Schools teach us good skills in a very bad way. Essay writing is just another skill that should be taught very differently. In speedwriting course, I explain one viable alternative, but it is definitely not the only one. Writing essays is fun, it is great therapy and it helps remember things. Also, it is a good way to share knowledge. Unfortunately, none of this applies to school essays.
Essay writing is a medieval practice
In medieval China to get a good job the candidate needed to pass a state exam. For a better job, there was a second exam. The third exam was harder than PhD, and the position was often equivalent to a governor. The exam was an essay on a given subject, written in some very specific form.
The essays we write in school are very similar to the medieval state exams. We are given a subject and a form, and we fill the form with content. This tests our vocabulary and ability to fulfill the template requirement. To be honest, this does not test actual understanding, and it is biased against foreign students.
I feel quite OK recommending professional essay writing services. In medieval China, the students were also often substituted by professionals. This did not result in deficient management, since the whole examination method is very artificial.
My own school essay writing
When I was in the 10th grade, I wrote an essay that did not follow the template. It was OK. The teacher read it to the whole class. It was the only time she read someone’s essay aloud. Everybody applauded. Yet she gave me a B (80 out of 100). Later I read my poems to kids and parents of the school, several hundred men and women. Again everybody applauded. But my grade was B.
My literature teacher coached me for 60 min before the examination because she wanted me to succeed. For the final examination, I wrote something very bad and boring, but I followed all the definitions of the template. I got A (96 out of 100).
I wrote semi-professionally all kinds of literature: scientific papers, patents, design documents, business presentations, poetry, scripts, fiction, non-fiction. I wrote in three different languages, yet… Never again I had to use the school format. And I still do not understand why it was required in the examination.
There is no one style of writing, but a universe of possibilities
To be honest, every kind of writing follows a template. It is a different template each time. Some writing is done to entertain, and some to pitch ideas. Even scientific articles look very different in different disciplines. If you use the wrong template, your contribution will not be accepted.
Yet the most important writing is the writing we do for our own sake. This sort of writing is template-free and it follows several goals:
- When we combine information from multiple sources, we build a deep understanding and remember the details better.
- Writing about personal problems allows one to regain control over emotions and reduce stress, pain, and so on.
- Sharing our passion with others builds personal relationships, including mentor-protegee link, collaboration, and social support.
Focus on the process
School essays focus on the form, the exact details of the template. This template is just an expected placement for pieces of knowledge. Yet, the important part is not the knowledge or wisdom, but our process.
This process usually works for the writing we do for our own sake. When we write for others, we often do something different. For example, in fiction, we invest a lot into realistic heroes, cool worlds, and complex story arc. This is not what I want to address here.
In this article by the process, I mean several things:
- the way we collect information and reflect on it
- the psychological way we make, dealing with complex issues
- the formulation and shape we choose for our ideas, including rhetoric devices and visualization
While only the formulation is actual writing, it is meaningless without other processes.
Write for fun
When we write for ourselves, it is fun. There is less annoying editing. We do not have to comply with templates we do not like. The freedom is not absolute, because otherwise there is chaos, but this sort of writing is very liberal.
We can enjoy things that others do not allow. For example wordplay and out of context rhyming. The texts can be very honest and nobody will criticize us. Especially if we claim that our writing is fictional and strategically replace reality by alternative facts.
Since this is not a formal journal or book, we can even skip editing. Be as natural and fresh as we want, and enjoy it.
Writing essays is fun when there is no constricting template, it is great therapy when we can be honest and it helps remember things when we are accurate.
To actually speedwrite, we can research and think before or after writing, but the writing itself should be done in a flow state.
At the same time, we often remember what we write better than the actual events. So everything we write is likely to replace the real memories. Therefore, if we want to actually remember something, we need to write it down as accurately as we can. The focus is less on complete logical chains and accurate quotations, but on the main ideas and supporting details.
The table of contents is usually a tree-like structure. Most texts are quite naturally organized hierarchically as mindmaps, so quite often we can simply reflect our memory structures on paper. As we write we revisit our mental structures, and verify the small details.
School papers do not allow for many small details. These details defocus the reader and increase the probability of mistakes. Even in this blog, I do not mention the details I would love to use for my own sake, and I actually use in my reading diary.
Writing is a cool therapy for many reasons. For example:
- When we write about something, we try to formulate elusive feelings in a very specific way. Then they are easier to deal with.
- Stress is a lack of control. The author has all the control he wants. So writing ensures stress.
- We can write things differently, modifying, and reframing events. This process also changes the way we remember things.
- Writing is exposure therapy. We revisit places that traumatized us, only now they cannot hurt us. So the trauma and anxiety decrease.
- Rationalizing the events reduces emotional tension.
I do not pretend to cover all reasons. There are many ways to use writing for therapy, with a long and specific list for each methodology.
Notice that school essays need to follow a template and pitch a certain point of view complete with controversy. I cannot be fully honest when I pitch…
The productive flow is the main reason for the speed of speedwriting. We collect all the data we need and shape our main thesis before the writing starts. We edit after the writing ends. The writing itself is an uninterrupted creative flow process. Of the kind that everybody loves.
If we really want to tell our story, the writing itself is effortless. Maybe not in the first article, but after several hundreds of essays.
Interestingly, I do not remember a single school or scientific article I wrote in the flow state. I can get into the flow even writing patent descriptions and listing all possible embodiments of the method and apparatus. But when I follow the school template, the flow is never there… Maybe the level of challenge presented by templates is too low for me to get into the flow state.
Learn from scratch
In the memory and speedreading parts of accelerated learning we rethink every recommendation we got in school. While speedwriting should be different? It is a new skill we learn from scratch loosely related to our outer writing skills. For example, if we need to learn typing, the improved speed will benefit every kind of writing we do.
Speedwriting is about the process of generating 10000 words per day to treat psychological issues, remember stuff, and simply for fun. Do not do it for critics, editors, readers. Do it for yourself!
And here is what you should avoid or reframe and own: