In “The White Album,” Joan Didion connects her own nervous breakdown to the cultural disorder around her: the arrest of Huey Newton, the unfolding of the Manson Murder trials, what she calls an “authentically senseless chain of correspondences.” She makes links but she refuses to flatten these links into an easy moral; she wants them to remain provocative but “senseless.” In “No Man’s Land,” Eula Biss positions a personal account of her own Chicago neighborhood inside several larger contexts: the history of the American frontier and the troubled racial politics of urban spaces. In “Upon This Rock,” John Jeremiah Sullivan confesses his own religious background partway through an ostensibly journalistic account of a Christian rock concert.
When I talk about writing essays that resonate beyond the personal, I don’t mean that personal material isn’t sufficient. Of course it is. Or, it can be. If you honor the complexity of your own life—if you grant us entry into moments that hold shame or hurt or heat, and if you’re willing to follow that heat, to feel out where all the small fires burn, then your readers will trust you. They’ll find flashes of themselves. “We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles,” Emerson wrote. “Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related.” I believe that personal experience is infinite, but I also believe in different kinds of infinity: as mathematician Georg Cantor proved in the 1800s, there are many different infinities—there’s an infinity between zero and one, and another one that counts everything beyond. Both ranges are endless, but they map different terrains.
For example, if your general assignment is to write about the changes in inventions over time, and your specific thesis claims that “the 20th century presented a large number of inventions to advance US society by improving upon the status of 19th-century society,” you could brainstorm two different lists to ensure you are covering the topic thoroughly and that your thesis will be easy to prove.
“This paper is supposed to be on the politics of tobacco production but even though I went to all the lectures and read the book I can’t think of what to say and I’ve felt this way for four minutes now and I have 11 minutes left and I wonder if I’ll keep thinking nothing during every minute but I’m not sure if it matters that I am babbling and I don’t know what else to say about this topic and it is rainy today and I never noticed the number of cracks in that wall before and those cracks remind me of the walls in my grandfather’s study and he smoked and he farmed and I wonder why he didn’t farm tobacco…”
Take the next step and start to write your first draft, or fill in those gaps you’ve been brainstorming about to complete your “almost ready” paper. If you’re a fan of outlining, prepare one that incorporates as much of your brainstorming data as seems logical to you. If you’re not a fan, don’t make one. Instead, start to write out some larger chunks (large groups of sentences or full paragraphs) to expand upon your smaller clusters and phrases. Keep building from there into larger sections of your paper. You don’t have to start at the beginning of the draft. Start writing the section that comes together most easily. You can always go back to write the introduction later.
If you go to online sources, use their own search functions to find your key terms and see what suggestions they offer. For example, if you plug “good” into a thesaurus search, you will be given 14 different entries. Whew! If you were analyzing the film Good Will Hunting, imagine how you could enrich your paper by addressed the six or seven ways that “good” could be interpreted according to how the scenes, lighting, editing, music, etc., emphasized various aspects of “good.”
Make sure your thesis statement is clear, specific, declarative, and on-topic. You should be able to provide the thesis statement in one or two sentences (most instructors prefer one, concise sentence) for a fairly short paper (about 1-8 pages). It is usually best stated at the end of your introduction section (the end of the first paragraph if your introduction section is only a single paragraph in length).
Although writing an essay is daunting for many people, it can be pretty straight-forward. This page is a general recipe for constructing an essay, not just in philosophy, but in most other humanities disciplines (such as English, History, Religious Studies, etc.) and perhaps the social sciences. It should be an appropriate guide for writing at the middle school, high school, and lower college levels. The typical assignment I have in mind will be an argumentative essay, in which you argue for something, even if just an interpretation of someone an author’s work.
Know the topic well before hand. Though the essay question could vary widely, know the historical context of events related to the class. You will likely be given a document, or several, to respond to, so you will have some resources available. However it is necessary to know the historical context of the event the documents talk about, so you can interpret them correctly and provide contextualization in your essay. Contextualization is telling what led up to an event, and is often helpful to explain why things happened and understand the mindset of the time period.
