“You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like.”
—Phyllis A. Whitney

10 Tips to Write an Essay and Actually Enjoy It

Writing an essay may not be easy. It may not come to you naturally. After all, writing is a skill, and skills take practice, whether it’s playing a sport, performing an instrument, or playing video games.

But writing an essay can be fun, if you have the right attitude.

With that in mind, here’s an infographic with ten tips to write an essay without hating every moment of the process.

Click the image below to see a larger view:

10 Tips for Writing an Essay

Click here to view an enlarged version of this infographic.

Conclusion

To make it through high school and college, you’re going to have to write essays, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the time you write them.

The secret is to stop trying to write a good essay. Instead, write an interesting essay, write an essay you think is fascinating.

In other words, start by writing what you think is interesting about the topic you’re assigned. Then, when you’re finished, go back and edit with your teacher or professor in mind.

How about you? Do you like writing essays? Do you hate writing essays? Let me know in the comments section.

PRACTICE

Use tip #3 and ask yourself, “What surprises me about this topic?”

Then, spend fifteen minutes writing an answer to that topic (here’s a handy tool to help you keep track of your time). Just write whatever comes to mind. Write for you, not for your teacher or professor.

When your time is up, share your answer in the comments section as a way to get feedback encourage others to have fun writing essays, too.

Happy writing!

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • Brunette At Heart

    This is excellent! I’ve been struggling with my essay for two days and I already know that this is going to help me tremendously! Thank you so much, for writing this at the perfect time:)

  • EmFairley

    These are great tips, not only for those writing essays, but also for bloggers too. Thank you!

    • Very true, Em. Thanks for reading!

      • EmFairley

        You’re welcome Joe. Thank YOU!

  • Jayne Bodell

    Although the article is geared toward school essays, I found some good tips to use in my personal essay. Thanks.

  • Dara

    This came at the perfect time! I’ve been putting off writing an essay for a week now since I dread writing them. This post helped me have a new perspective; I can’t wait to try these tips out on my work. 🙂

    • That’s so great, Dara. What’s the essay about?

      • Dara

        This essay is about the power of silence. It filters through our culture being so “noisy” that many of us don’t have time for quiet or solitude anymore.

  • Parker

    Those 10 tips are great and they all say writing is for fun and relaxation so stop stressing and I guarantee you will bring that inner you to the top and your reader will be dazzled and amazed at the mind-blowing and interesting essay you have developed.

    My hardest goal in writing an essay is I can do the research as a matter of fact I love the research, but until I have determined by target audience, I can’t seem to put a word on paper and I decided that my professor and his colleagues are not my target audience.

    • That’s a great point, Parker. It’s much harder to write when your target reader is your teacher/professor.

  • KatSteve

    I love essay writing! I have always done all of the tips you mentioned naturally. To me it is a way to organize what I know about a subject. Essays are usually done because they are required for some reason, but when you relax and start organizing your thoughts they(essays) can be very enjoyable.

    • That’s so cool! I’m glad these principles are working for you (also, I wish I had this perspective when I was writing essays!).

  • LaCresha Lawson

    I love making my 13 year-old write them. They are pretty funny.

  • Kcrraja

    I had never thought of essay writing in the way you have described. Many thanks. These are really helpful!

  • Lauren Timmins

    This couldn’t have come at a better time! I have a rough draft of a surprise paper due Monday about Rhetoric in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, and that is literally all we have discussed for three weeks. Pathos, Ethos, Logos, Fallacies… ugh. I’ll give the out-of-order method a try and see how it goes.

    • Ha, I hear you Laren. Just remember all those Latic words are just code for intense and emotional situations and ideas. People like to dress them up in serious sounding words, but they’re the same emotions you see in your own life and on TV. Don’t take them too seriously.

  • Christine

    Okay, here’s my essay:

    Inspired by a young man’s account of being thrown out of work in 1930 and surviving through the Great Depression, I started studying that history and the facts behind the Stock Market Crash in October 1929.

