I’D LIKE TO SHARE a personal story with you. It was quite a few years ago when I was a college freshman. I was so bad at writing that they placed me in a special group that had to pass a basic 5-paragraph essay-writing course at the end of the semester in order to be placed into regular Freshman Composition otherwise known as English I.
Yes – I was that bad. I didn’t even get to hate writing because I didn’t understand what pain that was until I got into that class. Our professor was a sweet old lady that had only the best intentions. We read a lot of articles and poems, and wrote a bunch of short stories and a biography. All throughout the semester I wondered if all the stuff we were doing was in any way helpful to writing a basic five paragraph essay. I didn’t feel I was learning anything.
The date of the exam on which we’d have to write that basic essay was approaching. In the mean time I kept getting very good and excellent grades on all my writing assignments in the class because my grammar was decent and the writing was very free-form and didn’t require a lot of skill.
The course also included a workshop in which we would work on our sentences, punctuation, and spelling – some of the skills that I already had to some degree. I knew one thing for sure – I was not getting better at writing a basic essay. I mean, we had covered everything in the course except that. And, again, I believe that the professor was very nice and well-intentioned, but she just focused on the wrong things, most of which we already knew.
And then one day, and it was the last day of the workshop, something interesting happened that gave me an epiphany. About mid-way through the workshop a woman walked in. She introduced herself as a professor of college writing here at the college, and said she would teach us how to pass the essay exam. Needless to say, I was delighted. Finally we were going to learn what we really needed.
And she gave us a 20-minute lesson (literally – just 20 minutes), after which it became perfectly clear to me what exactly to do in order to pass that basic essay exam. Pay attention, folks. It took that professor 20 minutes to teach me what I hadn’t learned (but was supposed to learn) in the whole semester.
Yes – that was the twenty minute advice that not only helped me pass the exam, but made me realize an important truth: if you focus on the wrong things, you can spend years accomplishing nothing; but if you focus on all the right things, then your success is virtually guaranteed and will take a fraction of the time – probably a small fraction.
So, what else can I tell you? Keep stopping by this blog – it will keep you focused on all the right things when it comes to writing essays.
Questions? Comments? Post ‘em here.