Essay writing.

Hi!

So, I’ll be honest with you…I am writing this as a form of procrastination from writing my essay that is due next week. However, I figured that as it is potentially helping other people get through the intensive and shitty task that is writing essays it may be worth doing.

I am a third year undergraduate student, and throughout my time at university I have achieved pretty consistently good grades. This is not so much to do with exam performance, because after being in education for nearly 16 years of my life I still can’t seem to find a suitable method for revision. I can attribute these grades to my coursework, which usually achieve A’s or B’s.

I have quite a distinctive method that I use for essay writing, which I’ve adapted during my time at university to suit me best, and it makes the process a lot less stressful for me. I have a few tips that I thought I’d share. Even if nobody finds these useful or even reads them, I figure that future Amy might enjoy reading this in the future when her back is breaking under the weight of deadlines and stress.

1/ Make a plan

This seems quite an obvious tip, but I find it really helpful to have a brainstorming session before I do anything else. Oftentimes when I get a piece of coursework, I get the option of more than one essay question. Once I have these questions to choose from I usually pick the one I would most like to do and then I write down as many ideas for paragraphs as I can. I write down bullet point ideas of paragraph subjects, arguments and counter arguments. This helps me decide if I am confident or not in pursuing the essay question I’ve chosen and being able to reach the word limit comfortably. If yes I then move on to…

2/ Research before writing

I know a lot of people who when writing essays simply research as they go. I used to do this at school however at university where you are expected to cite everything you mention and read widely across articles this does not work for me. I instead do all of my research prior to writing anything.

I use a website called goconqr.com, where you can create mind maps and flashcards etc. for revision purposes. I love the aesthetic of this website as well as how concise I can make my work. I usually create a mind map with the essay question in the centre and my bullet points from my brainstorm coming away from the question. I then find all the resources I want to read or reference, and I write the Harvard references out in full (it saves a lot of time when it comes to doing a bibliography later) and I then bullet point any relevant information from the texts I’ve read and put it on the mind map. I often spend more time doing this than I do on the actual essay, as once the information I need has been collected I feel far more prepared when it comes to writing. It also means that once I print it off I only need to reference one piece of paper, opposed to rifling through countless journal articles and textbooks. This is doubly handy when you are studying with limited space. I often enjoy essay writing outwith the house, for example on my university campus or in a coffee shop. This way all I need is my laptop and the mind map. Additionally, you are condensing all of the information you deem relevant into a small and accessible mind map, meaning you don’t have to read and reread the same journal article countless times to remember what you wanted to reference.

Here’s an example of a goconqr mind map I made in my second year of university, in case what I have tried to explain does not make sense.

women-in-psychology-1

3/ Jumbling paragraphs

Sometimes starting an essay is the hardest hurdle to overcome when writing it. I often find myself struggling to get started, and so I oftentimes don’t start at the beginning. I used to do my introduction first and continue in that order until I reached the conclusion. However now I pick one aspect of my mind map that I have made and start writing the paragraph. Sometimes just picking somewhere (normally one of the paragraphs I’m most confident about) and just getting going with it eradicates that feeling of writer’s block for me. I sometimes start on the third paragraph, dot back and forth between the conclusion and the introduction in a way where all the paragraphs end up existing independently of each other.

4/ Assembling

Once I have written each paragraph and am happy with them, I then establish an order. I often tweak this a couple of times, as my original order doesn’t necessarily fit or look right. I then tweak the opening and closing sentences of paragraphs (where necessary) to link them together in the order I’ve chosen. This just helps the essay flow a bit better and make more sense.

5/ Give it a few days

I normally finish my essays with a few days to spare before the deadline. Once I’ve finished it I tend to give myself a day or two without looking at it. Once I’ve done this I revisit the essay and read it through thoroughly, looking for any mistakes that I may have made, any sentences that could be altered or any bits that are not relevant that need removed. I find giving myself a break from the essay means I can come back to it with a fresh motivation and a more critical mind. I have found so many mistakes in the past when I’ve done my rereads, so it can be really important!