    I was intrigued by the similarity between conditions leading up to the 1929 Crash and conditions leading up to the economic recession the US went through in the 1990s. I guess what surprised me most is how little we seem to learn from history. Even some of the greatest man-made tragedies get repeated.

    Historians tell us that in the “roaring Twenties” the stock market was booming. Share prices were rising and everyone and his pup wanted in on the action. The market seemed so secure that banks began making collateral-free loans to individuals wanting to buy stocks. So many people with money to buy drove the demand and the price of stocks through the roof. Then the building collapsed.

    In the 1980s the builders unions started putting pressure on US banks to make home mortgages more readily available, even to home buyers with no collateral. This was to boost home sales and stimulate building. Great idea in theory. Bank loans officers started handing out “no-down payment” mortgages. People started buying houses on spec. But when these mortgages came up for renewal, reality hit home. Owners tossed their keys on the bankers’ desks and walked away.

    Collateral-free loans didn’t work for long in the 1920s and they didn’t work for long in the 1990s either. Were there not a few historians saying, “Wait a minute here”?

    There are other events of those years that we would do well to remember. Sometimes I fear we lack the connection to history that would spare us further grief. Maybe It’s time we delve into our past again so we can avoid repeating bad history?

  • nianro

    A couple of friends (who remains “friends” despite reading my most private documents without permission or even a good excuse) have described my journal entries as “like little snippets of David Foster Wallace’s essays, except not quite as good” (which to me is still a great compliment, apart from, you know, the total rape of my privacy and peace of mind). If that’s the case, I find essay-writing cathartic, rather than painful (and probably ought to write an essay on encryption, in the interest of finding a better way to store my files).

    When you think as much as I do—and, that probably sounds like boasting, but it’s not; I should say, when you *ruminate* as much as I do—trying to put your inchoate, rambling, chaotic thoughts into a more-or-less coherent and cohesive form, without the impetus for perfection attendant to publication, imparts a certain freedom to just *riff* … and riff, and riff, and riff, occasionally for hours at a time, talking at length about nothing, or something, or something ex nothing. Trying to explain this sort of Vesuvian vernacular vehemency to a normal, functional human being is an exercise in vanity; people don’t care, and aren’t interested in being convinced to care. It’s easy for me, with sedulous attention to detail and a few shots to loosen the nerves, to make basically anything interesting, if you can get into it—my trouble lies in getting people into it. I’m bad at marketing. It’s not that I think it’s not important, mind; I just suck at it. As easily as I understand how people work in my absence, I’m totally incapable of comprehending their behavior before my own work.

    The biggest surprise, that being the point of this little exercise, comes in the ease of writing it: being a complete narcissist, I can make absolutely anything about myself, which makes anything easy to write about. It’s probably the ultimate source of Gonzo journalism; when you like talking about yourself too much not to include yourself in the content of your writing. When your head races a mile a minute, the trick is not in coming up with things to write about something, but in figuring out what *not* to write, and trying to find ways to include all the little prosodical gems you uncover in the course of your excursus—there’s a million different little ways to impress people, which is, ultimately, the point, far and above convincing anyone of anything.

    And that, in itself, reveals so much about the process: at this point, in the blither[^1]-saturated internet media, the subject of the essay becomes a secondary concern, at best; in the traditional fashion of celebrity culture, the author of the essay is the paramount concern; the validity of the opinions therein are of, at best, second concern—everything now revolving around the self, the informative nature of the essay falls short of the opinions and personal anecdotes conveyed thereby. It isn’t that people don’t care about facts or perspectives or reality, it’s merely that it is no longer possible to discern truth from fiction, or reality from fantasy, at least not without a Ph.D. in the subject matter: maybe an M.D. could tell the difference between a legit article in the Lancet or the NEJM, but I sure can’t, and it’s true across all professions, even scientists between disciplines—a molecular biologist is no more apt to descry the falsities of any essays or articles written on the Alcubierre drive than I am, and the same holds true for pretty much anyone, across any field.

