How to Write a Personal Essay

January 29, 2018

Essay? Really? You may think the college professor in me caused me to write this, but that’s not the case. I just want you to consider a new perspective about writing and a good place to start is with a topic you know better than anyone else–you!

Here are some ideas to get you thinking (and writing).

  • Consider you’re not writing an essay, which is typically thought of as a theme. Instead, give yourself permission to write your story.
  • Start with “I” because you’ve got something worthwhile to say.
  • Show how the past significantly impacts the now (and future) by digging deeper within yourself than you have before.
  • Enjoy being yourself. Sure, lots of writers quote famous people, but this is your personal essay, and you’ve got plenty of your own wisdom/experience to share.
  • Write what you want. When you get assignments in class to write essays or themes or study papers, you also get restrictions. But this is your personal essay to encourage you to get in touch with you, so write what you want.
  • Observe life. One idea is universal–writers are observers of life. Thus, get out and observe by going for a walk, watching people, seeing and hearing what’s going on around you (both large and small activities).
  • Save notes and things that speak to you so you can journal, create idea boxes to collect your thoughts, then chunk your ideas together for future writing. You never know when the smallest detail can serve as the exact thing you need to make your next story better.
  • Remember to use active verbs when writing about your experiences.
  • Allow the muse to work with you. Writing about yourself and finding ways to connect the past with the anticipated future isn’t easy, so embrace all the help the muse offers.

The most obvious tip is to write. If you continue writing, chances are your writing won’t get worse, only better. Since only you know you so well, embrace writing the personal essay and see where it takes you and your other writing. Happy writing!

Tips for Writing Humor

January 23, 2018

This is the first month of a new year and with so many issues surrounding us, it seems like a good idea to stop a moment and take some time to nurture your sense of humor. Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Pay attention to what makes you laugh. Look for patterns of things you find funny.
  • Think about the people who make you laugh, then bring those people more into your life when possible.
  • Watch comedians on television or at comedy clubs and analyze what works, what doesn’t, and why. You may take it a step further and give some thought to how you’d make what they’re doing better.
  • Bring humor into your surroundings with cartoons on your bulletin board, artwork that makes you smile, a framed slogan, or whatever you have that you find humorous when you see it.
  • Enlist the help of family and friends by experimenting with humor with them. Be careful, however, that you remember these relationships are precious and you don’t want to do anything to damage them with your humor tests.
  • Remember that humor is subjective. What one person finds funny, the next person may not. Thus humor is about perspective and perception. What you find humorous says something about you that you may or may not want revealed about yourself.
  • Look at a subject you’re considering for humor writing with new eyes. By that I mean you’ll want to find ways to come at the  subject matter from a new angle to keep your humor unique to you. Let others write about the trite and tired old jokes. Your humor should be freshly yours.
  • Brainstorm top ten lists to help you make unexpected combinations. For example, what are the top ten rejected flavors for new ice cream products? What are the top ten things you don’t expect a job applicant to say during a job interview?

When I taught my college writing classes, I told students humor is the most difficult thing to write because it’s subjective and each reader reacts to humor based on his or her own life experiences and perceptions. On the other hand, most people are less resistant to paying to be amused than they are to  paying to be educated, so why not give yourself permission to write something humorous? Happy writing!