6/ Personal deadline

This is a tip that I try my best to do with every essay. Slip ups can happen and it is always useful to have an extra few days wiggle room in case you run into issues with your essay. For me, as I said above I use this time to iron out any issues I’ve found with my work. Plus, handing it in early means you can rest easy in the lead up to the due date and put it out of your mind.

Those are my golden tips, which I should really be putting into practice right now. I hope this helps even one person. And to those of you writing essays at the moment, I hope you get through them and make it to the other side!

Pip pip!

The works of Markus Almond.

Hello, hello!

I would firstly like to apologise for the lack of blog posts recently. I have had a lots of things going on behind the scenes in my life, which not only stopped me from getting much reading done, but also temporarily killed all of my motivation. However, we shan’t dwell. I’m back with not one, not two, but THREE BOOK REVIEWS ALL ROLLED INTO ONE. Today (two days late, sorry) I shall be reviewing three of Markus Almond’s books of paraprose, I hope you enjoy.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term paraprose, it is very simply as it states; short prose, typically a paragraph or less. This, as far as I can tell is Markus Almond’s primary technique, which he uses to tell stories, discuss thoughts on certain subjects and to drop little pearls of wisdom. I began by stumbling upon and reading Things To Shout Out Loud At Parties.

This is a collection of paraprose by author Markus Almond. Showcasing some of his most honest and personal writing, this compilation contains stories of love and redemption, sex and parties, tales of heartbreak and squinting in the morning sun. Things don’t always turn out the way we expect. But with the right attitude and some good friends, you can always find your way to the next adventure.

I absolutely loved this collection of musings from Almond. I found it so relatable, so real and so unfiltered. It was honest and had a very human feel to it, and as you read you felt almost a closeness to Almond. Reading and enjoying this collection lead to me to read his two others: This Book Will Break a Window If You Throw It Hard Enough and Brooklyn to Mars. Both again follow the same idea.

Paraprose is a format I had never read before, however absolutely love. It is so easy to read (as well as very quick to read) and provides snippets of discussion on a variety of topics, which is oftentimes all that is necessary. It is a true skill to be able to encapsulate all your thoughts on a subject into such a small number of words, however Almond manages to do this on a variety of subjects while never compromising his beautiful and eloquent writing style. His writing style reminds me very much of Matt Haig. Almond has such a profound way of viewing the world and takes inspiration from his experiences in order to generate some passages which have a self help aspect to them.

“I will have shortcomings I may never fully conquer. I will have suffocating fears that I must wake up to every day. But I tango with the beasts until my feet are numb and I will wake up tomorrow to try again.” (Brooklyn to Mars)

As well as beautiful writing, Almond discusses such a wide array of topics, which again adds to the enriching experience. It is almost like an essay collection with a twist, some passages being more like personal essays, others tackling broader issues such as consumerism etc.

I loved the way these books were formatted, and I love the idea of paraprose. I have been looking into it more and more as a result of reading these three collections by Markus Almond and am inspired to try and write some of my own. It seems an intriguing way to try and improve my writing abilities, and I am eager to give it a shot. I like the idea of having complete freedom to use words and prose in a different way, which doesn’t follow the expected format of a book. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed these collections and would recommend them most highly.

Once again, apologies for my absence, I’m glad to be back.

 

Essay collections I want to read.

Hey, how are you? Yeah…I’m pretty good, thanks!

So today I’m gonna talk about three essay collections that I want to read in the near future. I have become a fan of reading essays and reading essay collections. They are great to dip in and out of and they are short and consumable pieces on a plethora of different topics. There are two in particular which I have my eye on (which I have actually already bought…oops) and am hoping to get to shortly. Here we go!

