A little trendlet emerges in my interactions with the writing world. Much like a lawyer gets asked for an opinion on a contract, or a doctor has a quick look at an inflamed area at the request of a friend, I get asked about essays. Obviously, they count for a lot in getting into school, a special program, a scholarship, or just a passing grade in English Composition. The system bullies kids into conforming to a strict set of writing requirements. Standards are fine. The rules help us communicate. But when certain kids don’t think that way, they get beat up.
Yesterday I got hit up twice. Both had a common issue with the bullies, which I’ll get to. In one case, the essay’s mechanics were fine and the essay needed to expand on the ‘cool’ idea it set forth. Friendship was the topic, and the beginning quote, author unknown:
A best friend is the sister that destiny forgot to give you.
Good quote, and easy advice to recommend getting more personal to give the essay dimension.
The other essay had poor mechanics, and so it was more of a back to basics of getting the framework in place. No problem.
More interesting is that both of these young writers were described to me as having ‘processing issues.’ What that means is their brains don’t connect the dots in the same logical order as most people. Also known in the psych trade as ‘Executive Function Error’, the part of the brain that dishes out the work orders gets jumbled up. Things like sentence structure, topic sentences, paragraph forms, themes, leitmotif, Arrrrrhghghghhg. Gridlock.
Don’t we all face that? Isn’t that what writing is about? Unjumbling those complex thoughts in an original way that let’s a reader say, yeah, I felt that way too (even when the actual story is light years away from the reader’s actual experience.) That’s what I told these two. That’s just writing. Figuring it out. If you like doing that, you do it and feel good. If you don’t like it, eventually you hire it out. If you love it, you try and get better at it (kind of like skiing or golf). And if you have to do it because you feel this impossible to explain hunger that makes you crabby when you don’t write, well, then I guess you’re blessed with the curse of being a writer.
UPDATE: The essay is here, and my friend and co-writer George Brumis has volunteered to help with this college hopeful’s writing. He attached this on his own bio related to getting into college.
I had a 19 on my ACT too, then retook it and and received a whopping 20! My GPA was much worse. The only school that accepted me was Western Illinois, which worked out great because I had tons of friends going there. I had to wait until my sophomore year to join WIU’s tennis team because of my crummy high school grades. At Western I was able to turn things around and get good grades. After graduating, I went to Portfolio Center in Atlanta to become a copywriter.While I was at WIU, Jeff was at Oxford. Were you on the sculling team Jeff?