I Miss Essays

All my friends look at me like I’m crazy when I say this, but it’s true – I miss writing essays.

I think most people hate writing essays, and I’ll totally admit that during school I hated writing them too. Too often I was given essay topics that I didn’t care about (or sometimes didn’t understand) that I then had to force 8-10 pages out for. There were also those essays where I had stated everything that I wanted to discuss in about 2 pages – and then had to stretch the topic for 6 more before I was done. And let’s not lie, there may have been a few essays written on books that I hadn’t actually read….  I was often too short on time to do things properly, and corners were cut. During school, essays were more of a chore to write than anything else.

But something in me totally misses writing them. There’s something about taking a book and ripping it apart (figuratively, of course!). I liked being able to compare two stories for differences or similarities, looking closely for imagery or hidden meanings. I miss debating over a particular word choice that the author made, or particular references that were present in written works. In essence, I miss critical thinking. It makes me laugh a little, because during my English degree, I always said that I just wanted to surface read, and that I was tired of digging into the meat of books. Now that deeper meaning is all I’m craving.

Essays in school irk me. The people who originally wrote essays (ca. early 1600s) did so because they wanted to – because they needed to discuss matters or ideas, to write about them and critically think about them. Essays were a writing of pleasure, not pain. But schools have taken over idea in the form of an “academic essay,” and turned something that used to be for creating and experimenting with ideas into a robotic way to present “acceptable” responses to narrow questions posed by teachers. Essays ave been corrupted into a means to an end – a piece of work that is spit out in order to earn a grade. They is now a negative image, work that students have to grind out under time constraints, with little or no enjoyment of the process.

Yet a tiny part of me enjoyed them, and misses them. Do I think the original meaning behind an essay can be revived? Probably not. I think the essay is a dying (if not already dead) form of art. But critical thinking and analyzing stories and books and poetry? That still exists, and if I can find a way to enjoy writing about the things I’m reading, then I’m in.

One comment on “I Miss Essays

  1. I miss essays too! SO MUCH! I’ve been tempted to write one for the fun of it…but work keeps getting in the way. What I think I miss even more though is lectures and seminars (from good profs)….getting to see different people’s perspective on a single text is just so eye opening and makes reading more enjoyable!

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