Every year, thousands of unwanted and abused animals end up in municipal shelters. Being caged in shelters not only causes animals to suffer but also drains local government budgets. Towns and cities could prevent both animal abuse and government waste by requiring prospective pet owners to go through mandatory education before allowing them to obtain a pet. Although residents may initially resist the requirement, they will soon see that the benefits of mandatory pet owner education far outweigh the costs."
Writing is an active and constructive process; it is not merely a neutral recording of your thoughts. It is therefore useful to go into the writing process expecting to make revisions. The first words you write do not have to be part of the final version. Editing your writing as you develop your ideas is a positive not a negative process: the more you cross out, re-write, and re-order, the better your essay should become.
In general, think ‘short and straightforward’. Shorter words are often preferable to longer words, unless there is some specific vocabulary that you need to include to demonstrate your skill. Short to middle length sentences are almost always preferable to longer ones. And over-long paragraphs tend to demonstrate that you are not clear about the specific points you are making. Of course, these are general points, and there may be some occasions, or some subject areas, where long paragraphs are appropriate.
Accurate grammar and spelling are important. Consistently poor grammar or spelling can give the impression of lack of care, and lack of clarity of thought. Careless use of commas can actually change the meaning of a sentence. And inaccurate spelling and poor grammar can make for very irritating reading for the person marking it. The previous sentence began with ‘And’. This practice is now widely accepted where it makes good sense. It is however possible that some tutors may still prefer not to see it.
Later composers moved away from strict symphonic form. Some retained a loose link to it while others abandoned it completely, in favour of more fluid patterns. It would be rare, however, to find a symphony that was without structure or pattern of any kind; it would probably not be satisfactory either to play or to listen to. Similarly, a structure of some kind is probably essential for every essay, however revolutionary.
Ah alas I won't be able to qualify for the book beacsue I'm not a facebook member. (Is that the right descriptor??) at any rate I will tell you that I loved all the photo's BUT my 2 favorites were the inside shots. of the wine goblets loved the mix of in focus/out of focus and color. I also loved the pic with the candles and the boquet. Great job. No doubt Hillary and Jeff will be thrilled with your work. And I often tell people what a talented and gifted niece I have. have a great day Jaime.
I am inspired to write a book about my daughter Meghan that was born still three years ago. I want to write her story, our story to other families that have been touched by the same tragedy as ours. I want to be able to support them during their journey, I want to share with them some of things I learned during our journey and mainly I want to inspire them. I have read many posts on group Facebook pages that anger me, that bring me inconsolable tears, so many families hurt and do not have the support and encouragement they need after losing their baby(s). I want to put a smile on their face, even if only for a brief second and let them know that when they are ready, my book may be able to help them through their journey. I would like to include, websites, photographers, city information all of these things and many more are information I searched for over the years to help us find people to share our story with, photographers who volunteer their services to retouch your baby’s photo(s) free of charge, municipal information about tree dedications, still birth certificates, balloon release and so forth. I am a stay a home mother of four, three are living an keep me very busy, yet I believe that I can do this.
Completely shamefaced reading every line above. Unfortunately I stand “guilty as accused” of all the underlying excuses that make for nothing more than a clearly lazy dreamer. I richly deserve the rap on the knuckles that you have so intuitively and adroitly brought down upon me and my ilk. However as a teacher I know that it is sometimes far more effective in achieving its objective than positive and enhancing encouragement!! I hope to redeem myself shortly and without cutting any more corners. And thank you !
Why do people who write articles likes these always use the scare tactic of a person not being able to make a living as a writer? Is everyone blind? I say that because millions of people makes great money writing. A lot of these “helpful posts” are founded on personal experience. YOU find it difficult to break bank as a writer, but I can name people who I know, personally, that are rich off of there writing. Of course it took hard work, but misleading words like “don’t expect to get rich off your writing,” or “don’t expect to make a lot of money writing” pisses me off… (smh)
If you want to write, kill the magic: a book is just a bunch of writing. Anyone can write a book. It might suck or be incomprehensible, but so what: it’s still a book. Nothing is stopping you right now from collecting all of your elementary school book reports, or drunken napkin scribbles, binding them together at Kinkos for $20, slapping a title on the cover, and qualifying as an author. Want to write a good book? Ok, but get in line since most pro authors are still trying to figure that out too.