let me clear my THROAT: waking up your essay

Let’s face it: nobody wakes up in the morning like a Disney princess.  (Rise and shine, Cinderella!)

writewithrosie.com Let me clear my THROAT
writewithrosie.com Let me clear my THROAT

There are no birds helping you make your bed as you daintily dance around the room and greet your wild animal friends.

No way.

Instead, you hit snooze on the alarm, pull the covers over your head, and calculate exactly how many more minutes you can lay there before you’ll be dangerously late to school or work.

But you know that moment—that glorious moment—when you first feel ready to face the day? For me, it’s sometimes triggered by a shower or morning yoga or a cup of coffee or those first rays of bright sunlight against the sidewalk. That is the moment my day really begins.

Sometimes our writing needs a little morning time before we really start going strong. Your opening sentence (especially for a personal statement or college app) should pack a lot of punch, but many times we feel like we have to work our way up to that starting point in order to justify our story. But here’s the thing: you don’t have to justify your writing. You don’t need the once-upon-a-time opening. Just jump right to the Stepsisters throwing things at Cinderella’s head. That’s the way more interesting part of the story, right?

A very fancy Manhattan editor told me that he once worked for a woman who would return every article he wrote with the first half crossed out completely. When he finally worked up the courage to ask her about it, she said, “You just needed to clear your throat. You had to write a lot of sentences before you finally got to the heart of the story. Now that you've captured the story, you can get rid of the sentences that helped you get there. They’re just not necessary.”

So now it’s your turn to clear your throat. Take a look at your essay. Where were you just warming up your writing muscles, and where does your writing finally seem to take off? If you’re not sure, ask a supportive friend to read it and ask her this question: “When did you stop reading because I asked you to and start reading because you wanted to?” Chances are, you can eliminate most (or all!) of your writing before that magical wake-up moment.




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