Personal essay memoir

Often, when nonfiction is taught or studied, memoir and the personal essay are placed apart, as separate genres, but the truth is that these two strands have considerable overlap. In theory, one might write memoir and not essay; if, for instance, all that you did was re-create previous events from memory, with absolutely no embellishment or reflection. In practice, however, writers almost never do this. They re-create the past and then reflect on what they have learned, or haven’t learned, about what now makes sense or what continues to be a mystery.

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What are the wrong reasons? Let me take you back to the memoir-crazed 1990s. Until that decade, memoir writers drew a veil over their most shameful experiences and thoughts; certain civilities were still agreed on by society. Then talk shows came into their own and shame went out the window. Suddenly no remembered episode was too squalid, no family too dysfunctional, to be trotted out for the titillation of the masses on cable TV and in magazines and books. The result was an avalanche of memoirs that were little more than therapy, their authors using the form to wallow in self-revelation and self-pity and to bash everyone who had ever done them wrong. Writing was out and whining was in.

re: «Over these last several weeks of summer vacation, Nicole has been working, and working some more, on her common application essay. She’s gone back and forth between two ideas, trying to perfect both, hoping that the one she ultimately chooses will best reflect who she is.»
If Nicole can give herself “permission” to spot the deeper, unexpected, but always “there” connection between her two “separate” essays, she’ll see that she can meld them into one self-defining piece of writing of inestimable power and supremely serenity-eliciting satisfaction. You too, for that matter, with your own writing.
What are colleges looking for? People who don’t care what they’re looking for. That’s what the amazing process of writing a college essay is really all about.

Personal essay memoir

personal essay memoir

re: «Over these last several weeks of summer vacation, Nicole has been working, and working some more, on her common application essay. She’s gone back and forth between two ideas, trying to perfect both, hoping that the one she ultimately chooses will best reflect who she is.»
If Nicole can give herself “permission” to spot the deeper, unexpected, but always “there” connection between her two “separate” essays, she’ll see that she can meld them into one self-defining piece of writing of inestimable power and supremely serenity-eliciting satisfaction. You too, for that matter, with your own writing.
What are colleges looking for? People who don’t care what they’re looking for. That’s what the amazing process of writing a college essay is really all about.

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