Hello! It’s Me! Writing the Personal Essay.

A student at a writing workshop said this to me once: “I can’t write about myself. I have a boring life.” I spent the next half-hour trying to convince her that her life was not boring, but rich and remarkable.

“You don’t have to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to have a story to tell. It doesn’t have to be fantastical, it just has to be honest and allow for reflection. Find the personal uniqueness in what we all experience,” I said.

So, you do that, then how do you do it in the best way possible?

The Write Life  recently posted a wonderful starting list for personal essay writing. Amy Paturel wrote the piece. It outlines good starting points for telling your story—whatever that may be. Don’t vent, start strong, write tight, careful overusing those adverbs and adjectives, use dialogue, and mostly importantly “don’t hold back.” I call this “going deep.” You can’t be afraid of starching the skin a bit, even enough to draw blood. You may not want to be so “personal” in your personal essay, but be prepared if you don’t. Your reader will sense that you are holding back. They will know. Instead, be brave.

Some of the most remarkable stories I have read have been personal stories, not because they are fantastical, but because they are honest.


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