The Process of Writing a Personal Essay

The Process of Writing a Personal Essay

Here’s the Seven Editorial Steps involved in writing a great personal essay.

Step 1. Be Honest

You can only write about what you know. Colleges are trying to get to know the person who is applying to their school. So don’t pick topics you are not familiar with. At first my niece was writing about trips she had taken to Europe and the great art she had seen. Later, as we talked, she discovered that a trip she had taken with some children with disabilities that resulted in them playing music was a story that had deep meaning for her.

Step 2. Discovering What You Want to Write About Takes Time and Thought

It is not always clear what it is you want to write about. It takes time and an exchange with someone else, or through an internal dialog with yourself. If you are inexperienced in writing, work with someone else. It took several conversations and a couple of drafts to find the importance for my niece of that trip with children with disabilities.

Step 3. Write, write, write

You can’t write a good essay from scratch. You need to write, examine what you wrote, think about what you wrote, and write again. A good essay needs a minimum of four drafts.

Step 4. Details

At first you might not remember all the details of an experience, but as you work at the drafts, it will come to you. Details make for powerful reading. The day, the time, the number of people with you, what you felt, what happened, where it happened, what was the outcome–all of these and more will make your essay affect the reader

Step 5. Cut, cut, cut

The mark of a good writer is the development of the skill of compression. Saying what you want in the fewest possible words is the task that is in front of you. When a college asks for 200 words on a topic, it means it, and you will find that you can do it with practice.

Step 6. Relax

Stress only inhibits good writing. You need to relax and enjoy the process of learning to write. There a number of exercises that I will give you that will enable you to manage the stress of applying to college and particularly writing your best essay.

Step 7. Learn

Writing, particularly a personal essay, is a great way to learn about yourself, and to take the first steps toward being a life-long learner. Writing the essay is the beginning of this process not the end. So enjoy!

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