1. One word leads to another. Set a timer for ten minutes and assign yourself the task of writing without stopping for those ten minutes on the topic of one of your application essays. The only rule is to keep writing without stopping. You don’t have to be writing well, just writing. If you can’t think of what to write next from one sentence to another, write the same sentence over and over again until something new arrives. You won’t repeat it for very long before the next image or idea arrives. Our minds don’t really like to bore us and with permission to just write, interesting things will surface.
2. Don’t worry about how what you wrote down fits together. Instead, imagine yourself in a situation that for you, illustrates what you have written. Describe that situation. Use a snippet of dialog from the situation. Tell what objects or people are in the room with you. Talk about what you are thinking.
3. Notice how putting yourself in a scene that exemplifies what you were describing in the freewrite causes you to use specifics–dialog, names of objects, actions and people. These elements hook readers who feel like they are living your experience, and it helps you as writer to use illustrative specifics rather than generalize with summaries and abstractions. (Too many summaries and abstractions and readers disengage because they no longer attach the words to a person’s life.)
4. Write a sentence that articulates what the scene you described proves about you.
5. You have begun your essay: You’ve created a short scene that engages the reader with tangibles and then asserts what the scene illustrates about you and provides the platform for you as a writer to widen the story you are telling, whether it be about how someone influenced you, what desirable traits you will offer your classmates, or what strengths you’ve demonstrated that prove your leadership ability.
6. Realize it’s not so hard to get started as you might have thought and keep those fingers to the keyboard!
By Sheila Bender, author of Perfect Phrases for Writing College Application Essays.