The key is engagement with your topic so the angle your writing takes is pointed and penetrating.You don’t write about cars; you write about the fearful symmetry of a 1961 T-Bird.Personal-experience or “confessional” essays done well deftly get away with impressionistic strokes: words evoking sensations, scents and subtleties.
Scott Fitzgerald, “The Crack-Up” (1936) Subjects float all around you.
Should you write about baseball, bacteria or bougain-villeas?
The essayist should be (to paraphrase Henry James) one of the people on whom nothing is lost.
Idly looking over at a fellow driver stopped at a traffic signal might be a moment to yawn, but it might also be a moment to consider how people amuse themselves in their vehicles.
Sometimes a question that has a universal appeal can accomplish this: MARKETSWriter’s Market Writer’s Digest Books; The dean of market directories, with listings of many publications that publish personal essays, including submission tips and pay rates.
Online writing about writing: There are a number of online venues that publish essays about writing, though compensation is small.An essay here about new car technology, an essay there about boredom and its antidotes. Consider a piece on how fingerprint technology evolved.Or at your nosetip: My most recent published essay was about a lurking smell in my house that led to a mad encounter with attic rats. Annie Dillard’s recounting of seeing a moth consumed in a candle flame morphs into an elegy on an individual’s decision to live a passionate life.Look at Absolute Write.com, Writer On Line.us, Writers or Writer’s Digest also has a monthly online contest for essays; go to more information. Often local newspapers will print first-person pieces that provide perspective on issues relevant to the area.A piece for a history journal comparing ancient weapons to new. Scott Fitzgerald take you immediately into their world with the first paragraphs of these essays: On the twenty-ninth of July, in 1943, my father died.On the same day, a few hours later, his last child was born.It can’t be simply “How I Spent my Summer Vacation”; it must be “How I Spent my Summer Vacation Tearfully Mourning my Dead Ferret.” Never hide in an essay. You don’t want your essays to roar like a lion in one paragraph and bleat like a mewling lamb in another (unless it’s done for effect). If your first bite of a meal is bland, you’re likely to put the fork down and call for takeout. No, better yet, go and get your favorite book, feel its heft in your hand, flip through its pages, smell its bookness.Read a passage or two to send that stream of sparks through your head, the alchemy that occurs when the written word collides with the chemicals of your consciousness. It tells the reader to do something, with a visual and sensual context.Essays are personalthe best of them can seem like a conversation with an intelligent, provocative friend, but one with remarkable discretion in editing out the extraneous.Whether the word “I” appears at all, you must be in your essay, and pungently. Cranky, apprehensive or playful, your candid voice should be a constant. Here’s the lead from an article of mine about dictionaries: Think of your favorite book.