How To Be A Better Writer: Ten Personal Essays To Attempt
INITIAL THOUGHTS ON WRITING
I am going to begin with an assumption, and I realize that is a dangerous thing to do. However, I am going to boldly go forth and give it a try. I assume that you want to be a better writer. Now why is that a dangerous assumption? In this world of SEO and keywords, I think there is a tendency among some writers to be more concerned with the SEO and less concerned with the actual writing, and if that is the case then being a better writer is the last thing on their minds.
However, let’s assume that everyone reading this truly does want to improve their craft. I say HOORAY to you, and in that spirit of self-improvement let me suggest a way for you to grow in your chosen field.
My suggestion is that you try new styles of writing. My suggestion is that you get out of your comfort zone and try writing something that does not come easy for you. I have always believed that adversity helps us to grow as individuals, and writing in a genre that is not comfortable is definitely adversity for a writer. For me it would be poetry. I am not comfortable writing lines of verse and that alone is reason enough for me to do so.
Below you will find ten types of essays that I want you to try. If you don’t have time to do all ten then try three or four. Some might be easy for you; others might challenge you to no end. The ones that do challenge you will help you to become a better writer and that should be your goal, right? Right!
THE CONTEMPLATIVE ESSAY
Think of yourself as one of the ancient Greek philosophers thinking about life. Ponder, ruminate and delve into an idea. Why is there so much unhappiness in the world? Why do we all need companionship?
For a contemplative essay, an answer need not be found. It is more important to simply consider different angles of the question rather than to find an answer. Do not weigh yourself down with facts and figures. Simply let your subconscious feed your conscious and let it flow. Picture yourself as a young child lying under a willow tree. Watch the branches blow back and forth, and marvel at the clouds as they blow by overhead. Now, pick a subject and contemplate.
THE MEMOIR ESSAY
This is the bread and butter for this author. I am completely comfortable with this style of essay. Pick a personal experience and then reflect on lessons learned from that experience.
We all have them. I wrote once about playing catch with my father and learning about self-confidence and respect during that experience. I have sixty-four years of experiences to draw from, and I am at ease in writing about them. Give it a try! You just might find a new outlet for your thoughts and feelings.
THE LYRIC ESSAY
A combination of poem and essay, seeking insight and illumination.
I readily admit that this one is tough for this writer, which means I need to try it. Flowing effortlessly between poetry and prose is a character-builder for sure, and then add to it the search for insight and illumination on a weighty subject…..whew! Are you willing to give it a go?
THE NATURE ESSAY
Read “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau and you will understand what a nature essay is. As Thoreau does so masterfully, try to see things that are not obvious. Anyone can walk through the woods and write that they saw the green trees and beautiful wildflowers. Not everyone can write about watching a spider make his web, or how the sunlight produces diamonds on the surface of a pond, or how the gentle breeze blowing through your hair takes you back to your childhood days when cares were non-existent and reality had yet to show its troublesome face.
THE TRAVEL ESSAY
Anyone can go on a trip and list the things they have seen, but to be a better writer you need to delve into those things most people miss during their cursory observation.
Find a way to depict uncharted paths that have not been written about before….see and observe the previously hidden.
THE SPIRITUAL ESSAY
I have read countless articles about the beauty of faith, and the strength derived from faith, but I see few that deal with the struggles and conflicts of faith. Show me that and I’ll show you a writer who is trying to stretch in directions that require serious reflection.
What do you find difficult about your faith? Why does God allow suffering? Do we really have free choice? Are the descriptions in the Bible of an after-life simply the product of an over-zealous imagination? Do you question your faith at all?
THE FOOD ESSAY
Not just about food…pay close attention to aroma, texture, taste and color….wander to lessons learned or memories recalled when you smell an apple pie right out of the oven. What was happening in your life when you first tasted sardines?
Anyone can write about the taste of freshly baked bread. Not everyone can write about the smell of bread right out of the oven the morning your father died.
THE HUMOR ESSAY
I am convinced that humor is directly tied to presentation. I have seen comics who had zero stage personality, and no matter what they said it was not funny. Was it because the jokes were not funny or was it because the comic was a bore? Develop your own style and delivery through your writing.
There are several writers on HubPages who are hilarious. No matter what they write you can count on a belly laugh. They have found a way to present their humor and it works brilliantly for them. Telling a joke is easy; being funny takes work.
THE BLOG ESSAY
Pick a topic, any topic, and experiment with different voices and approaches…kind of free-form writing with a purpose.
Write a blog about cooking even if you wouldn’t know the difference between a spatula and a fibula. Work on developing your voice because, quite frankly, without a writing voice you are only a copier of words.
THE EVERYTHING ELSE ESSAY
“To boldly go where no man has gone before.” This is the catch-all essay, one that has been hibernating inside of each of you, waiting to be awakened. What shall we write about today?
Will you try a few of these?
THAT SHOULD BE ENOUGH TO CHALLENGE YOU THIS WEEK
Remember, to be a better writer, one must be willing to stretch the limits. Sitting in a cocoon of comfort does not allow us to spread our wings and find out what we are capable of. I could write articles like this all day long because they are easy for me, but they do not make me better at my craft. In order for that to happen, I need to pull my head out and attempt that which makes me uncomfortable.
I wish you all success as you become better writers. Remember that there is joy in the journey, and remember also that, as writers, we are capable of uplifting others, informing others and altering reality.
Isn’t that a remarkable thing?
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)