    Personality has supplanted information; entertainment has supplanted enlightenment. The spin doctors of the nineties and early 2000s got smart—verisimilitude is the key to belief, and with everyone believing everything they write (and they write it because they believe it), the truth is, at best, an abstract principle. It’s a philosophical issue, one totally unrelated to the vagaries and vicissitudes and batshit insanity of modern living.

    And but the point of all this remains unknown to me—somehow it related to essay-writing, and the attempt to convey opinions or state of mind (cf. actual facts, which are few and far between), but the relation thereof to the subject of today’s practice—whatever the hell it is—remains elusive, or illusory, or something, and I don’t know where I stand anymore. I think that’s the end point of most supposedly illuminating pieces, anyway.

    [1]: Here synonymous with “information.”

    * * *

    It’s probably hard to believe I wrote that in fifteen minutes but I promise I did; I was (am) drunk and not really thinking about it and I type like 150 wpm and etc. This will probably be a total embarrassment tomorrow morning.

    I could never figure out the difference between an essay and an opinion piece. I’ve hesitated before submitting to publications that welcome essays but say things like “please, no opinion pieces.” I thought an essay was, basically, an opinion piece, in which you try to convince the reader that your way of interpreting or evaluating an event or series of events or life or whatever is the most objectively correct or least painful interpretation.

    I guess essay-writing could be hard if you’re being forced to write about things you could care less about. I think the solution, there, is to find a way to be unboreable. If you can make yourself interested in anything, you will thrive no matter where you are or what ringers they put you through.

  • B. Gladstone

    Since my pet peeve is fiction writing, I never thought about essay writing yet now that I’m reading about it, it makes sense that I need to keep in mind a few basic tips. I like journal writing, and to an extent, I can say it’s similar to essay writing since I make it a short writing on a particular subject, not just random thoughts.

    What surprises me about this subject is that some people might actually hate the process, especially in a writing group. Perhaps someone does not like it, or realises that it’s not their strong suit . These ten tips are simple and useful, and of course, I am going to use Wikipedia, who wouldn’t?

    But I if I were to boil it to one tip would be tip number seven. Whatever I write, I want it to be best in class.

  • Super cool info graphic! Good tips too. I actually love writing essays too (as long as I’m interested in the topic) but I’ll keep your graphic in my downloads to help me out sense it’s got some great, well organized advice.

  • Being a writer I’ve loved these tips, because they not only for those writing essays. I’m a contributor to many websites and I’m finding helpful this infographic for me.

    Joe, thank you.

  • Yeah post it here!

  • dduggerbiocepts

    Joe,

    I’m so glad to see you used Wikipedia as source tool. As someone that is more of a technical writer, research scientist/business person and who sells his work in the form of technical reports and occasional publications – I am a huge proponent of Wikipedia.

    There is no better way for the average person to research a subject (and that is a fact, see below).

    I am always saddened when I run into some severely handicapped and uninformed soul who thinks that Wikipedia is not a valid source because it isn’t on paper. Few people take the time to read the comparison studies that have been done regarding the accuracy of Wikipedia and other encyclopedic sources, none of which are 100% accurate and or unbiased. The first of such comparisons was done by Nature in 2005:

    “For its study, Nature chose articles from both sites in a wide range of topics and sent them to what it called “relevant” field experts for peer review. The experts then compared the competing articles–one from each site on a given topic–side by side, but were not told which article came from which site. Nature got back 42 usable reviews from its field of experts.
    In the end, the journal found just eight serious errors, such as general misunderstandings of vital concepts, in the articles. Of those, four came from each site. They did, however, discover a series of factual errors, omissions or misleading statements. All told, Wikipedia had 162 such problems, while Britannica had 123.”

