Crafting A Life In Essay Story Poem About Love
Powerful, surprising, and fascinating personal essays are also “reader-friendly essays” that keep the reader squarely in focus. So how do you go about writing one? In this excerpt from Crafting the Personal Essay, author Dinty W. Moore shares a variety of methods for crafting an essay that keeps the reader’s desires and preferences in mind, resulting in a resonate and truly memorable piece. As Moore says, “Privacy is for your diary. Essays are for readers.”
Writing the Reader-Friendly Essay
Good writing is never merely about following a set of directions. Like all artists of any form, essay writers occasionally find themselves breaking away from tradition or common practice in search of a fresh approach. Rules, as they say, are meant to be broken.
But even groundbreakers learn by observing what has worked before. If you are not already in the habit of reading other writers with an analytical eye, start forming that habit now. When you run across a moment in someone else’s writing that seems somehow electric on the page, stop, go back, reread the section more slowly, and ask yourself, “What did she do here, put into this, or leave out, that makes it so successful?”
Similarly and often just as important, if you are reading a piece of writing and find yourself confused, bored, or frustrated, stop again, back up, squint closely at the writing, and form a theory as to how, when, or where the prose went bad.
Identifying the specific successful moves made by others increases the number of arrows in your quiver, ready for use when you sit down to start your own writing. Likewise, identifying the missteps in other writers’ work makes you better at identifying the missteps in your own.
Remember the Streetcar
Tennessee Williams’ wonderful play, A Streetcar Named Desire, comes from a real streetcar in New Orleans and an actual neighborhood named Desire. In Williams’ day, you could see the streetcar downtown with a lighted sign at the front telling folks where the vehicle was headed. The playwright saw this streetcar regularly—and also saw, of course, the metaphorical possibilities of the name.
Though this streetcar no longer runs, there is still a bus called Desire in New Orleans, and you’ve certainly seen streetcars or buses in other cities with similar, if less evocative, destination indicators: Uptown, Downtown, Shadyside, West End, Prospect Park.
People need to know what streetcar they are getting onto, you see, because they want to know where they will be when the streetcar stops and lets them off.
Excuse the rather basic transportation lesson, but it explains my first suggestion. An essay needs a lighted sign right up front telling the reader where they are going. Otherwise, the reader will be distracted and nervous at each stop along the way, unsure of the destination, not at all able to enjoy the ride.
Now there are dull ways of putting up your lighted sign:
This essay is about the death of my beloved dog.
Let me tell you about what happened to me last week.
And there are more artful ways.
Readers tend to appreciate the more artful ways.
For instance, let us look at how Richard Rodriguez opens his startling essay “Mr. Secrets”:
Shortly after I published my first autobiographical essay seven years ago, my mother wrote me a letter pleading with me never again to write about our family life. “Write about something else in the future. Our family life is private.” And besides: “Why do you need to tell the gringos about how ‘divided’ you feel from the family?” I sit at my desk now, surrounded by versions of paragraphs and pages of this book, considering that question.
Where is the lighted streetcar sign in that paragraph?
Well, consider that Rodriguez has
- introduced the key characters who will inhabit his essay: himself and his mother,
- informed us that writing is central to his life,
- clued us in that this is also a story of immigration and assimilation (gringos), and
- provided us with the central question he will be considering throughout the piece: Why does he feel compelled to tell strangers the ins and outs of his conflicted feelings?
These four elements—generational conflict between author and parent, the isolation of a writer, cultural norms and difference, and the question of what is public and what is private—pretty much describe the heart of Rodriguez’s essay.
Or to put it another way, at every stop along the way—each paragraph, each transition—we are on a streetcar passing through these four thematic neighborhoods, and Rodriguez has given us a map so we can follow along.
Find a Healthy Distance
Another important step in making your personal essay public and not private is finding a measure of distance from your experience, learning to stand back, narrow your eyes, and scrutinize your own life with a dose of hale and hearty skepticism.
Why is finding a distance important? Because the private essay hides the author. The personal essay reveals. And to reveal means to let us see what is truly there, warts and all.
The truth about human nature is that we are all imperfect, sometimes messy, usually uneven individuals, and the moment you try to present yourself as a cardboard character—always right, always upstanding (or always wrong, a total mess)—the reader begins to doubt everything you say. Even if the reader cannot articulate his discomfort, he knows on a gut level that your perfect (or perfectly awful) portrait of yourself has to be false.
And then you’ve lost the reader.
Pursue the Deeper Truth
The best writers never settle for the insight they find on the surface of whatever subject they are exploring. They are constantly trying to lift the surface layer, to see what interesting ideas or questions might lie beneath.
To illustrate, let’s look at another exemplary essay, “Silence the Pianos,” by Floyd Skloot.
Here is his opening:
A year ago today, my mother stopped eating. She was ninety-six, and so deep in her dementia that she no longer knew where she was, who I was, who she herself was. All but the last few seconds had vanished from the vast scroll of her past.