How to be Alone by Jonathan Franzen

How to Be AloneThis is a socially critical essay collection surrounding the prospect of loneliness. This is something I am extremely interested in at the moment as I am attempting to become more independent and become better at being on my own (I will be doing a post on this soon). I have heard that this is controversial and out there collection, but I am excited for that!

 

 

 

 

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and StoriesI think like a lot of people, the title of this drew me in. Again, I am interested in the topic and idea of loneliness and what it means to be alone, but I have heard that this collection has a lot more to it than that. Keegan has been considered an icon for our generation, and I am excited to see why.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou.

Hola! Bonjour! Guten tag! Hello!

Today is Sunday, meaning it is also book review day, yay! I am sorry that this is going up later than normal, however I was working all day and didn’t get a chance to write my review earlier in the week. Anyway, today’s review is of Letter to my Daughter by Maya Angelou.

Dedicated to the daughter she never had but sees all around her, Letter to My Daughter reveals Maya Angelou’s path to living well and living a life with meaning. Told in her own inimitable style, this book transcends genres and categories: guidebook, memoir, poetry, and pure delight.

Here in short spellbinding essays are glimpses of the tumultuous life that led Angelou to an exalted place in American letters and taught her lessons in compassion and fortitude: how she was brought up by her indomitable grandmother in segregated Arkansas, taken in at thirteen by her more worldly and less religious mother, and grew to be an awkward, six-foot-tall teenager whose first experience of loveless sex paradoxically left her with her greatest gift, a son.

Whether she is recalling such lost friends as Coretta Scott King and Ossie Davis, extolling honesty, decrying vulgarity, explaining why becoming a Christian is a “lifelong endeavor,” or simply singing the praises of a meal of red rice–Maya Angelou writes from the heart to millions of women she considers her extended family.

Like the rest of her remarkable work, Letter to My Daughter entertains and teaches; it is a book to cherish, savor, re-read, and share.

“I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters. You are Black and White, Jewish and Muslim, Asian, Spanish speaking, Native Americans and Aleut. You are fat and thin and pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered, and I am speaking to you all. Here is my offering to you.” (Goodreads)

Now, if you saw one of my previous posts which was an author spotlight on Maya Angelou you will know that she is my biggest role model and how much I love her in general. Her spirit, her experiences, her attitude, her wisdom and her morals render me speechless and I find anything I read by her to be an absolute joy. This was no different.

This book is a collection of essays, some personal and some dealing with other issues. While varying in their topics, content and length, they all have a message or moral underpinning them. She tells short snippets of stories to do with previous experiences in her life and discusses things such as loss of loved ones and friends, independence and sexual assault. Each topic she addresses with eloquence and poignancy and each essay in itself is a testament to her and how good of a person she was.

 

 

“I am convinced that most people do not grow up…We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias.”  

 

 

What I love about Maya Angelou above all, is how she never tries to hide the mistakes she has made or the times she may have been quick to judge or been ignorant etc. She instead highlights these and uses them as a lesson to learn from. I think this is a very great message to show as when you are in control of how you are seen to the world, like Maya was, it would be all to easy to portray yourself as a saint without fault. However, Maya shows that she -like everybody- makes mistakes and that this is okay, and that while you may sometimes do something you regret or don’t think an action through, this doesn’t have to make you a bad person if you learn from it and take the experience through life with you. The books depict her so genuinely and honestly and that is part of why I love them.

In addition, I just think that Angelou had some wonderful thoughts. She thought widely and deeply about a lot of topics and so all of her essays are very insightful. The prose in this collection was as gorgeous as her other books, and oozes inspiration. As well as this, a few pieces of poetry were scattered throughout this collection which made it all the more beautiful and  creative.

I would really recommend this essay collection to anyone who is just starting to read essays, as it doesn’t read as some formal and boring non fiction, which I fear is what a lot of people may perceive essays to be. Instead this collection is bursting with life, emotions and lessons.  I would urge any of you to read this! If you are interested in more information on Maya Angelou’s work, click here to read it!


“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”

Pip pip!