Saturday, January 24, 2015

THE BLINDING GLARE OF THE EMPTY PAGE...or 10 Tips to Writing an Interesting Essay

Your teacher has just assigned you the one thing you dread, but know you will face several times during the school year in several of your classes.  Yes, that's right, kids, it's time to write

THE ESSAY.  

You let out a deep sigh as you feel the heavy weight of dread in your gut, and your entire attitude fades to black.  It's as if someone has pulled a dark veil over your formerly sunny outlook.

Okay, maybe that's a BIT dramatic.  But for many of us, writing the essay is a task that takes more gumption just to begin than to actually complete.

We have now been assigned Written Task 2, which is the formal essay.  If that isn't punishment enough, we also must include an outline with it to clarify for ourselves and our reader just what we are supposed to be focusing on in our paper (thus providing a possible highlight of where we have fallen short!)  

Now, now, now.  Writing the essay doesn't have to be such a downer.  In fact, it can become something you look forward to!  (Okay, maybe that's taking it a bit too far).  At the very least, it can be a challenge you are ready and able to meet.

Like anything else worth doing, writing takes what I like to refer to as the three P's:  perseverance, passion and patience.  You need to eliminate the idea of "trying my best" and substitute that notion with "I will DO my best."  Do not even entertain the notion of "this will be hard" or "I cannot do this well," or "my teacher will hate this."  Do not put it off until the last minute or it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom.

Instead, set aside a quiet space, do some relaxation breathing like we learned in class, and ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS.  Silence your phone.  Do not allow yourself to text friends or scope out Facebook.  It's just you, some paper (or a screen) and words.  Take some time to go through your notes and quotes, and begin the process of writing.  Don't put the pressure of editing or grammar on yourself at this stage.  Writing is a process.  Allow your subconscious creativity to flow first, uninhibited.  You can fix it all later.
Be patient with yourself and your thoughts.  Wait for the right words or search them out until you find the one you truly feel is best.  Use a thesaurus for inspiration.  DON'T SURRENDER.

Write something YOU like.  Don't think about me (aka your teacher), or anyone else.  Take your topic, and write about it in an interesting way that appeals to you and reflects your writing style.
 Again, revision and editing will come later.  The first stage of the writing process is....wait for it....WRITING!  Find something fun in it...something that stirs your creative passion.

Writing the essay may never be your favorite thing to do, but at the very least it doesn't have to be a punishment.  Take some time to read this article about "Writing the Essay."  The tips are awesome, I think.  Drink them in, and come ready to attack Written Task 2....

AND WIN.





37 comments:

  1. I found this article you shared very inspiring and encouraging. I am definitely guilty of not giving it my all and writing essays and papers half heartedly. Some times I don't feel like I can write a lot on the subject given to me, but ultimately I feel that I don't have motivation to write and I almost always end up writing my essays last minute; which is horrible and I'm sure you already know that and can tell that I do that. I think that my problem is, is that I see it as a chore and something that I have to do so, I just try to get it done quickly. I constantly try to change that, but it never works. I am going to start to change that though. Like you were talking about in your blog post about turning off your phone, setting up a relaxing environment, and diving into the words. I think that I will enjoy my paper more, be more proud of it, and get a better grade on it as well.

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    1. This makes me so happy!! GREAT attitude!

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  2. I found this article really helpful and I will most definitely try to apply the tips it's given me. I know that I struggle with writing essays because as the article said I write to get a good grade. I do enjoy writing in my own time, but writing for school always makes me shut down. I really enjoyed the point it made about not being afraid to jump around. It's kind of funny because I always feel like I have to be super organized when writing an essay even though I'm not a very organized person otherwise. That point is super helpful to me and I will definitely be trying to apply it. I also found the point about just trying to make it fun helpful. I do typically look at writing for school as more of a thing that I HAVE to do, but looking at it as something fun will make me look at it as something I WANT to do. This article was so helpful and I'm actually kind of looking forward to writing Written Task #2.

