Essay #1: My Own Road to Writing
Begin by reading:
The writing assignment:
Write a brief essay explaining one or more of the things that shaped you into the writer you are today.
We begin this course with three basic assumptions:
- Yes, you really are a writer. You may be a writer who needs to learn or who needs to practice, but it's in you. You are like young Harry Potter who told Hagrid, "No, you've made a mistake. I can't be … a—a wizard. I mean, I'm just … Harry. Just Harry." But Harry was wrong. He really was a wizard.
- You learn to write by reading the writing of others. That's why the course has student writing sprinkled all through as well as professional writing.
- Good writing focuses on showing, not just telling. We know the names of the teachers in "My Road to Writing." We know exactly what they did and how they sounded. We get specific sights and sounds to flesh out the narrative.
For this essay, I have given you two written samples, one by a professional (Ann Patchett) and the other by a college student (Kristi Stone). Often we look at the work of a polished professional (who has the advantage of several professional editors) and expect ourselves to hit that standard, so I wanted you to see both the immediate goal (a well-written student piece) and the distant goal (something by someone who is a true professional). It's interesting to see what they have in common:
- Because both are "what it was like to be me" essays, both are just fine with using the first person pronouns (I, me, my, we, us, our).
- Both are very rich in specific, memorable details (squirrel people, the Sopwith Camel).
- Both do a great job of remembering what they are trying to do. Kristi Stone could have launched into a complaint about all the other terrible things her teachers did to her—but she didn't. Ann Patchett could have spent a couple of paragraphs on the devastation of the California fires, but she resisted the temptation. That wasn't her topic.
Hints for Success:
- Your primary audience for this essay is your instructor; your secondary audience is other students like yourself. This means that:
- Your audience does not know much about your personal private life or about your school district or neighborhood. You might have some explaining to do.
- You are not trying to blow the socks off a Ph.D., but you are not talking down to small children either. Don't spend a lot of time looking up impressive words to say simple things. Save the fake legal language for law school. Save the writing that's appropriate for 4-year-olds for your first group of children when you practice teach.
- The Kristi Stone essay is a good example of the sort of language you should be using.
- Though this is a personal essay, it should also be an academic essay, so leave out words such as "gonna" and "wanna." Do not use neighborhood slang in this essay.
- First-person pronouns (I, me, my, we, us our) are perfectly acceptable. The Kristi Stone essay would not have been better if she had written like this:
After a taste of success, writing became an obsession. One liked it almost as much as chocolate. As this writer moved from one grade to the next, the praise continued to follow. A little less explosive than fourth grade, but adequate. Eventually as the joy of expressing thought on paper palled a little, a new thought hit one: One can make money in this.
- I asked for at least two pages, but do not panic if you come up with three or four. Just write it.
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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Ashland University.
Revised 7/9/21 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.