Creative Writing: Using Your Mistakes to Power Your Personal Essays | Emily Gould | Skillshare

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Creative Writing: Using Your Mistakes to Power Your Personal Essays

teacher avatar Emily Gould, Writer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Your Assignment: Write a Personal Essay


    • 3.

      "The Best Time I (Maybe) Got Rabies"


    • 4.

      "The Last Photograph of Cat"


    • 5.

      "Our Graffiti"


    • 6.

      Writing: Tips for Beginners & Pros


    • 7.

      Quick-and-Dirty Editing


    • 8.

      Closing Thoughts & Publishing Advice


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About This Class

Ever had a story you couldn't wait to share? Join author Emily Gould to learn how to write a personal essay that gets read. This 45-minute class shares Emily's favorite writing prompt, explores 3 favorite essays for strategies you can (safely) steal, and offers quick-and-dirty editing tips for improving your writing at every stage.

Plus, the project gallery offers you the opportunity to post your own essay, exchange feedback, and get a piece ready for publication. This class is perfect for writers who are newer to the personal essay, experienced writers who want to try new approaches and reach more readers, and everyone who wants to refine their personal written voice.

Meet Your Teacher

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Emily Gould



Emily Gould is an American author, co-owner of the indie bookselling project Emily Books. 

Her essay collection And the Heart Says Whatever was published by Free Press in May 2010, and her novel Friendship was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2014. Her second novel, Perfect Tunes, was published in April 2020.

You can also follow her on Twitter at @EmilyGould and @emilybooks. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.

