Hints and tips for writing on personal essay topics

Do you have to write a personal essay? If so, don’t worry because although writing about ourselves can seem intrusive and therefore hard to do, if you follow the hints and tips in this article, you will find it much easier. In this article, you will learn:

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Choosing what to write about from a list of personal essay topics can be a bit like going to a buffet and putting food that looks nice on your plate only to discover on tasting it that you want to spit it out. In other words, if you are given a list to choose from don’t instantly choose the first one that appeals to you. The reason for this is that the one that might at first seem easy to write isn’t that inspiring once you sit down and start to work on it.

Once you understand that you aren’t simply telling a story about your life but you need to write about how the event affected you, then you can start to choose your topic. Let’s look at a short list of five:

  • The most exciting time of your life. At a first glance, you might look at this and immediately think that you have to write about the most exciting time of your life which was a family holiday to the Italian Riviera. However, when you start to write about it, you realise that all that happened was that you visited the beach every day and had meals in restaurants. It was exciting and great fun for you but for anyone else it wouldn’t be that interesting to read.
  • Your greatest fear. If you have a deep fear of spiders, you may go to sleep every night frightened that one will crawl on you while you are sleeping because it happened once when you were younger. However, if you sit down to plan writing about this topic, you may find that it is too repetitive to write about and doesn’t move on to a conclusion.
  • What motivates you? Some of the greatest events that have ever taken place in the history of humans are because of motivation and it can be a great topic to write about. However, it can be difficult to write about because you may not have taken action towards your motivation yet. Alternatively, if the only thing that gets you out of bed in the morning is the smell of coffee, that also can make writing on this subject a non-starter.
  • Something that happened that brought you closer to your parents. If an event took place, for instance, you grew up in comfortable circumstances but then your parents lost their business and suddenly everything changed. However, although you had a lot less money, you all became a tighter unit, then this is a story with a beginning, a middle, and end and also a moral.
  • What you do in your spare time. This is a topic that all depends on the individual. For instance, if you spend your spare time helping the homeless to get a better life, it could be a fascinating subject. However, if you spend all your time lying on your bed staring at your navel and thinking about eating a bar of chocolate, it may be better to give this topic a miss.

Some of this may seem obvious but it is amazing how often students write personal essays and miss the fact that although it is personally interesting to them, it is rather dull for other people. If that seems harsh, this article is written so that you produce the best personal essay that you are able to.

The more you read, the better your writing will become. That is a fact. This next section is about reading around your topic but before we embrace that idea, it’s important to also do as much reading of personal essays and biographical books too. This will give you an idea of what heights can be reached with personal writing. You should read extracts from:

  • Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee.
  • My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.
  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf.

These texts are famous classics and ultimately demonstrate how to produce a narrative voice that is both entertaining and beautifully written.

Once you have chosen the topic for your personal essay, you need to look at what the very best have written. You don’t need to read dozens of essays. It is far better to choose about three excellent ones and then read them actively as opposed to passively. This means that when you read the essays, you are going to deconstruct them. There are important aspects of the writing to take notice of, these are:

  • Regarding how the essay illuminates the personal qualities of the writer.
  • Evaluate whether the essay seems genuine and passionate.
  • Does the essay demonstrate that the writer could be a valuable community member or a team player?

If you feel that the essay fills all these criteria, you should take particular note of how these aspects of the writer are conveyed. This is particularly important if your essay is for a college application because that is what the tutor will be looking for when she or he reads your essay. It is imperative in this instance that as the writer, you seem to be offering your true self and not a pseudo one.

It is all too easy when writing a personal essay to imagine that you can simply write a story about what has happened to you. Don’t make that mistake if your essay is for a college application because the tutors read hundreds of them and it can get tiresome. Let’s up your game.

Hopefully, you’ve already chosen your topic so what you need to do now is to find a metaphor that you can run through your essay to echo your topic. For instance, if we use the example described earlier of the teenager that had had a relatively comfortable childhood and then his parents had lost their business but the hardships had brought them all closer together, you could use the weather as a metaphor for the turbulent emotions that they suffered. The trick is to run it through the piece interwoven like a beautiful tapestry and always be careful to be subtle with it.

We were at the gate drinking in the sunshine when the postman thrust the brown envelope into Dad’s hand. As a single cloud dimmed out the glow, my father’s rosiness drained into the same shade of grey and he shoved the unopened letter into his top pocket. “

That is probably too much for a personal essay; however, if is edited it becomes subtle.

The postman thrust the brown envelope into Dad’s hand as a single cloud dimmed out the glow of the sun. Dad’s colour drained into the same shade of grey as he shoved the unopened letter into his top pocket.”

Can you see how the text demonstrates what is happening as opposed to simply telling you what has taken place? Try to incorporate this into your essay so that it stands out from the hundreds of others that may be written on the same topic.

  • One of the problems with writing a personal essay is that because it is something that actually happened to you and is about the way you feel; it is too easy to make the mistake of bringing in everything that comes to mind whether it is relevant or not. If you are writing your essay for a college application, it cannot be stressed enough how you need to avoid this. The reason is that if your essay seems to go off on a tangent then it may indicate that you cannot distinguish between what is relevant and what isn’t. This is a skill that is essential to academic work. Therefore, it is worth taking the time to check your essay carefully.
  • Look at the structure of it. Does it make sense? Has it got a beginning, a middle and an end. If it veers off in the middle and goes onto another topic, you need to cut that part out.
  • Is there a point to it? The awful truth of the matter is that after reading hundreds of personal essays, tutors can get weary if they are faced with a student that has written about a topic and it’s just waffle that hasn’t got a point to it. It makes the reader think ‘so what?’ Read your essay through and ask yourself why am I telling this story in the form of an essay – what is the main point that I am trying to get over?
  • If you are writing about one topic such as getting over the fear of heights, don’t feel tempted to bring in other similar topics to pad your essay out. As well as the application tutor noticing how much padding there is, they may also suspect that you can’t distinguish the difference between two similar topics. This will not help your application.

Hopefully, now that you’ve read about ways to write about personal essay topics, you will be able to write your own essay easily. However, if you are not certain of your ability and it is for something that could affect your whole future like a college application then it may be useful for you to seek help. We offer a whole range of writing services and you can be assured that it is fully confidential so no-one will ever know that you have used us.

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