Friday, May 5, 2017

One Special Ingredient In The Personal Essay

Then use it to fuel your writing!:
Today's quote is the perfect suggestion for a personal essay. In this kind of creative nonfiction, we highlight an experience, but there's a bigger and more important part. The primary purpose of the personal essay is to share what you learned with others. 

We've all been through hurtful experiences, whether long ago in our childhood, or as a young adult or perhaps as a senior citizen. Writing about it is one step in the healing process. Even more important is to write about what positive knowledge you took away from the experience. If you don't include this, then you end up with nothing more than an anecdote. The reader might get to the end and say So what? Why should I care?

Did you learn something about life in general? Did you figure out the personality flaws in others? Or yourself? Did you suddenly realize some universal truth about life that you'd never seen before? It doesn't need to be something earth-shattering. Even small revelations have meaning.

Your personal essay topic does not need only be about something that hurt you in the past. Happy times teach us, as well. Other parts of our past serve us in selecting personal essay topics, too. Did you ever witness a disaster? Did you ever meet a celebrity? Were you ever a bully? Were you bullied? Were you so shy it almost made you sick at times? Did your family go on a special vacation--one you've never forgotten for one reason or another? Was one of your relatives a big part of your childhood? 
What about the place where you grew up? How did it affect your life? Did you have a birthday that stands out for one reason or another? 

I could go on and on. Writers have a wealth of subjects to use as the base of a personal essay. Remember to use your experience to tell readers what you learned. You needn't use a specific sentence that begins with I learned... Weave that bit of knowledge or eye-opening revelation into your story. It does not have to come at the conclusion in a 'wrapping-up' way. Intertwine that golden nugget in any part of your story, or in several. Perhaps you can let your reader discover it just like you did. 

It appears that personal essays are presently in the spotlight, so why not take advantage of the trend and write your own. One step in learning to write good personal essays is to read ones others have written. Read with your 'writer's eye' and do a little analyzing when you finish. What did the essayist do, or not do, that you'd like to emulate?  

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