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1. Introduction: A bat jumped out of the radiator and attacked and scratched her face. I'm Emily Gould. I am a writer and also I run an e-book store called, Emily Books, with my best friend, Ruth Curry. This is a writing class. The assignment for the this class is to write a personal essay about a tiny mistake that still haunts you. I've had a bunch of different jobs. I started out working in book publishing and then I went and worked for a year at Gawker and learned how to be a blogger. Then, I wrote a book of personal essays called, And the Heart Says Whatever. Then, I started working on my novel, Friendship. Today, we are going to look at three of my favorite essays and analyze what makes them tick, steal what is best about them, so that you can do it too. I think a lot of times when we read something and enjoy it that shuts down the analysis because we're like, I love this, it's great, and we don't go further than that. But, it can be really interesting to go a little bit deeper, beneath the surface of a piece of writing. So, this is a way for all of us to stay engaged with what drew us to this kind of writing in the first place without totally going on autopilot. So, I picked three essays, it seems weird to say that they're my favorites because one of them is by me. Personal writing is something that increasingly we all do. It's really helpful in terms of just making sense of your lived experience sometimes, to set it down in writing, and make it into a story and see what happens. Sometimes things happen during that process that surprise you. You might not turn out to be the hero of your story is one of the things that continually surprises me. Let's get to it. Let's start talking about some essays that I love. Has a hamster, I mean, come on, okay, I'm getting distracted from the main point. 2. Your Assignment: Write a Personal Essay: The assignment for this class is to write a personal essay about a tiny mistake that still haunts you, tiny moments that define your life and make you who you are. They don't usually take place in situations that homework makes cards for, obviously, big life transitions that you put on your Facebook wall, are really important and consequential. But a lot of what makes us the people we are takes place on an ordinary Tuesday, and you have to slow down and notice it. Writing can be one of the ways that we slow down and notice. Writing an essay like this could potentially take you an afternoon or six months. Sorry, I don't want to scare you, but I've had things that I have had actually been great good fortune to write a draft of really quickly and then come back to and then revise over a period of a long time. It's always made stuff better. That being said, I think a thousand words is something that you can write in a day. It would be good to take as much time as you can, even if that's just overnight or a week, to get to the place where the writing is a little alien to you. It's like someone else has written it, and then come back to it, and take that critical perspective as though someone else has written it, and then revise it from that standpoint and then it will be ten times better. I absolutely promise. So, this is a writing class, which means that you have to write something. I hope that isn't shocking or problematic for anyone. But I'm really excited to see the writing that comes from this class and also for everyone who takes this class to see each other's work across panel and hopefully come up with some amazing stuff so [inaudible] I has never seen before. No! Seriously, I'm excited. So, let's get to it. Let's start talking about some essays that I love. 3. "The Best Time I (Maybe) Got Rabies": So, the first essay we're going to talk about is The Best Time I (Maybe) Got Rabies by Loła Pellegrino. If you haven't read this essay yet, I really encourage you to do so, not just because it'll make the entire rest of this lesson make sense but because it's awesome. Then come back and we'll do the rest of this. You could almost make a case that this essay fits the prompt of this class because it's definitely about a mistake. This story details the time when Lola, who was a freshman in the college, snuck out of her dorm room window in order to have sex with the boy who had just broken up, like an hour or previous, with her roommate. Then, some month later in the semester heard a rustling sound and was surprised when a bat jumped out of the radiator and attacked and scratched her face. The genius is how the rabies part is not even the point? The rabies part is a paragraph. So, we're going to look at how she managed to pull that off and what makes it so perfect? One of the reasons I picked this essay is because it really invites you in, it almost makes itself irresistible. You just have to keep reading it once you've started, there's no other possible course of action. You're never going to read the headline, The Best Time I (Maybe) Got Rabies, and get to the end of the first paragraph of the story and not keep reading it. The reason is because the first paragraph ends with Lola, who is from New York City, and finding out that she is going to be sharing a two bedroom double with a girl from Lawrence, Kansas, preemptively deciding that she is much cooler than this person and she says, I was like, "I'm going to blow this girl's mind. I sure am. I hang out with people who do heroin. Better go pack my realness bomb for tomorrow." So, we're already two things. Okay. We're set up for, what's going to happen when Lola's realness bomb goes off? Maybe not exactly what she expects? The other thing is, wait, I thought this was a story about rabies? Where's the rabies? That's actually going to keep you reading for the vast majority of the essay. The rabies actually doesn't come in until the last page. So, that is what is called a hook, Ma'am. Make your first sentence really riveting. Put what your story is really about upfront. I know it