You’re not alone! Writing is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do.
You’re not alone!
Writing is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do.
Let’s face it: Writing is hard!
That’s why I have a job!
Everyone faces writer’s block at one time or another. The fact is, freeflowing, easygoing when it comes to writing college essays, or writing anything, really, is rare!
There are those moments, but they are few and far between. I like to say that when you experience a moment in which an essay seems to write itself, it’s a dangerous piece of luck!
You expect it to happen next time you sit down to write, but lo and behold, you hit a roadblock!
There are many reasons students get stuck. I will name and few and you can see whether any of these apply to you:
The College Admissions Essay is only the most important piece of writing you’ll ever do in your life. Not to make you nervous, but it’s true! 😉
Narrative Personal Statement? What’s that?
You have been trained to write in one form, and one form only — the analytical essay. But the college admission essay is a narrative personal statement. It’s a story essay that must grip the reader from the first word to the last.
This Sounds Dumb
You start and stop, start and stop. ” This sounds ridiculous,” you say to yourself. Or, “How shall I begin?” Editing writing is a killjoy. You have to really avoid doing that. In addition, even though you’ve been taught to write an introduction first, it’s the worst place to start writing. How can you introduce something before you know what you want to say? And of course, that part of your brain that organizes, analyzes, introduces, edits and proofreads takes over and squashes out all the creative ideas you might have had if you felt free.
Telling Them What You Think They Want to Hear
What they really want is an authentic expression of who you are, the challenges you have faced, how you have dealt with adversity, what floats your boat. As soon as you start worrying about pleasing the admissions committee, you’re sunk. The most powerful essays I’ve read are those that tell a real story about a real person facing real life circumstances in a uniquely personal voice. You must find your story and tell it from your heart.
So how do you get UNSTUCK?
I have a few key tips for you that come from personal, and many years of, experience! And of course, my book The Art of the College Essay is a treasure trove of tips and strategies for avoiding, or getting you out of the hole!
Here’s what I would suggest:
Get your hands on a bunch of winning essays. You can find some here in Best College Admissions Essays 2014 & 2016. You won’t like all of them, but that doesn’t matter. Find the ones you like and learn from them. Use them as models for your own writing.
Locate “moments” and write about those, e.g. the moment you realized you didn’t need to be nervous to get an A, the first time you picked up a tennis racket, the moment you watched the sunset with your grandmother . . . Then Free Write on these moments. You’ll hear me speaking about Free Writing A LOT! That’s because it is the single most important weapon in your arsenal. Free Writing involves writing everything you can think of, in no particular order — you don’t even need paragraphs — until you have no more to say. Fine to write stream-of-consciousness. Remember you’re trying to bypass monkey (analytical/critical) mind. Only requirement: Full Sentences!
It’s all in the details! 😉
Focus on specifics. Use real names, real places in your descriptions. Remember you want to “SHOW” wherever possible. Showing involves 1)Action 2)Dialogue 3) Description.
Take a break. If you’re really stuck, you may need a change of scenery. Shoots some hoops. Take a swim. Have a sandwich. And come back to it when you’re fresh.
There’s no secret to writing. It’s magic and hard work all rolled into one.
But these tips should help. Let me know if they do or if you have another one up your sleeve you think could help someone else. We thank you in advance! 😉