This year’s seniors are shouldering not only the usual formidable first semester workload and college application checklist but also the fallout from quarantine, COVID, hurricanes, wildfires, a tumultuous election season, civic protests — need I go on?
As a result, many of my students are experiencing a dueling match between their writing productivity and a blank slate: College Essay v. White Page.
Here are a few suggestions for eking out a few words that, trust me, will miraculously turn into sentences then paragraphs and then a college essay:
Blank Pages Get Filled One Way: By Writing on Them
Do you think Ralph Ellison nailed it on the first attempt with the opening line of Invisible Man? That sentence — “I am an invisible man” — most likely took a while to conceive and when it was born, Ellison had the book’s title. He received two gifts for his hard work of drafting! Lesson learned: Write sentences. Many of them. You’ll land on one that captures your unique point of view and tone of voice which is exactly what admissions readers want to hear.
If the writing muse just can’t be wrangled, take a break and read. No video gaming. No texting. No binge-watching Netflix. Pick up or download a book, absorb the flow of the words, listen to the rhythm of the sentences. Soon, you’ll want to do what the writer you’re reading is doing: Expressing themselves.
Record Your Thoughts
If the Google or Word Doc is too intimidating to look at, try the oral tradition. Talk into your phone or some sort of recording gadget and then transcribe yourself. You might hear only a stream of consciousness or maybe you’ve articulated a persuasive argument, but whatever has come out of you is translatable into a germ of a narrative. When jotting down the words, add ideas or flesh out scenes using various elements of craft like action, description, or dialogue. Before long, an essay will be born!