Don't Go Changin': On Writing Consistency

When I sat down on the subway this morning, I saw a mother step into the train…right before the doors closed, leaving her husband and teenage kids standing on the platform. She didn’t seem like a local, so I was waiting for her to completely freak out about being separated from her family. Instead she calmly mouthed something to her husband and sat down next to me. I never speak to people on the subway, but I couldn’t hold back this time. “You took that really well,” I said.

She laughed. “Oh, well, I actually used to live here. My husband usually gets on the train first, then I shepherd the kids on the train and I get in last. I’m not sure why we changed it up this time. I guess we should’ve stuck with what worked.”

And because I’m a book nerd who looks for symbolism 24/7, it occurred to me that this is a really good example of the importance of being consistent in all things--including your writing.

I often have clients (who are incredibly great writers and hard workers) that completely freak out when it comes to the personal statements for their college applications. (The same thing happens if they're writing a major paper or taking a writing test.) And I can completely understand the panic. This is a big task you’re trying to accomplish. It means a lot, both now and in the future. I mean, I freak out when my DVR forgets to record Scandal. And I ROYALLY panicked when faced with my college essay.

Don’t do what I did. Make it easy on yourself. If you are a student who works really hard to complete assignments and get good grades, then chances are that you’ve found a system that works for you. And you should absolutely follow that same system when writing your college essay.

Do you normally write an essay longhand and then type it up?

Do you normally begin your writing process by doing some brainstorming or doodling?

Do you let ideas roll around in your head for a while before typing anything?

Whatever your system is, it works for you. So don’t change anything.

If that family on the subway had carried on with their normal routine, they would have all been on the train together. So don’t second guess a good thing.

Epilogue: Don’t worry, the Mom found her family easily. She got off on the next stop and waited for her family to take the next train. They had a contingency plan.   (Isn’t symbolism everywhere?!?)

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