seems like Lola hasn't done that because she didn't start this essay by saying, "There was a time when I pretty much thought, I have rabies, and I had to get a bunch of shots in my butt." But what she does say, that the story is about is her realness bomb, and what happens when it goes off. That's actually the true thing the story is about. Lola's perception of herself is like this cool badass and the direct consequences of her cool badass behavior. The best thing and my favorite thing that Lola does, because she's an awesome writer, is she will pile up a bunch of details in a way that creates a really effective portrait of a person or a thing or a situation, without having to say, that's what this person was like, that's what the situation was like. The best example of it in this essay, it's so good that I'm just going to read it to you. Also it will be fun to read it out aloud. "Standing before me is a man who safely secures his wallet to his wide-leg JNCOS with a chain. He loves weed, his goatee, and ultimate frisbee. Has a hamster. Wears fingerless gloves. Playstation. His name is Jake, he is the only white guy living in the African Diaspora program house, and I am going to have to fuck him." I'm speechless, it's just perfect. I think my favorite sentence is the one word, Playstation. It can be really great to read stuff out aloud to see how it sounds. I mean, that paragraph sounded amazing out aloud because it had some really short sentences, interspersed with slightly longer sentences and it created a great rhythm. Besides, which all of the sentences were hilarious, and JNCO jeans and wallet chains were mentioned. Has a hamster? I mean, come on, okay. But I'm getting distracted from the main point which is read stuff out aloud. You will feel really good for you the first couple of times that you do it. But it's fun if you get into it. If you need to loosen it up for yourself like do a funny accent or something, and you'll learn really quickly what stuff can go. If you're glazing over and you're skipping stuff while you're reading something aloud? Guess what, you definitely didn't need that sentence. In terms of translating what Lola has done here into what you're going to do when you're writing your own essay, I'm imagining myself as Lola thinking about how to tell a story. One of the things to potentially steal, if this works for your story is, okay, I'm making this up but if I'm Lola and I want to write about The Best Time I (Maybe) Got Rabies, first I'm going to do a pass at this. That is basically chronological. This happened, this happened, this happened, rabies. Then I'm going to go back and see what details I can rearrange in order to create more narrative tension. If you do a first draft that just lays out everything that you have to work with like everything that happened, it'll be really easy to see what can leave, what needs to stay, what you can rearrange, what's more compelling, if you leave that detail in first. Honestly, I mean for me, sometimes this step of the process is as easy as cut the first paragraph, like the part that you thought, that you had to say upfront. Once you get it all written out, you'll realize, I can either cut that completely, or I can move it to somewhere else in the story. I can move it towards the end. In that way, the story begins in the middle of the action, which is a much more compelling place to start. So, just to recap the things that I love about this essay and that I think make it a good role model essay are the structure, the way that the author consciously plays with the chronology in order to create some narrative tension. I don't think I said this but the jokes are really expertly deployed. They're not gratuitous. There's just the perfect amount of actual laugh lines in this essay. When everything starts to get a little real or we start to loose our connection with the narrator. For instance, there's a very real place where Lola is talking about how her behavior is motivated by a deep desire to take revenge on everyone who had ever hurt her and not paid attention to her, she recovers from that section with something that makes you laugh out aloud. So, you get back into the mode of reading this story and not being distracted by worrying about her. So, I think that's what I mean when I say control of tone. 4. "The Last Photograph of Cat": This essay is called "The Last Photograph of Cat" by Choire Sicha, and if you haven't yet read it, you should go and do that now. It's really short. It'll take you probably like five to seven minutes to read it. But you should probably also set aside maybe 10, 15 minutes afterwards of recovery time because you will probably cry. I was going to say depending on whether you're a cat person, you'll probably cry. But I actually think anyone who has ever had any pet, even if you hate cats, could potentially be moved to tears by this essay. So, what's happening in "The Last Photograph of Cat"? The essay is in the form of an extremely long photo caption. It actually ends with a photograph of Cat. It's an eulogy for Cat, it's a biography of Cat, it is a chronological description of Cat's life and his proclivities. But, latently, there's a thread going on in the essay that is also about Cat's owner, and the circumstances of Cat's owner's life, and how they changed over the course of Cat's life, and that stuff is so elegantly obscured behind the story of Cat that you almost wouldn't even notice it, unless you were looking for it. That's why I chose this essay. I just think it's incredibly artful. It's also just a great example of how something really simple a story told in chronological order can, in just a few lines and a few telling details, contain so much information and so much power. There are a lot of different ways to tell a story. When you're writing a first draft about an experience that has happened to you, you're probably going to want to go in chronological order. It's just an easier way to remember what happened. The