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    1. Rumor, I am so happy to hear this!! :) Written Task 2 will be great. It's a great book, you will have 6 possible questions from which to choose, and you can explore it from your own creative angle. :)

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  3. This article was pretty cool, but I think what I liked most about it was when it stated that your subconscious always answers you. Which is completely true, and really creepy. But my favorite thing he stated was that you should be writing for yourself and not for your teacher or professor, or anyone else's approval. I have always gone by this. I will never write something just because I think that's what you want to hear. I think you've probably noticed that before. ;) In all honesty, I'm way to involved in myself to want to even remotely write to please others. And this article stating that that is exactly how it should be makes me feel justified and happy. Even though I would've done it my way, anyway.

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  4. I thought some of the tips on how to write the essay were interesting. It was neat how it said to write something you were interested about outside of the guidelines and then go back and edit it to make it fit the guidelines that were assigned by the teacher. I feel like we were taught a lot about how there is a certain way to write the essay and there is always a certain way that the teacher wanted us to do it and this made it feel like we are forced to do it. Having too much freedom to write what we want also seems like an issue and it is an issue that I've had before when we can write about anything and then I have no idea what I want to do. Having some guidelines though but also a decent amount of freedom would help me a lot because then I have an idea of what I have to do and what exactly is going on, but I am also able to make it my own essay and do what I want with it.

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  5. I really liked these tips, the one that stuck out to me the most was right your body first, your introduction second, and your closing last. I can totally see why this would be a good idea. Also, this article talked about just having a good attitude going into it. A positive attitude can make the biggest difference. I am kind of looking forward to the essay... just to try out some of the tips and really write a essay I am proud of which I don't think I have ever done before honestly. I also looked at the editing tips, I found pretty helpful. I always have a hard time editing and believe those tips will help.

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  6. I'm going to have to read this again right before I start writing the essay because it made me excited to write! #2 is my favorite tip because it takes the boring out of the stereotype of essays. Honestly, I think that essays are entertaining (not when they are done the night before, however). I have a tendency to spend way too much time writing. I understand that time and effort must be put into school work, but sometimes I go above and beyond to make them "perfect". So asking myself "How can I finish this as quickly as possible?" will really help me.

    Number 4 is a wonderful tip. I have been using this one for awhile. Ever since I learned Jane Schaffer, essays have been much simpler to write. Structure is bliss. So, looking at an essay from the standpoint of writing 5 sentences, can relieve so much anxiety.

    Thank you SO much for sharing this! It has certainly helped me to put essay writing into perspective.

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  7. I am fortunate enough to have been proficient in essay writing for years. I certainly have more than enough ability for it, though I could not say exactly how, or from where. Despite that good fortune, I often find it difficult to sit down and write an essay. I may be exhausted from school, troubled by personal matters, or eager to approach some other task because it is of interest to me.

    Hence, the tip given in the article to look for something that surprises or interests us as the writer is very important. It is easy to look at essays as just another piece of work to be completed, and this viewpoint is made easier if we approach them strictly in a checklist fashion.

    In reality, an essay is a chance for us to tell some small part of our own story. We are shaped by the world around us, and by sharing what interests us about a part of that world, we solidify a part of ourselves and share that for the world to admire. As writers, we need to make our essay topics into something that we love. It is easy to fall into the trap of writing for the audience, particularly when that audience determines your grade. But the best way to write an essay is described in the article. Make the essay into something you love first, and then into something good. An essay with spirit will contribute to the writer's development, whereas an essay composed of the bare necessities is a wasted opportunity. Writing a good essay is giving yourself a beautiful handmade gift. Writing a poor essay is stealing from yourself.

    Honestly speaking, coming from my own background, I didn't expect to learn much from this article. However, as so often happens, the article's words awoke ideas in myself that will have a positive effect on future essays.

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  8. This article was an interesting one, and the tips seemed to be very helpful. I'll have to try to implement them next time. I can see how most of them can be helpful. The points about why writing essays is difficult are entirely accurate. I think that the sourcing can be a bit tedious, though. I've always disliked having to do research and would rather put my own ideas on the paper. The point about wikipedia was one that I really liked, as it gives me an excuse to use it. I also found it interesting that essays can use "I believe" and "In my opinion", as I'm always tempted to use those.

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  9. I didn't really get anything from the article. All I got was that I should practice writing like I would with any other hobby. However, your blog helped me to not panic so much about this essay. The tips that you have provided for us will definitely boost my confidence about writing in general. When I write an essay, I tend to edit it while I'm writing. This time, I'll try to just write what's on my mind and edit later. It may be way easier for me to gather my thoughts then. Thank you!

