Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Myths and Misconceptions of the College Essay: Writing to Reveal Part 4

Myth #3: I can't write about common topics.

Sports. Music. Travel. Missions. Grandma.

Too often our students feel like they can't write about topics that are too often wrote about.

In his book, Writing about Your Life, William Zinsser exclaims, "Write about things that are important to you, not what you think readers will want to read...Readers don't know what they want to read until they read it. If it's important to you, it will be important to other people."

Thus I say to my students...

If overcoming an ACL injury to return to the gridiron is important - then write about that journey of relearning how to chop step, cut, swivel, switch directions on a dime, make a linebacker tackle air.

If changing the oil every 2,000 miles underneath your metallic silver Tahoe is important to you - then write about the thrilling texture of crude black oil underneath your fingertips.

If cruising Broadway on a Friday night with the girls and belting out Taylor Swift is important to you - then write about the joy of singing off key out your window into the hot July night.

One of my favorite Southern novelist, Flannery O' Connor once wrote, "Every good story contains a moment of grace."

Grace, at its fundamental level, involves a gift.

The goal then in telling any story is to try and get to that gift.

Maybe the gift then is not in scoring a touchdown as much as experiencing a kind of rebirth.

Maybe the gift is not so much in changing the oil as much as connecting with one's father and feeling his "wink" of approval.

Maybe the gift is not so much in the song as much as it is in simply having someone to sing with.

Stories, in the end, that resonate within all of us, are stories about moments of grace.

Where something surprising,

and totally unexpected,

and completely transformational

quietly or dramatically touches us.