Writing, Demystified

Writing isn’t as scary as most people think; it’s really just thinking on paper and then going back to organize and refine your ideas and language. It’s not easy, but you can do it if you put in the time and effort.

Writing a personal essay is demanding. You should plan on spending more time on this essay than you spent on the last English paper you wrote. In a perfect world, you would have spent the summer between your junior and senior years reading personal essays by famous authors, reflecting on the meaning of life, checking out essay questions on college Web sites, and maybe even working on a rough draft.

It’s Never Too Early to Start

If you’re a junior and are using this planner, congratulate yourself for thinking ahead! The summer is a good time to start brainstorming and reflecting on your experiences and your qualities. In early July, most colleges will post their applications online so you can see what questions they ask; it gives you an opportunity to start focusing on specifics. You might want to keep the application questions with you along with a notebook to jot down ideas.

While you’re brainstorming, don’t think too much about the writing. While you’re writing the first draft, don’t look ahead to see how much more you have to do. Don’t beat yourself up for not being further along in the process. Each step is necessary—take them one at a time, and you will finish.

Asking for Help

When you are writing about yourself, getting another perspective is especially important. Ask a friend, relative, or teacher to kick around some ideas with you and to read your first draft. Ask them for feedback.

While your essay is in someone else’s hands, avoid working on it or obsessing over it. The mind works in incredible ways; even when you’re not writing, you’re still thinking. Take a break! It’ll only make the revision process easier.

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