close of this is, of course, about the moment of Cat's death. I can see a version of this that's much less artful that actually opens with that detail, that has, in other words, more of a clue for the reader what we're talking about here is a eulogy than just the title, "The Last Photograph of Cat", and I think that would have taken away a lot of the essay's power. Instead, having the structure be that, literally, the first paragraph is about Cat being born. He was born in the early mid 90's and grew up between avenue C and D, in a nice vacant lot that was becoming a garden, and then his biography begins there. Something that seems simple. It has room in it for a lot of complexity. This author is capable of writing in a lot of different modes and styles. Here, we see him in an elevated mode that's almost self-consciously, self-serious. It's almost funny, in the way that it is applying very formal sentence structure, long sentences, and a refusal to use contractions. There's something in that formality that is inherently a little bit funny when applied to this subject matter. I read this sentence and I'm laughing and I don't know why. "Because of his view that there was always something better beyond what boundaries so arbitrarily constrained him, Cat spent most of his life trying to climb over, through, and under any possible obstacle, and when that was not possible, he would, in search of new vantages, leap from place to place, from countertop to countertop, and fencetop to fencetop." That is a really long sentence. It has a lot of clauses. It's almost Jamesian, and it's so funny to read it in a blog post about a cat. It just works incredibly well. I think what I like so much is that it's so easy to imagine a version of this essay that's like, "My cat died yesterday. He was the best cat. I loved when he did this. I loved when he did that." I mean, this essay never uses the word I. But it's incredibly personal, because, in the context of learning about Cat's life, we learn where the author has lived, the circumstances of his life changing. It's almost even made clear that different romantic relationships of them in play during the lifetime of the cat. It's got a lot of stuff going on just like slightly beneath the surface, and it's so much more powerful for what it holds back. One of the most difficult things with structure is ending a piece. This piece has a fantastic ending. Although, when you're talking about death, fantastic endings are a little bit easier to come by. I hope that you have read the rest of the essay because it's not fair for this to be the first encounter of the essay. "Even in his last few days, he indulged in all his favorite activities and foods with great satisfaction and pride. In his last, dark, early morning at home, in a sudden extremely weakened condition, while everyone minding him was finally asleep, he left his favorite chair and staggered down to the living room, and then the sun came up and gave him a view into what was beyond the walls around him." This last paragraph is insane. It's so perfect. It's understated, but it doesn't spare any possible detail. Straining towards a dynamite ending is never good. But if you have, at your fingertips, the opportunity to go for really just like balls out, putting everything into it, and just making your reader cry ending. Give it a shot. Why not? Why tone it down? If you've written something and you feel that it doesn't have any ump something about it, maybe it's just too straightforward, you might try as an experiment. Experimenting with writing personally in a third person. Not to the extent that you actually pretend that you aren't you. But if you zoom out a bit and take yourself out of it, even to the extent of focusing on the perspective of someone or something that's maybe in your mind right now or just an ancillary character in the story, that can really help. This is a biography of 20 years in someone's life through the lens of Cat. It's also a really great description of a cat. Both of those things can co-exist. You can use your skills, and your perceptions, and your judgment to determine what aspects of the story you want to be in the foreground and what aspects of the story you want to be in the background, and you can consciously manipulate that stuff. All you have to do in order to consciously manipulate that stuff is to be aware of the stories within stories that we all tell. This is a really different piece than the other ones that were talking about, and you might even be asking yourself, well, if it's not in the first person, how is this even a personal essay? Is this related to what I'm going to be doing when I write about a mistake I've made and how it shaped my life? The answer is yes. This is also a mode of writing that is available to you and it definitely falls under the heading of personal essay. I think. Your perspective in your personal writing doesn't always have to be obviously in the foreground. It can be helpful to experiment with different points of view. You might end up landing back on the most traditional and obvious which is I. Certainly, that's what I do the vast majority of the time. But when you've played with other stuff, it does help. You can have more information and maybe make a slightly different judgement calls about what information you are going to include, what seems important from it when you imagine what different people's perspective is going to be, what to leave out, what are the crucial, relevant details of the story. 