How to write a personal essay

write a personal essay

A good personal essay can move and inspire your readers. It can also confuse the reader, give him a feeling of uncertainty and cause him to ask many questions. To write an effective personal essay, you must first understand its structure. Then you need to brainstorm ideas for the essay so you’re ready when it’s time to sit down and write it.

Find an angle of attack. You might not have many exciting stories or intense drama to tell, but that’s okay. You can still turn it into something that engages the reader if you focus on a particular angle. You must try to find a unique or interesting perspective on an experience or moment in your life. You might find a deep and interesting topic for your essay based on an experience seen from a certain point of view   .

For example, you would like to write about an experience where you learned to fail. You might think of a time when you failed a surprise test in class. Even though this test didn’t seem important to you at the time, you realized later that by missing it, you had to rethink your goals and motivate yourself to move up a class. Seen from a certain angle, this small defeat became the beginning of your efforts of perseverance and determination.

Write about an important moment.

A good personal essay will explore a specific experience that has created a sense of conflict in your life. It will be a way to explore how and why this experience bothered, annoyed or hurt you. See it as a space where you can discuss a significant moment and reflect on its impact on the rest of your life  .

It could be a moment that seemed insignificant to you at the time, but had a profound influence on you later, for example the first time you felt disgusted as a child or the expression on your mother’s face when you confessed your homosexuality to him. Try to dive into what bothered, hurt, or annoyed you at the time in your essay.

Remember that emotional moments are generally going to be more interesting for your readers. If you have a strong reaction at a specific time, you can write with more passion and you can keep your reader more interested.

Discuss a specific event.

 Choose one that triggered an emotional response. You could also explore a specific event in your life that caused a lasting impression. Often, personal essays serve as a reflection of an event that happened that changed the author’s life in some way. Think about a particular event that is unique and personal to you. The weirder it is, the more interesting your essay will be to read   .

For example, you could focus on the day you found out your dad cheated on your mom or the week you mourned the loss of a loved one. Find a powerful experience that led you to become the person you are now.

You might also decide to write about something that feels lighter, like the first time you rode a roller coaster or the first time you went on a cruise with your partner. Whatever event you choose, you need to make sure it elicited a strong emotional response, be it anger, confusion, or unreserved joy.

Respond to a current event. Good personal essays go into detail, such as your experiences, but also address the larger context, such as a current event or larger issue. You could focus on current events or a topic you are passionate about, such as abortion or refugee centers, and analyze it from a personal perspective.

For example, you might want to write about the Syrian refugee camps in Europe. You could focus on your own refugee status and the experiences you have had that have made you the person you are now. This allows you to explore a current event from a personal perspective instead of just discussing the event from a distant, journalistic perspective.

Create a draft.

Personal essays are usually written in sections with an introduction, body, and conclusion. These sections are divided as follows

The introduction should include the “catch phrase,” opening lines where you grab the reader’s attention. There should be some sort of narrative thesis that is often the beginning of an important event or theme that connects your experience to a universal idea.

The body of the essay should include evidence of your narrative thesis or key story elements. Often this takes the form of experiences or reflections on your experiences. You should also note the passage of time in the body of the essay so that the reader is aware of it and knows how certain events unfolded.

The last section should include a conclusion on the events and experiences discussed in the essay. You should also have a moral where you reflect on what you have learned from your experiences and how they have changed your life.

In the past, it was advised to have four paragraphs, an introductory paragraph, two body paragraphs and a concluding paragraph. However, it is not necessary to limit yourself to this number for your personal essay as long as you keep three separate sections.

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