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  10. I really enjoyed this post. I liked the points made about trying to have a better outlook on writing an essay. When starting out they feel daunting and impossible to overcome but like the article exemplified, finding a creative side and putting you heart into it and not just doing it for a grade will help to overcome. I think the thing that will help while writing Written Task 2 is finding something that I can be passionate and creative with. When I write essays I don't usually like what I'm writing about and this makes it hard to do.
    The other thing I want to focus on more with this essay is just writing, and then going back to edit and revise. I get so caught up on the grammar and spelling while writing that it takes me so long to write my ideas down.
    I hope these tips help me and I am looking forward to writing with a new outlook.

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  11. I found this article helpful. I really liked tip #2 which said before you start writing, ask yourself, "How can I have the most fun writing this?" When essays are assigned, I'm usually unmotivated, and unfocused to write them. I am easily distracted with anything when I need to write an essay. Usually when I do not like the topic. If I find a way to have fun with this, then I will be less distracted with other things. What I found interesting while reading this article was tip #6. When I learned how to write essays, I was taught to always start with the introduction. The introduction is supposed to help structure the paragraphs. The introduction is a guide to help get your main ideas which will be talked about in the body. I think this is a hard tip to follow, since I have always started with a introduction to help form my paragraphs. I also liked tip #5 Be "source heavy." Something that helps me get through writing essays are including quotes from the book. Many times the readers may not know what you are talking about, so if you bring in a quote they at least would have more knowledge on what you are referring to.

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  12. This article as a whole shows a new way for writing essays in my opinion. No one truly likes writing essays... Like with the second tip it tell you to ask yourself to make it fun, and that could make a major difference in your essays. Once you actually want to do a task it make it much easier to do. Most of this article is prior knowledge. So I took somethings, but it us a good friendly reminder.

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  13. I actually kind of liked this post… these past couple days I’ve been really sick and while I’ve been at home not only have I been sick but I’ve been stressing myself out with the work I’ve been missing and how much I’m going to have to catch up on. One of those things would be your essay. For me writing essays have always been my weak point. I hate writing them and always dread the moment I’d have to. Reading this article kind of eased my mind a bit, and I thought maybe it wouldn’t be too bad to write this essay. Also when reading this article I found that I already do a couple of the tips without even noticing it, like tip number 4 and 6.

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  14. Iv'e always been terrible at writing essays. A big reason is because if I have my emotions all jumbled up about something, I can't think at all. and if I can think of things, they are generally simple and not worth much.. Iv'e always found comfort in procrastinating and getting it done still on time.. Maybe it's the rush I get when I know I have limited time. I Never seem to have troubles when it comes to writing the intro paragraph. Maybe i have issues with the wording for a little because I want to make it as good as i can and make it interesting.. But aside from that i usually have all of my information and i know what i'm going to talk about, so i'm about to create an intro fairly easily. As for the tips, i have a hard time thinking of even looking at an essay as a story. I have a good imagination, but it isn't something id be able to imagine. Because when i know it's one thing, i can't make myself think it's another. But i'm also glad you shared this with us. It puts at ease a little when thinking about there being an essay and a project due next week. I appreciate it. :)

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  15. Thanks so much for sharing this! I found it extremely helpful and definitely easy to understand. I struggle with writing essays for the exact reasons listed in the article but a big one is that I just don't like spending time writing something that doesn't interest me. For the Written Task 2 I had a few ideas but after I read the article I decided to do a question that would fit will into the structure of the essay. Thanks again! (:

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  16. Interesting article. I think it'll be very helpful in writing my essay. Hopefully. I usually write to satisfy the teacher because I do not enjoy writing for people. It makes me uncomfortable to write my real thoughts and feelings for someone to actually read. So I would always write for them so my real opinion wouldn't really show through. I'll try to write for me in this essay, but it'll be hard. Maybe I'll even have fun...

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  17. This article was very helpful and was an eye opener in how to attack my essay. I do not enjoy writing for the teacher because in a way its very boring an I assume boring for the teacher because if everyone is writing for the teacher then it's basically the same essay over an over again. I like tip five because it is very important to double and triple check your sources to make sure the information is correct. Also tip six is very important because you need to have what you are talking about before you introduce it correctly. Sometimes when I am done writing I switch my conclusion and introduction paragraphs because my conclusion always sounds like a better introduction.