5. "Our Graffiti": This essay is a blog post by me, Emily Gould, in case you forgot, called "Our Graffiti". It's from about three years ago and it is about a bunch of different stuff. It is about the power imbalance in heterosexuality. I would say that's mostly what it's about. It is about what the prompt for this class is about because it's about a mistake that I made and the effect that it had on my life. It details a time when in college, maybe in some ways similar to Lola Pellegrino although unfortunately not a freshman so I don't have that excuse. I spray painted the word slut on the dorm room door of a guy who I just thought everyone should know that he was a slut. I guess my prompt for myself when I was writing this was just thinking about, "Why am I attracted to the kind of writing that I'm attracted to?" In order to get to the answer to that question, I told a story about something that happened in my life. When I was in college, a girl at my tiny college in the middle of nowhere she was murdered but everyone assumed that she had committed suicide and her death was weirdly downplayed by the faculty administration. Even in this 2,000 person community, it seemed like the way that I put it in this essay, and this is like my perception of how this went down, but I was in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere and a girl could die and no one would care. So, just thinking about what that meant in that situation, what that meant in light of everything else that I'm talking about in this essay about how women's perspectives are not valued, I couldn't figure out-, at first when I was writing this why it was so important for me to tell that story. But finding a new context for it was something that in retrospect seems like it was really important for me to do. I guess, my point, and I do have one with that long anecdote is that, some of you don't really understand why you're writing what you're writing and you just have to write it, and sit with it, and then maybe think about how to frame it. Maybe the narrative comes first and that kind of making sense of it comes later and you can overtly have a frame around it as this essay does. This essay is like an example of saying, "This is the point of me telling you the story in a really unmistakably clearway." You don't always have to do that, but if you want to, you can. It's hard to talk about because, it's structurally all over the place. It incorporates three different threads of narrative. There's the part that takes place when I'm in college. There's sort of me right now reading a blog post that has made a big impact on me and trying to figure out why that is, and so I provide a little synopsis of that other blog post. Then, there's some stuff about Emily Books, and about I love tech and the first person writing by women and feminist theory. So, those things all coming together, coalescing into another moment in the narrative where I'm back in the present narrating an argument that I had in a car with my then boyfriend, now husband. In terms of structure, I think this piece has some flaws. It's clear to me rereading it that I wrote it pretty quickly and the different sections are really clear transitions between them. I jump around and I just end the section by putting like some asterisks and making a little bit of space between them. Maybe not great to do that all the time but good to remember that you can do it. If you want to drop one thread, leave it there and start writing about something else, it helps when later maybe you're rearranging the building blocks of your essay and then you can decide what order things make more sense. I found that I was surprised rereading this to learn that I do have a pulley, like a really kind of clear, I guess, I'm just writing you would probably call it like a nut graph or something. It takes me forever to get there but it kind of works, I think, because I at that point have woven together the two strands well enough that I can get away with waiting for, I would conservatively say 2,000 words to make my point. "Do as I say not as I do." But it will actually resonate a little bit more because you're bringing more of your own thoughts about everything that I've covered to that place. So, in terms of voice, this is me writing in almost my most informal mode. To me in a more informal mode means that I address the reader directly. As we're having a conversation, I leave in parentheticals that any editor would probably cut. I let myself get away with stuff that an editor wouldn't but I do it in the service of an intimacy with the reader, like there's a sense that even on the level of writing style, I'm letting it all hang out. I'm revealing sort of a vulnerability to you that invites you in. Whether that's conscious or not, I think in a way it can be what the best blog writing does. I mean, it doesn't have to, and some people just have more natural control over their tone, but it can help when you feel stuck or when you're really not sure how to tell a story, to just write about it as if you're writing to a trusted friend who already totally gets you and then you can backtrack from there, or you can discover that that was the best possible way to tell the story and just leave it be. I know that there are things that I write all the time where as I'm writing I'm like, "I just have to get through this. I just have to get this out. I'll change it after I'm done." Then, those are the things that end up, after I'm done, I'm like, "Okay, what just happened?" after I publish or else, I'll never have the guts to say this again. So, you can do that. I would recommend always sleeping on stuff. There are references throughout this piece to other writers, other blog posts, even other books and I think I tried to make those inviting up, but also to provide enough context so that someone wouldn't feel like they wouldn't be able to understand this piece unless they had already read, "I Love Dick" by Chris Kraus. I think it's important never to have a place where you have some hyperlinks text that someone has to click on the link and read something in order to understand your piece. That doesn't work. Someone will go away and never come back and that's the exact opposite of what you want. 6. Writing: Tips for Beginners & Pros: So, first let's talk about if you've never written anything like this before. A great way to write when you're first sitting down with a prompt is, first obviously pick your