immediately and let your ideas percolate.
Don’t try to make coming up with ideas an active process (unless you’re running out of time.)
Let the ideas come to you. Think about the prompt throughout the day randomly. Think about it while you’re eating. Let it cross your mind while you’re showering. Make your dog jealous by zoning out and thinking about it when you should be petting it. You know, that kind of stuff.
Don’t aim for “good” ideas.
No one likes good ideas.
Good ideas are overdone because every boring student looking to just hand in something is fighting for those ideas.
Look for interesting ideas.
What idea makes you curious?
What idea interests you?
Then ask: Is there any conceivable way this is related to the prompt?
If so, run with it.
Prompts are meant to be pushed to their limits. If your idea kind of sort of meets the prompt then it’s usually good enough.
My experience has shown teachers tend to give higher scores when you push the prompt to its limits. (My theory is the teacher enjoys variety.)
Good ideas require thinking and planning. At the end of the day, that good idea is going to be competing with other similar ideas your peers have come up with.
Interesting ideas write themselves. Planning can help but you can often just let your mind flow onto the page and get similar results. And at the end of the day, these ideas are interesting enough to not need to compete with everyone else.
What Makes Something So Unbelievably Interesting You Can’t Help But Keep Going
Coming up with an interesting idea is the most important part of writing a compelling essay.
That being said, it gets significantly easier when you accept:
You’re not trying to please your teacher.
I know that’s what you think you’re trying to do but your teacher is way deeper than you can possibly imagine.
You can’t try to write to please your teacher because you’re not in your teachers head. There is no way you can possibly know what to write for that.
(Sure… you can take a good guess at subjects to avoid if the teacher is outspoken. It’s harder to go in the other direction.)
You’re writing to please yourself.
What is interesting to you?
- Make it funny
- Make it surprising
- Make it unusual
- Make it provocative
- Make it offensive
(Use offensive carefully. A little offensive can sometimes work in some classes but offensive should be saved for outside of the classroom. There are too many risks in a classroom environment.)
Enjoying essays begin and almost end with interesting ideas. The writing just takes care of itself when you find the idea.
Let me tell you (an inappropriate) true story…
It was high school Spanish class…
I was a Senior in a class of Sophomores. There was one other Senior in the class. Best of all –
She was smokin’ (as the old folk say.) She was gorgeous. 10 out of 10. Tight jeans. And she always sat right in front of me in class (gulp.)
We were the only Seniors in the class. By default… that made me the coolest guy there… And trust me… I’m never the coolest guy there.
But we’d talk. Sometimes in class she’d lean over. I’d continue to pretend me importa la espanol stuff pero… Seriousamente… 😛
Sure… I’d show up to class. But my brain rarely stuck around for the lecture. And that’s why you might not be surprised I was getting a C- in class.
It’s funny how that stuff that distracted me in highschool wasn’t so problematic in college where I took a double course load and still scored near the top of my class…
You don’t need to be perfect to score near perfect.
You just need to know how…