    Since 2005 there have been several other comparisons and Wikipedia fairs very well in all. One article I found in Forbes also reveals a curious phenomenon, conservative personality types tend to have a general bias against Wikipedia – and are also uninformed as to accuracy. Not unlike conservative college professors who have biases against even high quality online courses. Never underestimate the limitations of the conservative personality type.
    Here are some the references I’ve found regarding Wikipedia accuracy:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v438/n7070/full/438900a.html

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v440/n7084/full/440582b.html

    http://blog.wikimedia.org/2012/08/02/seven-years-after-nature-pilot-study-compares-wikipedia-favorably-to-other-encyclopedias-in-three-languages/

    Conservative bias and Wikipedia

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2015/01/20/wikipedia-or-encyclopaedia-britannica-which-has-more-bias/

  • Joe,

    Thanks so much for this. I teach 12th grade English and will share this info-graphic with them tomorrow. They have an essay coming up and I’m always looking for new ways to push the idea that essays really aren’t so evil. I completely agree with you that they can be fun.

    I would’ve loved to see you add an example of an essay you’ve written or one you find to be a well-written piece as well.

    Thanks again for the great post!

  • Gary G Little

    I’m on Facebook a lot, but Facebook can be a true learning experience. For instance, I learned something truly amazing. The universe began at midday on the 23rd of October 4004 BC. I never knew that. That makes the universe, that’s the universe mind you, all those millions and millions of stars you see on a dark and starry night, are only a maximum of 6,000 years old. It seems that in 1650 Archbishop James Ussher conducted his own literalistic exegesis of all those begets and begots in the book of Genesis, and determined that time and date.

    So close all those science books, put away all those instruments of measurement because the Holy Bible says they ain’t so. Really? Absolutely and positively it tain’t possible for the center of the galaxy to be 25,000 light years away, ‘cuz da Bilbe say da universe be only 10,000 years old. The Andromeda spiral galaxy cannot possibly be 2.1 million light years away because the universe tain’t old enough for the light to get here. ‘Cuz da Bible says it’s so. Einstein was WRONG. The speed of light cannot possibly be a constant, ‘cuz da Bible says da universe is only 6,000 years old and if Andromeda appears to be 2.1 million light years away dat means light had to move ever so much faster to get here long long ago. Why did it slow down. I dunno, da Bible don’t say.

    See there, Facebook can be such a front, or is that fount of information.

  • Basil

    Wow, impressive infographic and great tips, Joe! Practice part is also awesome, I like the way you advice to think about. Truly, it’s so simple – write about your thoughts on this topic without trying to adapt them to your professor.

    In your infographic, you mentioned some words and phrases which are highly desirable to avoid. Adding clichés is not a good choice for making your essay more wordy. Everyone is sick of them already, and – foremost – teachers and professors. Reading similar and not pure writing daily could simply lead to educators’ contempt of all students. Besides, one of modern problems in writing is lack of originality. It’s easy to google and find some short reviews of any more or less well-known book. Some ignorant people without any slight doubt could use that material. Or articles from Wikipedia. Or some other resources on the web, without any citations or with incomplete quotations. It is called plagiarism. For discernable reasons, being part of such situations, it’s extremely undesirable both for the students and for any creative person – writer, blogger, content creator. Because easiness of taking credit of the other’s person proceedings transforms into the complexity of getting out of this situation. Sometimes, plagiarism problems could even destroy a starting writing or academic career.

    Moreover, occasionally students face with unintentional plagiarism – when they have non proper citation – they didn’t intend to commit plagiarism, but it happened. What are the best ways to prevent such situations? Do more deep research, learn how to make proper quotations, use plagiarism detection tools. These tools could be free of charge (as PlagTracker) and those you have to pay for (as Unplag plagiarism checker). If you have career connected with writing is more rational to choose a more proficient tool. Or use both, if they had a different working algorithm. Personally, I prefer software for a fee, because using it, I could be sure that the team of professionals is working for me

  • Love the tips! I never liked writing essays. But, I have grown to learn my own tricks to make sure I do it right the first time. Thanks for the tips! Just in time to work on my second essay!!