mistake and then write around it a little bit. I think it's always really helpful to give yourself permission to write terribly in a first draft. Write whatever pops into your head. You'll get to where you need to be eventually. I find free writing super helpful. A lot of times good stuff comes out of it when you just give yourself permission to say whatever. Then when you go back for a second pass, you can start to hone in on details that seem like they might be relevant details that you want to focus on. You can see what's working and what doesn't. Something that is helpful is to follow the model of the second essay we talked about, The Last Photograph of Cat. Just lay your story out in chronological order. Then if necessary go back and rearrange. If you've written a lot of personal essays and you're taking this class as a way to kind of like shake up that sketch of your brain. That's awesome and pretty much right there with you. I think it can be interesting to take apart other people's writing and see what you like about it. Maybe why you don't, I mean maybe you totally disagree with me that these are awesome examples. Trying something that's a little bit more structurally innovative or just something that's different than what you've been doing. Like for example, if you're constantly defaulting to I, me, first person, step out of it and still write about yourself, I found that extremely helpful. Just because it helps with the thing that you're supposed to be doing anyway, but it is easy to forget how to do, which is that you view yourself as a character and doing the work of creating your character. Like in other words, making the character make sense even though obviously the character makes sense. You know so much about the character, it's you. Let's say The Last Photograph of Cat is a great example of that. You can put yourself a little bit out of the frame and focus on other details telling a story that is about something that happened to you through a different lens. Since we're talking about personal essays in this class, I've been thinking a lot about thinking back to the time when I was working on my book of essays, And the Heart Says Whatever, and what I tried to do was to link to stories that all focused on a moment in my life that wasn't obviously consequential, but created some aspects of my personality, like made me whom I am in other words. Some of those essays I think really hold up. I mean the book to me seems you know I'm 33 and I mostly wrote it when I was 26, 27. So, some of it seems to me like deep thoughts that a 26 year old would have. But some of it seems like the thought that only a 26 year old would have access to and would be willing to share. So, that in of itself I think is really valuable. Like a kind of bravery that you only have at a time in your life before you have really experienced a lot of like crazy blow back, I guess. But also yeah. Like the stuff that you think and say before you know any better can be like really pure and great and valuable. I wanted to talk a little bit about imitation which I think can be a really useful tool, especially when you're starting out and you want to try to write something that has a different style or a different kind of sensibility than what you're used to. You don't have to imitate things literally. You don't have to write a long sentence with many clauses the way that Cory does, and you don't have to interjects, like do you [inaudible] speak into your prose the way that Lillah Pellegrino does. You also don't have to focus on the same kind of detail that they do. What you have to do is figure out what the role of those rhetorical tactics are in their pieces and then figure out what it's not. I guess it's going to fulfill that same role in your story. Hard. I believe in you. 7. Quick-and-Dirty Editing: When I first started doing this writing, especially online, my feeling about my own work was first thought best thought. I thought that by overworking things, I could actually make them worse. You know what? I wasn't completely wrong. Sometimes you can overwork things. Also, sometimes you can just lose your nerve. In general though, it really helps to go over everything that you've written and just edit it. You're an editor, all writers are. It's a related skill set. You don't have to rely on someone else to edit your work, although if you can get someone else to edit your work that's always really helpful too, an extra set of eyes. It doesn't really even matter who they are, you can get great feedback from pretty much anyone literate. You just have to know what to take and what to leave behind. So, quick-and-dirty editing tips. I think some of the best writing advice I've ever gotten, which I obviously don't always follow, is get rid of all of your adverbs, meaning anything that ends in "ly". This is advice you've probably heard a thousand times, but we all think that we're the one person who's allowed to use them. Especially if you're writing dialogue. "She said exasperatedly." Just don't do it. That's fine. Really? "Kind of. Sort of. Very. Really. I think. I feel. In fact. You could say that. Actually. Basically." These things are a disease, that I have, I just want to be clear about that. But the reason why I'm aware that I have this disease is because every time I go to hit Publish on anything or before I hand something into an editor, I do a quick scan. You can even use tools that are inside of your computer to find these words. I did a search for "actually" in my first book, and I can't even, I think there were 74. It was not a long book. Get rid of your actuallys. No one likes to hear actually. No one likes to hear obviously. Obviously, inevitably sounds condescending. It's like saying thanks again. You're like, "Yeah, okay. You can just say thanks." I personally have a big problem with putting things in parentheses that either don't need to be in parentheses or don't need to be there at all. If you have something inside a