Tutor and Writer-Translator

Essay Writing

Essay Writing

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Yes, you can write!

Wield your pen like a sword of wits!

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The number one problem all writers face is writer’s block. That gut-wrenching feeling that you won’t be able to do it right. Why are writers afraid of starting someting? Lack of confidence? Lack of guts? Poor writing skills? No, it's the inner critic. It's an inner voice we all have that judges our behavior: “Look left and right before crossing!”, "Don’t talk with you mouth full!”. It's a vital survival and safety mechanism, but it tends to become overly critical and demanding: "Write a perfect essay, NOW!" That's a tall order, even for an experienced writer! Your essay doesn't have to be perfect, it has to be good, and relevant. Moreover, writing isn't giving a presentation: you can change and improve your work. So don’t fret if you don’t like your first draft, you can always rework it later. The important thing is to get started! Don't worry too much about how good or how original your work is, I can guarantee your first draft is already one of a kind!

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But how do you write an essay? An essay always has a prompt. Before you start, always ask yourself: "What am I supposed to write about?" i.e. "What does the prompt require me to write about?". And things can get pretty deep and philosophical here: if your prompt is "What is life?" a lot can be said about that! However, in middle school and high school, essays prompts are usually more specific. They often include words like: “Describe”, “Explain”, or a question word (Who? What? etc.). Very often, the goal is to test both your creative and persuasive writing skills: you’ll be asked to give your point of view, but also to justify it, mixing in the personal stuff with persuasive strategies. Like in debate club. How do you go about this? Well, that’s where critical thinking comes in. Let’s take an example prompt: “Are schools well organized? Explain.” This is a Yes/No question, meaning that you can either answer “Yes, schools are well organized”, or “No, they aren’t”. Doesn’t that sound like two people having a debate or an argument? But what if somebody said “They are and they aren’t well organized. Both are true, just in different ways.” Sounds like somebody who can't decide which side to join. But which do you think is the closest to reality: 100% yes, 100% no, or somewhere in between? If schools were completely disorganized, they wouldn’t be capable of managing hundred of students every day. But if schools were perfectly well organized, then wouldn’t that mean they’d never have sick teachers or administrative problems? Things are rarely black-and-white. Reality lies somewhere in between. Where exactly depends on your opinion. The secret to persuasive writing is argumentation, which means finding good reasons to justify your point of view, and organizing all your reasons in a sensible order so that you can convince your reader.

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So, how do we do that? Well, it’s all in the practice! But you have to pay attention: write regularly, and pay attention to how you feel while you do it. Observe how you’re thinking. And don't think that persuasive writing and creative writing are separate. Good writing is contagious! The first assignment I give my new writing students is to write about whatever they want. It's the best way to discover their style! One of my writing students, a middle school student, went on vacation for two weeks after our first lesson together. I asked him to write about whatever he wanted while he was away, giving him a minimum of 500 words. When he came back, he brought me a four-page diary of what he did at his grandparents’ house. It was funny, witty, intelligent, and so personal! I was delighted! I knew then and there that he could write very well. It was also very well organized: reading it, I felt a progression from when he arrived to when he left the house. Good writing is well organized. Whether you're a professional writer or a student, when you write well you write clearly and creatively. At first, writing off of a prompt can feel like a wearing a straitjacket, but with a little practice, it’s like a big pasture: you can canter and gallop freely, there's just a fence so things don't get out of hand! In other words: a good essay respects the boundaries of the prompt, but is also personal, bold, and cleverly thought-out!

So if you need help with Essay Writing, don’t delay: let me know!