Writing the College Essay Filled With Doubt

Accept them and move on

Surveys have shown us that one of the hardest parts of writing the college essay is getting started. As juniors begin the process of trying to brainstorm for their upcoming college essays, this article by Philip Lopate, author and director of the graduate nonfiction program at Columbia University, may give students helpful tips on how to overcome their writer's block and get their creative juices flowing. Lopate understands how most writers including himself lack self assurance when it comes to writing, but he is able to turn this into a strength:  "Whether writing essays or just going about daily life, I am constantly second-guessing myself...Strangely enough, doubt need not impede action. If you really become friends with your doubt, you can go ahead and take risks, knowing you will be questioning yourself at every turn, no matter what. It is part of living, a healthy evolutionary adaptation, I would imagine. The mistake is in trying to tune out your doubts. Accept them as a necessary (or at least unavoidable) soundtrack."

Especially when writing, the realization that one will most likely make mistakes is a helpful one. As Lopate puts it, "I have found the exercise of doubt to be an enormous help in writing essays, because it lets me start out with the knowledge that I may very well not achieve perfection on the page. Then I can forgive myself in advance for falling short of the mark, and get on with it." The ability to allow your thoughts to tumble onto the page without judgment is a key step in the process of writing an essay that reveals who you really are.



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