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  18. This article gave me many tips that I will be able to use in the future. The most beneficial tip in my opinion is number eight, "Don’t be afraid to jump around." While writing an essay I feel that I need to write in order. I always start with my intro, my body paragraphs and then my conclusion. Tip number six, "Write the body first, the introduction second, and the conclusion last" will definitely help me write a better essay. Thank you for the useful tool!

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  19. This is really helpful! I noticed that a lot of the points were mentioned in class. I'm not a good writer and personally I don't think I will ever will be. I don't have a way with words at all and most of the things I want to say.. I can't because I simply don't know how. I'm excited to write the written task #2 because I feel like I can make a powerful impression to the reader. Using these tips will help me a lot in this essay and others as well.

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  20. I am definitely someone who gets easily discouraged anytime a teacher assigns an essay. I can never get the ideas in my head to transfer to the words on the page. And if I do, it's always in my introduction and the other four paragraphs suck. But, these tips really helped me and gave me a new perspective. I feel pretty confident that if I remember those 10 tips while I write I'll be able to make a great essay. Tips #1 and #9 will definitely sick with me as I write my essay. Thank you for sharing them with us!:)

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  21. I actually liked that article. I feel it gave me some good tips when it comes to writing an essay. Writing in general is one of my least favorite things to be honest especially essays but this made me realize that writing essays can be fun. I will at least try and make it fun and have a positive attitude about writing this essay. I really do think these tips will help me a lot though.

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  22. I'm not quite sure if I did like to write or if it was just in me. I know for a fact at times I'm a good writer but, it's hard to get those creative juices flowing. This article had some good tips, and some of the tips made me realize the mistakes I've been doing for a while now with my writing. For example, writing the introduction and conclusion last because you can just summary what you wrote in both of those paragraphs. I do get discouraged at times while writing because, I don't know if it'll be good enough, or I get off topic... As well as, myself asking for some more help, but in a way where the teacher has to be detailed or else I just wont get it.

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  23. As a cram writer who does his best (and only) work the night and morning that essays are due I have lived and died by the points in this article. Using heavy sourcing and " Citation Mining" is something my older sister taught me to do while she was in college. Starting with five decent sentences is the foundation of me passing english for the last three years. After that its just word vomiting and heavy editing until it looks nice and as fluffy as the teacher wants it.

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  24. Honestly, sometimes I feel that the only thing I like about essays is getting a good grade on them. But its true, writing essays doesn't always have to be a horrible experience. I agreed with many of these points and actually found a few enlightening. I one hundred percent agree that to write an essay you enjoy writing you have to be focussing on a topic that you enjoy writing, or at the very least a topic you find interesting. In addition, I totally agree with having as many strong sources as you can. For me personally, this tip has helped me write strong essays that I can actually enjoy without even thinking about "fluff".

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  25. After looking over the tips on writing an essay I can honestly say that I have only ever used one, and that is to have five original sentences. I had no idea that it helped, I usually just did that as I thought up what the whole essay was going to be about, and it usually turns into my web outline where each sentence tends to be the first sentence in each paragraph. Then without ever giving any thought to the paragraphs again I start writing and formulating the essay around the first sentences. I'm not exactly sure whether this is a good trait for writing or not, but it does seem to keep me afloat. As for the other tips I had never really considered most of them and wouldn't mind trying to use them later on.

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  26. These tips were a nice review on how to write an essay. However, I didn't agree with the one that said the introduction is the hardest part of the paper to write. I feel that is actually the easiest part to write, because you can reference back to it later. Also, it completely scared me when it started talking about "dancing around the paper", but I do that with my books sometimes, so maybe I should try it. Essays have never been that hard for me. I love to write, and it is just another one of my stories (as the article said). Also, I completely agreed when it said to find something about the topic that intrigues you. That has always been my number one savior for essays. The moment I find something that I'm passionate about, my thoughts can't keep up with my typing speed. In the end, essays really aren't that hard if you find something you like.

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  27. We actually talked about this in class a little bit about how if we write the entire paper first then do an intro it would make it easier. Essays are pretty simple to do, with our written task 2 and an interesting topic it makes essay writing simple. Also because we are all teenagers we don't want to do something that isn't in our interest so in the article when it mentioned to find something that interests you it would easily make and essay a cinch.

