How to Write an Essay


A lot of people have trouble writing papers.  No matter how hard they concentrate or how hard they try, nothing seems to happen.  It is not only frustrating and stressful, but the sort of thing that keeps many otherwise smart and literate people from developing their writing skills.  I dealt with this problem for years until I stumbled on a secret method that changed everything.  Now I enjoy writing and even look forward to it.  

Here’s my secret to writing when I just can’t seem to find anything to wrap my brain around – I just write. Nothing else matters.  I pick a topic and start writing.  And, yes the writing is awful.  Shameful.  I’d never let another human being see it, it’s so wholly appalling.  But I remind myself that it doesn’t matter how terrible the writing is, because I’ll go back and rewrite what I can and delete the rest, and anyhow, the important thing is simply getting something down on paper.  Anything.  Doesn’t matter what, or how awful it is or anything else.  Words on paper is my only goal.  They don’t even need to look nice or make sense. 

I won’t kid you -- it’s a very uncomfortable process, no doubt.  But it works.  The biggest obstacle to writing a paper is just getting started.  Once you get started you have a direction, a path, something you can see and work with.  Without anything on paper you have …well, nothing.  You’ve got to have something, even something terrible and awful, that you can work on.  Without that you have…well, nothing.  I’m repeating myself, but you get the point.  You gotta put words on paper.  There is no way around it.  Even words like, “I can’t think of anything to write”, or “This sucks sooo bad”.  If you can’t think of anything to write, write that you can’t think of anything to write.  I’m serious.  You will find that eventually things start happening. 

Don’t be surprised if you put a lot of time into starting a paper, write a few pages of really awful stuff, rewrite and edit for hours and it’s still awful.  Keep an open mind because you are on the cusp of a brainstorm, and all your problems will soon be a thing of the past. 

Here’s why. 

Writing forces your brain to express in symbolic language all those abstract ideas, relationships and analyses that have been subconsciously percolating along just below the surface.   Just because you stop writing does not mean that your brain stops processing.   Deep in the secret recesses of your mind your brain is continuing to analyze, question and probe what you were looking at.  It is refining new information into unique and personal ideas that can be written instead of just thought about.  It is comparing this new information to previously learned information, making logical connections and conceptualizations in ways that are so abstract we have no idea they are happening.  (Abstraction is thought so pure that language cannot represent it, only approximations can be made.)

When you give your brain a chance to develop ideas and find new relationships the writing becomes much easier.  It takes time to do this of course, but eventually (if you are open minded and confident), you will have an epiphany – a EUREKA moment – and your entire paper will appear in your mind.  All that abstract subconscious activity suddenly pops into focus.  It’s reframed and presented to your thinking mind as a finished project.  You “see” your paper in its entirety in your mind’s eye.  You might change topics entirely, or maybe change just your perspective on the topic, but suddenly writing becomes easy. You might have to work to turn this vision into written words, but the work will be easy …and maybe even fun.   


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