An essay is a genre based on self-observation, your inner feelings. Using the basic rules of its creation, you can draw a fairly accurate self-portrait, which will be interesting not only for the reader, but also for the author himself.
1. Find the “starting point”. The topic you have been thinking about recently, a memory, an episode from life, from which you would like to start a story about yourself.
2. Write on the draft all the thoughts that you have in connection with this topic. Do not try to formulate phrases correctly or look for beautiful expressions – just fix the “stream of consciousness”.
3. After some time (20-30 minutes), re-read the records. Highlight key points in them. This is the basis for your essay. Arrange these fragments as points of the plan and try to change their sequence. Choose the order that most closely follows the logic of the development of a theme – this can be a chronology or a thematic comparison of blocks of text. The main thing is for the reader to understand what follows from what and why in your story.
4. Then work on each block separately: clean up the phrases from the point of view of style, reduce the excess and add transitions from one thought to another. Such transitions can be lined up logically or emotionally and suddenly, but some kind of connection, at least on an emotional level, should be present. Look for non-standard formulations, images and allusions. Use examples from art as “pictures” that enliven the text.
5. Re-read the writing and listen to your own feelings. Since the essay genre is based on reflection, it is the attention to oneself that will help to write a full text.
What is an essay
Read the amazing essay by Vladimir Nabokov “Cambridge”, and you will understand what the essence and distinctive features of this literary genre. An essay not only conveys to us a certain author’s knowledge about something, but also feelings, experiences, the attitude of the writer to what he narrates. A deeply personal approach to the topic, a free composition of the work — these main features make the essay recognizable when reading and will be important reference points when writing an essay in this genre.
The term dates back to the French (essai – try, try) and Latin (exagium – weighing) roots. It is believed that the boundaries of the essay as a genre are rather conditional and blurred. It can be called the author’s prose, and notes, and sketches, and reflections. The form can be a story, essay, article, diary, speech, letter, etude, confession, sermon, word. Mini-works in this genre have another name – “skittse”. It is rather a sketch, a story fragment, the instant of being stopped in the word, a “snapshot” of the state of the soul.
In dictionaries, the essay genre is characterized as a small in volume prose work in free presentation, in which the author’s individual impression and judgment about an event, phenomenon, or subject is concluded. At the same time, the author’s word does not pretend to an exhaustive interpretation of the chosen topic, which can be taken from the sphere of philosophical and spiritual research, autobiographical and historical facts, literary-critical and scientific-popular thought.
It is noteworthy that in the XVIII — XIX centuries, the essay, as a genre, becomes one of the leading in English and French journalism. G. Heine, R. Rolland, G. Wells, B. Shaw, J. Orwell, A. Moroy, T. Mann made a significant contribution to the development of essays. In Russia, A. S. Pushkin (“A Journey from Moscow to Petersburg”), A. I. Herzen (“From the Other Shore”), and FM Dostoevsky (“The Writer’s Diary”) addressed the essay genre in the 19th century. In “The Letters of a Russian Traveler” by N. M. Karamzin and “Notebooks” by P. A. Vyazemsky can also find signs of essay. In the 20th century, V. I. Ivanov, A. Bely, V. Rozanov did not ignore this genre. Later – K. Paustovsky, Y. Olesha, I. Ehrenburg, M. Tsvetaeva, A. Solzhenitsyn, F. Iskander.
In the title of the essay often found unions “o”, “or”, “how.” So with the creator of the genre, the French philosopher Michel Montaigne (second half of the XVI century), we find the famous works of the essay “On Education”, “On Virtue”, “On Predictions”. In this genre, created the “Conversation about Dante” by O. Mandelstam and “How to read a book” by I. Brodsky.
The essay has many special features. In a talented written essay, with interesting colors, interesting details, unexpected and even paradoxical turns of thought, surprising by the novelty of the association, play. The credible intonation of the author-interlocutor has a fascinating effect on the reader. According to one of the researchers, the writer and the reader in the essay “shake hands with each other.” Bribes and emotional writing, and virtuoso mixing in the vocabulary of words of different styles – from high to colloquial.
The authors of the essay are true masters in using the means of artistic expression: metaphors, comparisons, symbols, aphorisms, rhetorical questions, skillfully selected quotations. The author-hero of the essay illustrates his understanding of the world and his position with interesting analogies, examples, parallels, memories, and this enriches the text’s artistic, aesthetic and cognitive content. The imagery, always enriching the narrative, makes the essay vivid and picturesque.
Many writers choose the genre of an essay, when they want to depict an event not in a dramatic version, but to give its emotionally colored interpretation – without building a plot. In this case, the work can be given a journalistic orientation and a very clear expression of the author’s point of view and world view. An essay is most fully capable of discovering for us the creative personality of its creator, introducing him to his interests, to the original inner world.