Thursday, April 19, 2007

Personal Essays

How many of you write personal essays? There's a good chance some of you write them and don't even realize that's what you're doing.

Think about it. You know what an essay is if you've been to high school. Seems like they were always being assigned. Write about what you did over the summer. What are your views on smoking? Tell of the experience that changed your life's direction. Certainly, if you've applied for college, you've written your share of essays. And, possibly, if your kids have applied to college, you've written their share.

And if the essay is personal, then it's about you. It focuses on something you've done or experienced.

Put those two together and you've written a personal essay.

Still don't think you write personal essays? What about those emails you send out to family and friends? Remember when you wrote Grandma about little Jack? You made him wear his new shoes to church, even though they were kinda tight. In the middle of the sermon, he insisted on taking them off, only they were so snug, the first one popped off and flew two pews in front of him. It smacked ol' Miss Lacey in the back of the head, waking her up, and causing her to jump up and curse before she remembered where she was. Then you started giggling so hard you had to slide down in your pew and hide.

A lot of us don't write letters any more, at least not like we used to do. But we do write emails. I have a friend who for a while was in another state. She writes wonderful essays. I don't know whether she recognized she was doing it, or if it occurred to her after I pointed it out. But either way, I encouraged her to save her emails.

She wrote long, descriptive tales of her life. It might’ve been something as simple and funny as frogs committing suicide in her pool ... Or the awesome thrill of watching the space shuttle taking off ... Or a quiet walk at sunset with her college-bound daughter. She didn’t just describe things or events. She pulled you into her life because she's open and frank with her feelings and emotions she's experiencing.

Although she didn’t have a regular schedule, about every couple of weeks, she'd send out one of these essays to a group of her friends. Sometimes people wrote back to respond to what she'd written or to tell her what they thought of her writing. Sometimes they wrote her their own experiences that coincided or mimicked hers.

Tomorrow – How you can start writing personal essays.

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