I grew up recognizing Essays as stories. I was taught that. It was the most popular question in literature classes.
“Write an essay on how you spent your holiday”
“Write an essay telling us about your first day in school”
And as students we wrote and wrote, with the end goal of simply sharing our experiences.
It is true that an essay can be so many things; a story, a narration, an information.
But what should an Essay really be?
An Essay should leave the reader something important.
Being useful is being resourceful; being a source of guideline to solve a particular problem.
Just before I got off the phone to face this essay, I had just seen a recent tweet by someone, paraphrasing, it said “I have observed that successful Fintech companies are those than tend to solve a particular problem rather than focusing on a general thing” she added “however, that it also a feature of successful companies generally”
I suggest that this is an effective formula for a useful writing.
A useful writing zooms in and is specific.
Now, writing usefully is;
• Being important
• Being surprising or novel
• Being inevitable
• Being correct
• Being clear
The recipe for writing something important is to write something that is important for yourself.
If you are interested in solving a problem for yourself, there is a great chance that you are going to do the same thing for the reader
In this case, you are acting as the proxy for the reader because you are no different from him/her.
I once read a quote that said, when you write for yourself you inevitably write for a large audience.
What is important to you? What problems are you trying to solve? These questions guide you into charting a useful writing.
Elizabeth Gilbert once said that Art has two features; surprising and inevitable.
I suggest this as a powerful formula in writing a useful essay.
A useful writing has new information. It is surprising.
It makes the writer go “oh wow, I didn’t know this, I didn’t know this could happen”
That is novelty.
The powerful trick to writing something novel is to read a topic with an aim to cure your own ignorance.
If you have encountered something novel, it is likely going to be the same for the reader. In this case, don’t publish an essay if you have learnt nothing new from writing it.
The inevitability of an essay stems from writing something that people intuitively know but haven’t given words to it yet.
Writing something that people clearly experience and are aware of is the inevitable experience that a useful writing can give.
It means that they know it and can’t argue with it because “there is really no other way it could have been”
The way to achieve this is by writing something that is generally popular amongst people, experiences that are all too common but are not so talked about.
People relate quickly to this.
A writer has a duty to be correct. Your claims should be backed up by facts and statistics.
If you are writing a story, be accurate about the unfolding of its events.
An essay should not be filled with uncorroborated claims and false events.
It is easy to be false, but it is also weak. There is no strength attached to a work ridden by falsity and lies. It is offensive to not pay attention research and details.
You owe your audience a duty to be correct.
Being clear is the hallmark of a good essay because yes, you can be important but what is the point of writing if the words are difficult to grasp and comprehend?
It is flawed thinking that writing must be filled with complex words and sentences to attain the height of an outstanding work. Yes, it is tempting to sound impressive with the glittering words of an academic but it is a lot simpler to be clear; you engage people immediately and your words literally leap into the minds of people.
Clarity means a sense of direction, it is a consciousness that you remember people are reading to comprehend. Simple.
To attain clarity, there are certain questions that should stay on the author’s mind. Some of them are;
• Have I communicated effectively?
• Have I answered the questions on the mind of the reader?
However, these are some tips to achieve clarity;
• Choose a topic worth writing on
• Cut out extra words
• Listen for feedback
It starts from there.
The topic you should be writing on is the one you can’t not write about.
Does it get you through an unsolved problem?
Does writing about it relieve a certain burden from you?
Finding answers to these questions gives you to the motivation to write with conviction. And when you are convinced, you can be clear.
Cut out extra words.
I’ll advise you to write your work fast.
When you start to write, after mulling on ideas for days, write badly immediately.
Waiting to get all your ideas perfectly articulated in your head is never possible. Why?
- You never really know what you want to write till you start writing.
- Writing unlocks a wealth of epiphanies that you couldn’t have discovered otherwise in your head.
- You’d most likely re-write a couple of times anyway so why wait?
When you start writing your first draft immediately, you are giving plenty room and time to re-write and re-read.
In rereading, you’d discover unnecessary words, repeated phrases, and clichés. The goal while reading is to cut out extra words!
Listen to feedback.
It takes humility to accept that feedback plays a significant role in the writing process.
Listening to feedback improves your learning.
What are your readers saying?
Was the message passed sufficiently?
Listening to feedback is affording the people close to you the opportunity to criticize your work.
It is fairly difficult for us to assess our own writing.
Submitting your work for criticism bares this question for honest answers;
What can I work better at?
Are there points raised that seemed largely unnecessary?
When you pay attention to the feedback on your work, you improve and develop your voice more clearly.
Writing usefully is an important skill as a writer. In a world with a billion messages, your audience deserves clarity and words that cut right across.