Non-stop exploratory free-writing for your best college essay material
You know something good is happening in a college admissions essay-writing workshop when 29 teenage boys have their hands tight to the paper, free-writing with a fervor usually reserved for Mortal Kombat. (They may not know writing actually is a form of Mortal Kombat!)
This is exactly what went down last weekend at JP Morgan Chase The Fellowship Initiative, where I was lucky enough to share free-writing exercises for my newest cohort of students.
These fellows are selected for the Fellowship based on the strength of their dreams and the qualities of their character to help change the professional landscape for young men of color. What better way to amplify this mission, this visibility, than with their words?
We started like I always start: with the freedom and exploration of free-writing. I’m sharing the free-writing prompts to help you dig for your college essay material. If you haven’t done this before, first read the rules below, then respond to the writing prompts that follow. What you write just might lead you to a rich, authentic topic for your application essay.
Note! These are just two of the prompts we used at the workshop. We have many, many, many more upon request. Parents and teachers– you can try these exercises too.
Rules for free-writing:
- Write automatically and non-stop for a set period of time. Set a timer.
- Follow wherever your mind goes without censoring or policing and write it all down, even if it seems unrelated, random or unexpected.
- Do like you would on the ball court and don’t stop moving (your hand on the page).
- Only reread or make changes once you are done (when the timer goes off!).
Free-writing Prompt 1 (3-4 min)
“I am an invisible man…I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”
—Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man)
Write freely from the prompt above.
Questions for further free-writing:
What kind of man (or woman!) are you?
How do you know?
Are you seen for what you are?
Write your response in your own style. You can be poetic, lyrical, ridiculous, blunt, outrageous, humble…in fragments or complete sentences…
But just DON’T stop writing until time is up.
Free-writing Prompt 2 (3-4 min)
“Misery won’t touch you gentle. It always leaves its thumbprints on you; sometimes it leaves them for others to see, sometimes for nobody but you to know of.”–Edwidge Danticat (The Farming of Bones)
Write freely from the prompt.
Question for further free-writing:
Tell us about the thumbprints that have been left on you.
How did they got there?
Who can see them?
How have you worked with misery– and moved on?
Not sure if what you wrote has potential?
We are! We’ll guide you in the right direction. Contact us to inquire about this process.
Get our electronic feedback on your free-writing, or a phone call if you prefer. We offer an honest evaluation with fast turn-around– with 10% discount on our rates if you mention this blog post.
Our questions will help you turn this into a college application essay, or help you dig and free-write further to find your optimal topic.
You already know you want our feedback? Copy-paste your free-write into the text box here.
And whatever you do…just keep writing.
How do we know if your free-writing is awesome?
It’s not supposed to be awesome: it’s supposed to lead you to unexpected discoveries.
But we know it will be useful if it makes us sit up. We’ve read a lot of these.
And, no BS, our real test?
If your free-writing keeps our baby’s interest for more than 20 seconds while we change his diaper.
If it does, you’re SO on the right track (he loves narrative) and we’ll hire you, period.
Read the essays that started as free-writing here (click on the headshots).