how to write a kick-ass essay

this afternoon, i listened to a terrific podcast in which Ann Hood shares 10 tips on how to write a kick-ass essay. using two essays from Junot Diaz and Jonathan Letham as examples, she outlines:

  1. make sure you write about the thing that keeps you up at night.
  2. when you do come up with that thing, forget where it’s going to be published.  just write.
  3. write about something small, write about something enormous.
  4. no ideas but in small things.  use the everyday detail.
  5. say the hardest thing, the thing you think you cannot say out loud.
  6. do not write for revenge but do not mythologize a person.
  7. find the objective correlative–an object or event that takes on the burden of emotion.
  8. do not report events but make sense of them.
  9. every story is 3 stories.  the external conflict, the internal conflict, and the collision of these 2 conflicts.
  10. don’t hide.  open your heart and your mind.

Ann uses the essays “The Money” by Junot Diaz and “Alone at the Movies” by Jonathan Letham as examples and discussion throughout the podcast.  also, she reads them aloud. both of these essays are concise, clear and easy to dissect.

here’s the Ann Hood podcast: