Essay Writing

Creative Exercises to Fuel Your Essay Writing:

  1. Choose a mundane object that’s within your eyesight at the moment you read this sentence. It might be a pencil, a vase, a shoe, or a button. Write a paragraph describing the object in concrete/sensory terms (color, shape, etc.), then write a few paragraphs about the metaphoric or symbolic value of the object: What might it stand for? For example, a button holds things together. It might help to think about clichés that include the item, such as “buttoned up, buttoned down.” Clichés usually come about through overuse of a highly successful image or analogy.
  2. Do you know what you want from your writing? What are you trying to get right? This is a difficult question, but write a few paragraphs—or a few pages—about what you hope your writing will accomplish. You could start with this phrase: I would like my readers to know/understand feel … .

There are as many ways to get words onto the page as there are writers. There is no formula, no rule. This is the beauty of creativity: its source is in the artist. It might be useful to talk to others about how they approach the blank page, but only because it will reveal how different it is for each writer. Your task is not to discover how it is done by others, but to discover how it is for you. As you begin to understand your own process, you can enhance it and modify it to better serve your own needs.

There will still be knowledge and ideas, but they will rise not from reason, a product of the mind, but from the experiencing of the writer’s life. The Writing the Personal Essay course helps writers investigate the origins of the personal desire to write, and to identify goals for the writing itself and for publications.

These creative exercises came from the course Writing the Personal Essay 101: Fundamentals


      • Learn about the personal essay genre.
      • Think about yourself as a writer—including your writing habits, processes, and goals.
      • Practice elements of the personal essay, especially description.
      • Learn how to uncover values expressed in the writing.
      • Write personal essays using techniques presented in the lessons.
      • Learn how to write about other people and maintain one’s integrity.
      • Become own editor, through techniques taught in the lessons.
      • Receive an introduction to publishing.

Learn More About Writing Personal Essays!

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