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  28. I found this helpful when jotting down a starting point for my essay. It was nice to have a way to step back and get some perspective on the whole thing. I do have to personally disagree with the point that the introduction is the hardest part to write. I find that the conclusion is worse, simply due to the fact that everything has already been said, and restating everything is hard to do without sounding cheesy. That is just my opinion, of course. I did appreciate the part where "write something you like" was brought up. It's easy to get too focused on writing the essay that your teacher will like.

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  29. As someone who loves to write, I found this blog helpful when finding where to start with writing my essay. Like a couple of my classmates, I disagree with the introduction being the most difficult part to write. I would have to disagree and say the conclusion is the most difficult to write, because I find it challenging wrapping up so many thoughts to a perfect, crisp cut. I agree that writing an essay is absolutely dreadful if you write about something you don't like, that's why I can breath a sigh of relief when I have a variety of prompts to chose from. When you are writing about a topic you enjoy, there is no space for fluff, it is pure passion of the mind. I am a scattered thinker, but at the same time, need organization because so much goes on in my mind, making that aspect crucial for me. Tip number 6 will definitely aid me in organizing my thoughts.

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  30. I really love writing and you often learn the same things in English classrooms about essays but this blog really opened my eyes on some different perspectives about essays. I think my favorite tip was tip #2. It's really easy for me to be unmotivated about essays I'm not passionate about. It's just the matter of making the topic my own and creating something I'm proud of. Defiantly my lowest score on essays are the ones that I don't care about. It's apart of life though, I'm not always going to be able to write papers on topics I would like to share with the world. This tip will help me bring more life into my essay.

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  31. I really love writing and you often learn the same things in English classrooms about essays but this blog really opened my eyes on some different perspectives about essays. I think my favorite tip was tip #2. It's really easy for me to be unmotivated about essays I'm not passionate about. It's just the matter of making the topic my own and creating something I'm proud of. Defiantly my lowest score on essays are the ones that I don't care about. It's apart of life though, I'm not always going to be able to write papers on topics I would like to share with the world. This tip will help me bring more life into my essay.

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  32. I've started thinking about how I can really use these tips in the article to change not just writing my essay, but my regular homework and challenging things in general. Even last night I turned off my phone since about three people texted me and the sound was just distracting. Knowing my phone was off and away in a different room helped clear my mind of anything distracting and I got my homework done a lot earlier than usual.
    Now, is my sleep schedule still out of whack? Yes, so I didn't get to bed at a reasonable amount of time for lack of sleep but still, knowing my homework was done was a big relief so not to worry about it the next day at school.

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  33. Reading this article really helped me understand how to write better. If only I did this blog post when I started my essay. The introduction is usually the hardest part of the essay for me. I take about 20-30 minutes just trying to get that perfect intro to start out my essay. But tips from this article, and you Mrs. Caraway have told me to start with the body. When I did this I found it much easier to get information and ideas onto the page, rather than thinking on how to start my essay. Once I finished my three body paragraphs, I then went back to my intro, and it took me no more than ten minutes. I already had all the information I needed to complete it, and that made the topic sentence much easier. I think from now on I will write the body first and then the intro, because it saves me some time, and that's what I like. These tips helped me in completing my essay, and will help me complete essays in the future.

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  34. I really, really enjoyed reading this article. I don't generally have issues writing essays, but the way this was written eased the tension that was on my mind. I've heard all of these tips before from at least two of my previous teachers, but it's nice to see them typed out right in front of me. But, to be quite honest, I probably won't follow at least half of them. Sorry. One, I can't write things out of order. I can't. It bothers me. Two... I'm a weak teenage girl. I can't turn my phone off. Shame on me. But, I think, when assigned essays, I will probably go back and reference this article. It really put me in the essay-writing kind of mood!

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  35. This article did inspire me to write an essay. However, if I'm completely honest with myself, next time it's time to write an essay I'll forget all about it. Sure, it's easy to get pumped up now, but I'm sure that when I sit down to write I'll go back to my usual stress and inability to think. Out of all the steps I found step 2 the most useful. If anything, that would be the most helpful, since making things fun usually makes them much more appealing.

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