Are you writing an essay that you really care about and you want it to be your very best work imaginable? I know how to do this and do it well, and I’m going to share my best tips with you for writing the essay of your dreams.
One of my favorite writers—David Foster Wallace, was talking the other day about how he spent six months writing a commencement speech he delivered at a university, geared to motivated to inspire students. It wasn’t a long piece—but it was a supremely good one, and you can find it online today. Why was it so good? Because he spent time revising it and revising it, mulling more about the topic, letting it simmer and adding things he learned as he wrote, and he had time to perfect every sentence. In short—good writing—the kind of writing you want—takes time. So, start early. Start at least 10 days before your paper is due, if it is short, which will give you time to perfect it, and as you perfect the essay, you’ll become more and more inspired. So treat yourself to that whole process once, and you’ll become addicted to taking time to really refine your best pieces your entire writing life.
Myself, I write best in the early morning. I like to get up with the chickens and have something significant composed by 8 a.m. This works for me. If I have already accomplished something great by 8 a.m., which for most people, is when their day begins, then I feel inspired and motivated to write, write, write! Some people never write until evening—and everyone’s clock is different. Just as I can write with some only “slightly interesting” (not Game of Thrones) type television on in the background, while a lot of writers listen to music (I cannot). In short, find out what gets your juices flowing. Some writers need some kind of noise in the background to combat boredom and loneliness.
All good writers revise. In fact, they revise every essay they write multiple times. Some writers get all their thoughts down on a topic and then revise the entire thing bit by bit, while some writers become more inspired by perfecting each paragraph as they go—with each next paragraph inspired by the perfect, singing written composed paragraph that preceded it. Find what works and write like that. Just leave yourself plenty of time for the revision process—especially for a rapidly composed somewhat “all over the place” kind of draft.
You write like what you read—any great writer will tell you that. So, read good articles to inspire your essay. Plus, as you incorporate quotes and paraphrases from the great writing and research you have composed, this writing plus your writing will create a beautiful, insightful collage of great writing and interesting things to read—and you want your essay to be something that both educates and moves your reader. The best description I know of what you want to make an essay become is a “showcase of your insights and writing talent.” That quote is credited to a great philosophy professor I had in graduate school.
Overall, you want to allow yourself time for a wonderful creative process with any piece you want to be wonderful!