This is a thing I hear a lot: I don’t have something to write about. Franklyn said it. Erin said it. Fatou said it. You might have said it. It’s not true. And your admissions essay writing process should prove that to you.
Are your cells not dividing, just because you can’t see it happening from your current vantage point? No: in so far as we know, we are always breaking something down in order to grow.
So there is always a bitty thing leading to a bigger thing. That’s writing: the power of the specific and small to expose something more.
You do have something to write about: you can write about anything.
Often, the students that show up for my help carting their Big Something to write about end up having to switch gears and pick a new topic. They were trying to impress, not investigate.
They need to get really small. The orange rind they left in their backpack in third grade, that started their interest in problems mold can cause. The way their mom’s tamales smelled on Sunday mornings, that led to family competition who could eat theirs the slowest. The time they missed the bus and found a dying baby bird. These things are small. They are not often things we call Something.
The best writing begins with anything. Sometimes, it’s better that you write beginning with something random, not loaded, so you feel more free to explore: “paperclip”; “backwash”; “pothole”; “queasy.” Our minds are so good at making up stories– and so you feed your mind a word, it often spits out a situation, a scene, a reflection.
Follow that, open the boring-looking door, get nosy.
Find or make a pattern with your thinking
We are pattern detecting machines; but we are also pattern generating machines. When I ask students to make a connection or association in their personal essay writing, the a-ha’s, I’m really asking them to find the pattern, and if they can’t find one, make one.
Is it true that Orion’s belt is just hanging out in the sky, like it’s permanently astral fashion week? Or are we looking at a bunch of stars flung into a random universe and going: belt! Belt! Belt! And then pointing this accessory out to others, who, without our label, might only have seen a smattering of dots?
Look around, sense around
If you don’t have something to write about, look around. Start in your room, your street. Open your eyes. You have a buffet of material in your face, but you didn’t get a plate. If your eyes don’t serve you so well, open your ears, your nose, your palm. The world is there going: use me, I’m yours. Your memories are there going: are you really going to let us just wither in here?
Your college essay is waiting for you. You don’t have to have something in mind, because you can start by saying anything.
Still stuck on the “I don’t have something” train?
We love a good skeptic. Contact us for freewriting prompts, which we’ll help you develop into compelling material shaped by our nosy, informed, story-hungry questions. We help you get that creative thing born.