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The personal essay is the freest form of literature: this also makes it the hardest to define. The best essayists are able to weave these sections together.Broadly speaking, it can be broken into two sections: narrative and opinion. I see the personal essay as an attempt to write about my thoughts and then to question myself as to why I am thinking those thoughts. It differs from biography/memoir because it places no real importance on chronology.Your point of view is shaped by your experiences, your personality, and your writing style.
By revealing your limits to the reader you can move beyond them.
Most times you will end up discussing something you would never have attempted from the start.
Scott Fitzgerald, William Hazlitt, Edward Hoagland, Michel de Montaigne, V. Naipaul, George Orwell, Richard Rodriguez, David Sedaris, Mark Twain, Gore Vidal, David Foster Wallace. Your personal essay is your one chance to write something that is unapologetically subjective.
The list of essayists above contains some of my favourite essay writers. The earlier you start writing personal essays the more likely it is that you will experiment with the form. It can reward in a way that writing other literature simply cannot offer.
Don’t forget that the essay is a craft, it takes careful thought and editing to make it worthy for the reader.
The essayist’s aim should not be to win the reader’s love: at best it should be to earn their respect.The ability to linger on and draw out a point is a highly valuable commodity for the personal essayist.Write in your own voice, in your own writing style.The subject is not the important thing; it is your treatment of it.Personal essays are concerned with the process of judging, not the judgment reached.You need to be aware of your prejudices and reveal them to the reader: doing so will help give the essay a conscience.The reader wants to see your point of view – what you think and why you think it.A personal essay wants the essayist’s considered reflections, whether they relate or not. You write your way into it, letting one thing lead to another, never knowing where you are going or how you will end.This fragmentary nature makes it ideal for writing about and during times of transition and confusion. Only by writing the words will you start to discover what it is you are writing about. Common themes include: relationships (family, friends, lovers), childhood, travel, nature, isolation, hobbies, idleness, illness, writing, and mortality.Because graduate schools make important selection decisions that are partly based on what you say in this essay, the writing of it can be an intimidating prospect.To begin your essay, brainstorm using the following questions: Write the first draft from this, then try to find an angle or a hook which can sink into the admissions committee; a good place to start is with an original and provoking opening paragraph.