An autobiographical essay is simply a piece of writing in which you reveal something about your life. But if you’re older than five or six, then you probably have a lot to talk about.
And when you have too much to say, it’s almost as bad as when you don’t have enough – you get writer’s block easily. So, I’d like to offer you three questions to ask and answer before you start writing that will take you maybe five or ten minutes but will open the floodgates of your mind so you could write a neat little autobiographical essay and enjoy the process.
The Difference between a Term Paper and an Autobiographical Essay
Before we get into the meat and potatoes, you should know one important difference between a regular term paper and an autobiographical essay. Most of the research papers and essays you’ve written up to date have been expository. This means that you stated an argument and supported it using evidence.
An autobiographical essay is usually not expository – you usually have nothing to argue or prove. You’re simply telling the reader something about yourself. Usually.
However, in some cases you should treat you autobiographical essay as if it were an expository or argumentative writing. This approach can be really helpful, and I’ll explain why and how in the paragraphs below.
Three Questions to Ask Before You Begin Writing an Autobiographical Essay
Question 1. What is the outcome I want to achieve by writing this essay?
It could be that your professor wanted to learn a little bit more about you before giving you a recommendation letter. It could be for a class, which means your goal is probably getting a good grade. Or it could have no goal other than having the pleasure of writing it.
This is a very important question and can determine whether you want to make your essay expository or narrative. If the aim is to get a job or a promotion or to be accepted into a university program, then your essay should be expository, and you should argue a point in it. And the point could be that you’re a good candidate for a number of reasons, or something to that effect.
If you’re writing it for a publication, for your own blog, or just for the sake of fun, then it could simply be narrative, meaning pretty much telling a story.
Question 2. Who Is My Audience?
The answer to this question will help you gain further clarity on whether you should do an expository or a narrative piece. But it will also help you decide on the tone and the message you’ll be trying to convey.
If you’re writing for a professor, and your professor is open-minded, then anything goes, and you can probably be as revealing as you feel like. Chances are that your professor will keep your essay confidential.
If you’re writing for your ‘About’ web page, then you should probably keep your tone somewhat professional (depending on the industry and the purpose of the website). Being clear about your audience really helps avoid big mistakes in content.
Question 3. What Is Relevant to This Essay?
This is also a powerful clarifying question that allows you to weed out all the info that doesn’t belong in your autobiographical essay. It also helps you narrow down your focus and avoid being overwhelmed by your whole life story.
If you’re writing a personal statement for a college application (which is a kind of an autobiographical essay), then you should only include things that are relevant to your academic goals and aspirations. You also need to be brief.
And it would also be an expository piece because you’re really trying to persuade someone to like you and deem you worthy of admission into the program.
And here’s an important point – you should narrow your focus regardless of the outcome you seek and whom you’re writing for – your audience. Narrow down your life story to events that are interesting.
Here’s a list of things to narrow your autobiographical essay down to:
- One significant event in your life
- A change that you decided to make
- A person you met who changed your life (or more than one person)
- The biggest lesson you’ve ever received in life
- Your goals and aspirations (talking about the future)
Hope you’ve found this helpful. Happy autobiographical writing!