Let Somebody Else Contribute
Today’s post is by veteran WriteAtHome writing coach Rhonda Barfield.
As an essay writing coach, I often encounter students who try their best to create something profound. They choose themes such as “Intelligence is more important than beauty,” or “It’s better to be a person of character than to have a good personality.”
There’s nothing wrong with these theses, but I often wonder if they’re selected only because they sound important. Young writers typically know a lot more about more mundane issues: why a Yorkshire terrier is better than a poodle or the reasons Twilight should be considered the best movie ever, for example. They have more expertise and interest in such subjects and could probably write better papers on them. Instead, they commit to “beauty versus intelligence” and soon find they have nothing to say on the subject. Now what? Maybe it’s time to let somebody else contribute.
In situations like this, I advise my students to briefly explain their idea or an argument, then expand it by adding a quote, example, or anecdote — paraphrased, perhaps, but originating in someone else’s thoughts. A dash of color from an outside source helps bring an otherwise dry, abstract concept to life. It not only increases the reader’s interest in the paper, but also makes it easier to finish an assignment. Students avoid the frustration of trying to conjure up “deep thoughts” based only on their limited experiences.
This is true for professionals, too. This morning, for example, I worked on an article for Crown Financial Ministries. I’m quoting plenty of step-by-step explanations from three websites. I’ll also access and rewrite testimonials from those sites. Sure, I could probably start from scratch and get good results, but it would take me much longer, with more effort. I’ve got better things to do, which is why, when possible, I let somebody else contribute to my writing projects.
Please leave your comments below!
This is very helpful advice Rhonda – thank you!
ps. I’m a big fan of Crown Financial. I use their mvelopes software and love it.
That’s probably why the writing prompts on the SAT and ACT are so dull. They are designed to stir emotion and strong opinion, and yet the high schoolers writing the essay feel nothing about the subject. I told my daughter to make something up and sound convincing!