Last night my husband and I attended a memorial service for our son-in-law’s grandmother, who passed away recently. Our son-in-law, Stephen, spoke warmly of his grandmother, but both in his talk and afterwards when we spoke privately, he commented on how hard it is to capture an individual or a lifetime in a short talk. I would add, “in an essay.”
That, of course, is exactly your challenge. And if you approach your task with a certain amount of dread, realize you are not alone. It is difficult.
Here are some tips, which Stephen followed — without even asking me for advice.
- Focus on a few key qualities. You can’t discuss all facets of your personality and experience. You are infinitely faceted. Choose between one to three qualities. Then…Focus. Focus. Focus.
- Illustrate the points you want to make with brief anecdotes or examples. Make yourself real. Let your reader experience a vignette that embodies the attribute you are portraying.
- Banish from your mind resumes in prose, biography, and even a chronology of your life. You want to present a snapshot or perhaps 3-frame collage.