Hello! Hi! How are you? Yes, I am still writing this newsletter. Last week was just A LOT, but hopefully you'll find it in your hearts to forgive me after I lay this week's writing advice on ya.
The only time I'm in my car these days is for my weekly trip to the grocery store. As I was driving around, I began thinking about a bit of an entanglement I've found myself in that I've already begun spinning into an essay, when I realized, that there are basically four main angles I look at when pinning down my thoughts and feelings into words for others to read:
And, I think asking yourself these same four questions can help you find clarity with an essay where your line of thought has gotten a bit muddled:
- Morally – What do society/God/people who care about you/authority figures think you should do in this scenario?
- Ego – What's the most comfortable decision for you to make? The one that doesn't challenge your ego, that doesn't leave you vulnerable?
- No judgement - If you could make this choice in a vacuum, no one would ever know about it, there'd never be any consequences for your actions, what would you do?
- IRL - What are you actually most likely to do in this situation?
Of course, behind each of these four questions is the follow up question, "Why?" Listing out the whys to each will definitely take you to interesting places around your shame and and blame and accountability and other baggage and help you breakthrough to that deeper level within an essay, the one that resonates with readers on a soul level.
When you don't do this kind of excavation, your essay can find itself in a more basic, less satisfying place. One where you feel like you're defending yourself to the reader or trying to tell the reader what to do with their life, or telling a high school-ish "I overcame this adversity"/"this is the moral of the story" essay.
That's boring and uninteresting, and most importantly, it's just not true. Life is messy. We're all messy. And we're almost always beholden to something or someone beyond ourselves. Splicing what we're going through into thin layers then splaying it out for the reader puts you in control of your own narrative. It shifts the essay from an excruciating question like, "What's the point?" to more of a focus on the nature of being human.
Is there anything you've been trying to write about that would benefit from this 4-way breakdown? Give it a go and let me know how it works out for you.