Writing Workshop by Jess K. '10
I just wrote an entire post and my browser crashed. dfsdfksdfojfoajwefoiajdwf.
(There comes a time in all great bloggers’ lives when, while writing a particularly good entry, they happen to deviate from their work and stumble across a page that will crash their browser. Various forms of anger will inevitably follow, from denial – searching for a clipboard log – to vengeance – spamming the owner of the guilty site – to acceptance – writing a pre-blog entry paragraph dripping with bitter disdain. So, my apologies if you don’t like what I’m about to say or how I said it. It was once a robust, lively post. You can imagine that it was once inundated with much more refined word choice, subtle humor, and poignant advice. For it was. RIP.)
I FIXED MY HARD-DRIVE!!!11one
There’s not any real formula to the way I write blog entries, but I try to start with something that’s important to me, or if not, any random occurrence (where do these occurrences come from? I’m the most ridiculous person alive, remember?). Example: I received this email recently because Patrick the Irish, who lives a few doors down from me, fixed his server. He brought it in pieces over from Ireland (I meant Patrick the IRISH Irish, not just “I’m Irish because my grand^50 great aunt stopped over there once for a quick bite) and reassembled it here, only to discover that one of his hard drives was broken. So Patrick the Irish decided to stick it in the freezer for a little bit, becaue sometimes this works.
This was not one of those times. (Sometimes this does not work.) Unluckily for Patrick the Irish, repeatedly refreezing and defrosting did nothing. Shortly after, he discovered that it could’ve been fixed by simply replacing part of the hard drive, not freezing the entire thing.
Poor Patrick the Irish! Luckily, after many tortured emails to Next Forum looking for a Torx screwdriver and biking around Cambridge to find a hard drive from which he could steal the part, he replaced the faulty bit. The server is now happily whirring away and obstructing anyone from stealing food from his refrigerator (a fruitless task, because it houses only plain granola and yogurt. No fruit. Ha ha ha). Without the working hard drive, the server would continue to obstruct traffic, but without purpose. It was Patrick the Irish’s resilience that brought reason and truth into a world where nothing makes sense, and to this day I am inspired by his dedication to his craft.
This is how you write a fabulous college essay.
“What?!” You ask, shaken from your hazy dreamlike state. “I thought we were learning how you write a blog entry.” That too. But it has double meaning (oh, I’m sneaky alright). The point that I’m trying to make instead is that we’re both trying to transform incoherent thoughts into eloquence and meaning, so you are NOT ALONE in your endeavors to write great things! Although I get to do it for fun, and you get to do it while biting your nails about the Future, capital F. (And the future’s going to be great!)
Early action’s passed, so I know quite a few of you have already written a substantial amount of college essays, but I have a couple things to say on the subject (I myself wrote around 11.5, some of which never went to ink), so I hope this might help you get back into the mood to write a little more.
1) If you’re totally stuck, or if you’re just trying to come up with more essays, just sit down and write. Cliche, but it works. I wrote zillions of essays. Over and over again. I literally wrote something in the two-digit range of essays, and I didn’t even use all of them. I wrote about my personal problems, my passions, certain programs I’d been involved in over the years, various summers, EVERYTHING. There are things in your life that will obviously stand out to you; web design was a major part of my high school career. I wrote about it even though I knew a lot of other people would be too, applying to MIT, but it was something that was really important to me and had been a part of my life since forever, and it had started as something wholesome and fun – not something I said “hey, I want to do this for my college application”. Look for things like that in your life.
2) It helps to get an English teacher from a previous year (or even the one you have this year, but I don’t suggest it since they don’t really know you yet) that you really trust and who really has faith in you to help you edit your essays. My junior year AP language teacher was probably the best thing that happened to me in the way of applying for college – she read EVERY single thing I ever sent out, wrote down comments and corrections, and then sat down with me to talk it all over. I’m really embarassed to let people read my writing (except for blogging, for some reason, I usually just end up having literary diarrhea and blab on about absolutely nothing) and she definitely helped me overcome that. I got so, so much better from all her constructive criticism. If you can find someone like that for you, you’re gold.
3) A good way to help you improve stylistically is to reread your favorite authors. I’m a short story addict, so I read a lot of Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie (you don’t have to run out to get it right now, but it’ll be a nice prize when you get into all ten of your top choice colleges in a few months). At the same time, I also wanted to demonstrate a sense of humor, so I tried to channel David Sedaris. Look over your favorite books, or ask your English teacher to suggest something they find stylistically impressive. Think about what it is that you like about their style of writing, and try to incorporate those aspects into the way you tell your story.
4) Don’t procrastinate!! Putting things off until the last minute is bad! Don’t do it!! Say no! Especially when studying for the 18.023 test I took last Thursday! And not when writing college essays! Don’t do it!!!
5) College essays are intended to portray you as you, not you as your guidance counselor or you as your mom staring fervently over your shoulder. Everyone is going to have an opinion on your choice of topic, or your tone, or the way you concluded the third paragraph, but in the end, it’s really only about you and the way you want to depict your life. You have the final say in what you’re saying. Make it count.
This isn’t meant to be a torturous process; the admissions officers just want to get to know you a little better, and this is your chance to really help them out. Be honest, but don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t shy away from this opportunity to really take a good look at yourself so you can write about what matters most to you, or what you think shaped you the best. I actually found out quite a bit about myself when I was writing essays, so it can be a pretty cool process if you invest yourself. Be dedicated to your craft. Patrick the Irish and I can vouch for its success.