What Moments From Your Life Can Make Great Essay Material?
Luis Buñuel, the Spanish filmmaker who poked at bourgeois values in his Surrealist films, once quipped that "our memory is our coherence". In other words, losing that memory would lose that basic memory of oneself. Accuracy on past events should be another matter, but creativity could give writers a free license on how they would interpret the past. After all, perspective could turn a written text into an interesting piece that might prompt readers to read it in its entirety. The same rule applies to essay writing.
Writing essays would be a tad repetitive before the term is over. Doing the same routine again and again could lead to boredom. It's a requirement, without a doubt. You can do more, which would help you manage the coursework better.
Aside from selected classics, you'll write a great deal about yourself. You don't need to critique "The Life of Samuel Johnson", not even study James Boswell's (writing) style. Your professor won't give you tips on (how to write a) reflective essay either. You'll recall some moments from your life, as a reference or a sub-topic, where your perspective could impress (or disappoint) your instructor. Your life may be mundane compared to Arthur Rimbaud, but it doesn't have to translate into a dull paper. Perspective would play a huge part, and you could learn a thing or two from travel features. (Travel writers don't write their articles right away, letting the days pass by. They would recall their experience a bit differently.) A great essay could be similar to an engaging travel feature. It's also the sum of parts.
The first step is to choose a particular moment from your life, which you'll write about. There must be a certain person, if not object, which means something. One won't be good enough (unless you have an unusual imagination at such a young age). You'll be able to think of a narrative after you have written your (thoughtful) observations on people and/or things. You must think of an argument (or dilemma) unless your professor allows you to fictionalize your paper. (It's probably unlikely in many cases.) And you need to look through your draft.
Step by Step: Your Life in Words
Why did you choose this particular moment of your life? You can write a long account of your summer holiday with your family, as well as the first party you have attended during your first year in college. It can be infatuation, if not your best friend. It can be your pet (dog), also your hobby. If you're writing to your friend(s), then there's a good chance that you'll get carried away (and exaggerate your account of your story). Your essay assignment will test your ability to discuss a text in a scholarly manner. Your creativity will make it more interesting and memorable than you initially thought at the beginning. In this regard, you don't have to think long and hard about your past. Harvey Pekar, for instance, was able to pen a comic book series based on his daily routine as a file clerk. It seemed boring at first glance, but Pekar saw it differently. Imagination guided him (to his masterpiece), and you could do the same thing. (Almost.) There's no need to make it too long.
How will you remember the names and objects? Sentimental feelings will likely be the first thing that comes to mind, but you can do a bit more than that. If it's someone you know (or close to you), then you have one good reason on why you keep on remembering that person. If it's an object, then it represents someone or something. It won't require several sentences.
How will you form your narrative? There's no set of rules here. Write the first thing that comes to mind, and don't hesitate to write the next one (and the next). Your roommate, who is studying Chemistry, might suggest the first ten elements in the periodic table. It might stump you. It may be quite different with the characters of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", but you're not asked to write a paper (on Lewis Carroll's beloved children's book). Just write.
What is your main argument? A problem might arise during the course of your experience, if not an unpleasant incident. You were affected by it, if not changed you. It could be trivial issues, which won't be a non-issue if you can be introspective about it. This task can cost you an hour or two, which should be enough.
Why do you have to review your essay? Aside from proofreading, you must make sure that your ideas are one and the same. Keep in mind that conflicting views won't get you the high mark. (Your professor might end up sympathizing with you, though.) As personal as it sounds, you must try to be as objective as possible.
Take Note of the Following
Highly-charged memories can be susceptible to distortion. Don't restrain yourself when you write. Do the necessary changes if it overshadows the motives of essay writing.
Memory can be unreliable at times. You must read some of Virginia Woolf's books. The author of “Orlando” shows how it can be done. (If you're unfamiliar with her works, it's the force of correspondence meeting with the force of coherence. The former kept Woolf stick to the facts while the latter enabled her to tell a compelling story.)
Never doubt about what you have written, as you'll likely rewrite it sooner or later. Our perspective changes when we get older. In your case, it can happen sooner.
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