Thursday, July 22, 2010


I'm a big fan of the personal essay. In fact, my interest in creative writing has centered itself on the personal essay. Why, do you ask? oh, and what is a personal essay, exactly? I asked myself that when I took a "Writing Creative Nonfiction" course at BYU this year - and came to the realization that the personal essay was a treasure of immense importance that I had been missing out on for, oh, 24 years or so. To define what a personal essay is, it might be easier to start out with what it isnot. A personal essay is not fiction. It is truth, from the perspective of the writer. The word essaycomes from a French word meaning "to try." An essay is, in essence, a trial of ideas - including meandering thoughts, conclusions, and experiences collected into a relatively short space. When I sit down to write essays, I try to extract meaning from my life - from my experiences and ideas, however quotidian or seemingly dull. William Hazlitt described the personal essay as a genre "in which the reader is admitted behind the curtain, and sits down with the writer in his gown and slippers."

Essays are fun to write because, like our minds, they aren't necessarily linear and neat; rather, personal essays invite both the writer and audience to embark on a journey, delving into the mind's meanderings in a sometimes mind boggling way. For example, thinking about one thing (apricots, perhaps) can lead me to think about another thing (like picking apricots off the tree in my backyard with my family) which can lead me to something else (everyday, meaningful time spent with family) and can bring me to some sort of conclusion (how time spent with my family has affected my life). or something like that :) fun, huh?

I'm laughing inside right now, because I first sat down to post a couple of interesting links from Time Magazine's website, and now I'm writing about personal essays. How in the world did I get there? I think I can tell you. First of all, I was watching the Glenn Beck show today, and he was talking about a nonpolitical rally called Restoring Honor that's happening on the 28th of August, and that sparked my interest. So I hopped on his website for more details, and ended up looking at the rally's Facebook page, and I started looking at the pictures for a charity auction held to support the rally, which included a signed copy of Time Magazine featuring an article about Glenn Beck entitled "Mad Man." Intrigued, I googled the article, and while I was reading it I noticed a Top 10 list: Top Ten Militant Animals, so I checked it out. And let me tell you, the read was hilarious and completely the meandering it took to get there (both the Glenn Beck article and the Top 10 list).

So as I sat down to post the link for the Top 10 list about militant animals (including Kamikaze bats... haha) I thought... hey, the way I got to this article is kind of like the process of writing a personal essay.

Except that I'm not going to draw any conclusions. :)


jessica renae said...

that top ten list made my day. along with glenn beck and his fake pipe. :) i think the progressives should employ kamikazi bats... interesting to think of what would catch on fire! ;)

Curt and Ronda said...

I think we all think in meanderings more than in linear least I know I do! And I still want to see the kamakazie bat article!