  • I write plenty of essays for school, all the time. I have actually learned to enjoy them. The best thing about an essay is that although you have a question and a style in which it likely has to be written, the approach you take to it is all yours. And I have fun being creative and inventive with the way in which I approach the subject and support my opinion.

  • Niamh Jackson

    Not even sure if this is an essay, but neither is it fiction. After listening to the webinar I had to get up out of bed zzz to check out The Write Practice… so, if this is an essay or not, here’s 593 words: Morning Musings. Christmas your way.

    So beautiful, sitting here in the half dark of early morning, fire already lit, candles and lamps making puddles of yellow light in corners and on floors and against walls.

    Feels like Christmas.

    Christmas. When beauty hangs in the house, it having been decorated in seasonal favourites speaking of all those other years, leaning back into the comfortable familiarity of my children’s childhoods, when the world was often tired, frequently stretched, sometimes stressed but always simpler. And full of the joy of children emerging, little people growing into their next surprising iterations.

    Christmas at home – not the manic version on the city streets. This Christmas, the one you make yourself within your four walls, be they big or small, literal or metaphorical. Be they the walls you want, or the walls you don’t. Within them: its yours to make. Even if that means starting in your own head.

    This Christmas, the one you make yourself. When the air seeps with good will and we can set aside the conflicts and irritations and it seems easier, somehow, to have grace for everyone’s shortcomings. When you steal precious moments away from the distractions and sit in the candlelight and with the lamps throwing yellow puddles on the floor. When forgiveness comes easier and peace, as Yeats so famously said, comes dropping slow.

    And when, despite the financing of it all which could darn near break the bank if you weren’t wise, at least somewhat planned and decidedly restrained, there is the joy of plotting and finding something just right for someone and anticipating their face when they get it.

    Oh joy.

    A joy for every sorrow. Other times, it seems there is a sorrow for every joy, that every good thing is marred with a disappointment or a difficulty. What’s the difference? What my eyes see? Both are there. How come sometimes I see only one, and other times I see the other?

    What if we were to live life with eyes wide open, knowing that sorrow abides in every corner, pain is rife out there and often in here, and difficulty or trouble is just the nature of everyday stuff. LIke men of old might say, it is a fallen world. And then, then look for the joy, look at, look for, the childhood that’s emerging not the exhaustion of accompanying it. Look for the grace to overlook the shortcoming, not the fact of the shortcoming being there. (Of course its there, duh!). Look for the potential in the problem. Looking for, creating, enjoying, the mastery of managing the budget – despite the pain and strain and limitation of the budget.

    I have a premise and its this. If we quit (if I quit) moaning about the problem and start being grateful for what’s good about it, we will (I will ) actually become more able to actually tackle the darn problem in the first place. The real problem… is that my problem with the problem binds me to it… rendering me unable to tackle it: therein lies its power. The problem is definitely a problem in the first place. Giving it power by not accepting it enough to actually tackle it constructively… not that just takes the biscuit.

    Givin’ that up this year! Gonna make this Christmas my Christmas. The one with the joy for every sorrow and the lift for every drag – the one full of wonder and people and loving them and ourselves and loving life and the beauty nestling hidden within it… however we are able to.

  • Thanks, Joe. I will keep this handy to share with my students!
    Peace,
    Sherrie

  • Claire Wilson

    Awesome tips, Joe. But I’m just curious about the number 8 – if you write about too many things, won’t your essay be messy? For example, if you check this discrimination essay out, you’ll see there are many points and nothing concrete about either of them. But if the author wanted to go more deeply into each and every of them, he may have ended up with a research paper. Besides, when it comes to editing, lots of things are crossed out because 90% have nothing to do with the topic. So, I guess this tip may be good for those who are writing big papers but if you have to write a one or two page essay, isn’t it better to stick to the topic?