parentheses, that is inside parentheses because it's not relevant to the paragraph that it's living in, you can cut it, and it's always better. I guarantee you, even if it's a joke. Even if it's the most hilarious joke. If it's the most hilarious joke and you're married to it and you need to have it, you can take it out of the parentheses and you can put it just as its own separate paragraph outside of the paragraph that it used to be a part of. That will work too. But use that sparingly. The other thing that I do all the time is a little aside contained within M dashes or N dashes, I never actually sure which. I don't want to say don't do that, because sometimes it's really good and funny, but if you do it all the time, it's just exhausting to read, it has a bad rhythm. If you're reading your piece aloud, which you should obviously do, and you're encountering a lot of those, pick your favorite one and then take off the rest away. Sorry, it had to be done. This is one weird trick, but try it and leave a little comment or something in Skillshare that's like, "Emily thank you. You've helped me so much." Because it really works, and the trick is, cut the first paragraph of everything you write, and sometimes the last one too. Even when you have gone through many drafts of something, there are still some things vestigial backing into it, that is left from when you were first writing and you were trying to figure out how to write about it and you weren't quite there with it yet. Usually, all of the information that's contained in that first paragraph is found in a better form elsewhere in your piece and that's a good place for it. Usually, it's in the second paragraph. The second paragraph should just be the first paragraph. The other thing is to cut either the last sentence or the last paragraph of most things. A little bit more controversial. Sometimes you really want to stick the landing, but it can also be easy to belabour a point or just end on a false note. See how it feels and how it reads without the existing ending. You may end up revising the ending or even rearranging things so that the final paragraph has just a little bit more of a sense of closure, but often it's okay to just stop. The point of editing is not to make your writing into something that is a pasteurized, safe to consume, uniform product. For me, the point of it is to determine whether something that you're doing is your style or whether it's an unconscious bad habit. Sometimes the line between them can be pretty fine. You could make a case for using "actually" to start sentences all the time as being part of your style. I'll think you're full of it, but you can make that case. Close reading what you've written analytically though, will probably really quickly make it obvious to you what choices you're making and what are just bad patterns that are holding you back. 8. Closing Thoughts & Publishing Advice: So, we read through personal essays. For all of the essays we talked about, having a hook, inviting your reader in. We talked about structure and how you don't necessarily have to go in a chronological order. We talked about the people who wrote these essays and their voices, and what make them so singular, and how you can play with the tools that they use, and experiment with different voices. Experiment until you find something that sounds authentically like you, because that's the whole point. So, if this is the kind of writing that you're interested in, and I'm guessing that it is, because you are here still. I didn't just want to talk a little bit about possible professional applications of everything that we've talked about. One of the things that was really helpful to me in my career was giving myself permission to write before anyone said, "You're allowed to write, and this is what you're allowed to write about." How I started out was just writing what were sort of proto personal essays on my own blog. You don't have to wait for someone to edit you or someone else to assign you a piece. You can assign yourself something. You can pick something that is really important and relevant to you, and tease out your feelings about it, and examine them in the same way that some of these essays that we've talked about have. You can grow, and learn, and do that stuff by writing online. I think there are risks inherent in that kind of evolution certainly, stuff that I've experienced in the world has not always been like glowingly positive. But what is always positive is that, the people who you want to see and connect with your work will find it. You'll learn from them, they'll learn from you.Your evolution as a writer will continue with the input of a lot of different people's voices, and that can't be a bad thing, I think. The tips in terms of how to edit yourself and how to think critically but not self-hatingly about your own work, are designed to help you put something into a potential future editors hands, even if they had a crappy editor cause them a success, that will already be pretty polished. Hopefully, at least they get 90 percent of the way ready for eventual publication. I mean, the tips are also designed to help you push back when things happen to your writing via an editing process that make it not true to what you originally wanted to express. So, I hope it helps. I think it helped me, so that's something. But, yeah. I think it's a tricky time to figure out how to be really true to your own voice and your goals with your writing, but also to put it out there in a way that people actually read and have access to. Thinking about your work and the way that you've done stay, is a really important step in that process. So, like, kudos, I'm glad you did it. All right. So, a mistake that altered your life, that you still think about, it's a really juicy prompt. You won't have any trouble getting started and I can't wait to see what you write. I'm really excited. So, what are you waiting for. Turn this off, start writing. Bye, see you later