Today I’d like to share an excerpt from my book, Ready, Set, Write: A Guide to Creative Writing. This is from a chapter titled “Essay Writing,” which emphasizes the creative aspects of writing essays rather than the academic.
The word essay comes from the French word essayer, which means “to try” or “to attempt.” An essay is a short format that usually presents an author’s personal point of view and can include criticism, arguments, observations, recollections, and reflections around a particular topic.
Not all essays are creative, but plenty of essays flow from creative thinking. Some examples of creative works in the realm of essays include personal, descriptive, and persuasive essays.
Essay writing is an art unto itself. Some essays follow rigid rules of research and accuracy regarding facts and truth, but others are elegant personal accounts of an individual’s experience or insights. An essay might set out to provide a detailed description of a person, place, or thing or offer an account of some event or experience. Another essay might attempt to persuade readers to a particular point of view or to take some kind of action, which could be political, faith-based, or in the realm of personal improvement.
There are guidelines for different types of essays. For example, most academic essays require a thesis statement. But most forms of essay writing provide plenty of room for creative exploration and expression, especially personal essays.
Types of Essays
Because essays are so broad and can range from academic or analytic to deeply personal, there are plenty of options for writers to choose from. Let’s look at a few types of essays that we can write:
Narrative Essay: Narrative essays are similar to short stories, except they are nonfiction and usually relate to a core topic or theme. Such an essay usually makes a point or conveys a lesson using a story as an example.
The power of narrative writing
Descriptive Essay: A descriptive essay avoids the author’s personal thoughts and feelings and focuses on the who, what, where, when, why, and how. These essays are ideal for anyone who likes to examine a subject from every angle and for writers who enjoy composing objective, detailed, factual, and descriptive prose.
Personal Essay: A personal essay relates an author’s thoughts or feelings on any given subject. Subject matter can range from food, health, and parenting to political or philosophical beliefs. The writer’s personal experiences might be the basis for such an essay; however, personal experiences may be absent.
Reflective Essay: A reflective essay is about a personal experience and includes reflections on it.
Response Essay: A response essay is similar to a personal essay in that it relates the author’s thoughts and feelings, except it speaks specifically about the author’s reaction to something; books, movies, travels, and other events and experiences are all fair game.
Argumentative or Persuasive Essay: These essays present the author’s position on an issue and apply logic, reason, and often, statistics and research, to back up the author’s opinions. Such essays may also include hyperbole, fallacy, and other questionable or deceitful tactics. Persuasive essays are designed to convince readers to do something or see some issue from a particular perspective.
Write a four-page essay (about a thousand words).
If you shuddered at the thought of writing an essay because it sounds like a school assignment, you can relax. Essay writing can be creative, fun, and rewarding—not to mention nonacademic.
While academic essays are based on a thesis statement and structured to prove your thesis with supporting ideas and sources, there are other types of essays that are more relaxed, such as descriptive or personal essays. You can describe a person, place, or thing. You can share a story about a real event, written in narrative style. You can write about a personal experience that you’ve had or articulate your reflections on any subject. Write a persuasive essay or craft a response essay to a work of art or something that’s happening in the news.
First, decide what kind of essay you’ll write (personal, narrative, etc.). Then choose your subject matter. Here are a few questions to help you select a topic:
- What are you most passionate about?
- What gets your blood boiling or makes you want to do a happy dance?
- Have you ever had an experience that fundamentally changed you or had a profound impact on you?
- What do you know a lot about?
- What do you want to learn more about?
Brainstorm some ideas. If necessary, do a little research. Then write a draft. Take your time by spreading this project out over a few days. Spend some time rewriting and editing, and then give it a final polish.
I have never had an essay published, per se, but it is a form with which I am quite familiar. I often write humorous essays in order to entertain my Facebook friends. (One I have posted each year at Christmas time for several years.) But I am also no stranger to writing a persuasive essay on any given forum or web space.
Most contemporary people seem to lack the patience to read essays. Yet the essay is one form by which I feel I can say all on a subject that I want to say.
I’m a big fan of essays, as long as they deal with subjects in which I’m interested. The rules are so loose, you can do a lot with them (as evidenced by Swift’s work). I suspect there are more essays written today on the web than there were fifteen or twenty years ago, which is super cool. I love that the internet provides a space for everyone to have a voice. Keep using that space, Ty!
Thanks for this Melissa! Essays are my favorite form of writing, but I’ve been having trouble getting my writing brain in gear; this gave me some great ideas!
Awesome! Thanks for your kind words. They keep me going!
Perfect tips on picking a topic. If you choose a topic that you have strong feelings for the words will just flow.
I agree! Passion makes a world of difference.
I am presently working on an essay and some other write ups and have been having a few challenges but this article has opened me up to things i never really understood . Thanks a lot
That’s great, Joice. I’m glad you found this post helpful. Keep writing!
Thank you so much for this information. I am currently working on an essay, specifically for magazine publications. This article was most helpful. I can fine tune and send it out.
You’re welcome, Sheila. Good luck with your essay!