Essays exploring a loved one’s decline into dementia or the painful loneliness of a parent’s death are among the most commonly seen by editors of magazines and judges of essay contests. There is a good reason for this: These events can truly shake us to our core. But too often, when writing about such a significant loss, the writer focuses on the idea that what has happened is not fair and that the loved one who is no longer around is so deeply missed.
Are these emotions true?
Yes, they are.
Are they interesting for a reader?
Often, they simply are not.
The problem is that there are certain things readers already know, and that would include the idea that the loss of a loved one to death or dementia is a deep wound, that it seems not fair when such heartbreak occurs, and that we oftentimes find ourselves regretting not having spent more time with the lost loved one.
These reactions seem truly significant when they occur in our own lives, and revisiting them in our writing allows us to experience those powerful feelings once again. For this reason it is hard to grasp that the account of our loss might have little or no impact on a reader who did not know this loved one, or does not know you, and who does not have the emotional reaction already in the gut.
In other words, there are certain “private” moments that feel exhilarating to revisit, and “private” sentences that seem stirring to write and to reread as we edit our early drafts, but they are not going to have the same effect in the public arena of publishable prose.
In the last twenty years of teaching writing, the most valuable lesson that I have found myself able to share is the need for us as writers to step outside of our own thoughts, to imagine an audience made up of real people on the other side of the page. This audience does not know us, they are not by default eager to read what we have written, and though thoughtful literate readers are by and large good people with large hearts, they have no intrinsic stake in whatever problems (or joys) we have in our lives.
This is the public, the readers you want to invite into your work.
Self-expression may be the beginning of writing, but it should never be the endpoint. Only by focusing on these anonymous readers, by acknowledging that you are creating something for them, something that has value, something that will enrich their existence and make them glad to have read what you have written, will you find a way to truly reach your audience.
And that—truly reaching your audience and offering them something of value—is perhaps as good a definition of successful writing as I’ve ever heard.
You might also like:
Craft & Technique, Creative Nonfiction Writing, Excerpts, Haven't Written Anything Yet, Writing for Beginners, Memoir, There Are No Rules Blog by the Editors of Writer's Digest, Writing Editor Blogs, Writing Short Stories & Essay Writing, Writing Your First Draft
Are You a Born Storyteller?
11 Secrets to Writing an Effective Character Description
When it comes to Southern romance, it’s no secret that choosing the right words is important. Crafting the perfect romantic message and expressing how much you care about someone may be difficult, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. If you need a dash of inspiration, explore these short love messages and quotes about love for a little help with telling your beloved just how much you care!
Table of Contents:
Sweet Romantic Messages for Her
If you want to make your wife or girlfriend feel appreciated, then giving her a thoughtful reminder of your feelings is a great place to start. But great romantic sayings are more than just a string of clichés put together—they’re a sincere expression of your affection! Whether you’re celebrating a particular occasion or simply reminding her that she’s special, these romantic love messages for her are sure to bring a smile to her face!
- If I could give you one thing in life, I’d give you the ability to see yourself through my eyes, only then would you realize how special you are to me.
- If you were a movie, I’d watch you over and over again.
- In a sea of people, my eyes always search for you.
Romantic Message Ideas for Your Girlfriend
- What on earth did I think about all the time before you?
- If loving you was a job, I’d be the most deserving, dedicated, and qualified candidate. In fact, I’d even be willing to work for free!
- Your smile is literally the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
- If someone asked me to describe you in just two words, I’d say “Simply Amazing.”
Romantic Message Ideas for Your Wife
- You do a million little things that bring to joy to my life.
- I know fairy tales come true because I have you.
- There are only two times that I want to be with you: Now and Forever.
- My six word love story: “I can’t imagine life without you.”
Sweet Romantic Messages for Him
Men may not always be the most verbal or openly emotional creatures, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear how you feel! Letting that special man in your life know that he’s your world with a short love message will surely make him glow with pride. To help you express just how much you enjoy his presence in your life, take a look at these romantic love messages for him!
- You have no idea how much my heart races when I see you.
- I love when I catch you looking at me.
- You’re weird…but I like it!
Messages for Your Boyfriend
- Your voice is my favorite sound.
- So far, every moment we’ve spent together has been awesome. But I promise you, that the best is yet to come.
- If only you knew how much those little moments with you matter to me.
Message for Your Husband
- Since the time I’ve met you, I cry a little less, laugh a little harder and smile all the more, just because I have you, my life is a better place.
- Every day with you is a wonderful addition to my life’s journey.
- You’re my paradise and I’d happily get stranded on you for a lifetime.
- Just when I think that it is impossible to love you any more than I already do, you prove me wrong.
Classic Love Letters for Her
Some tokens of love and affection never go out of style—and the love letter is certainly one of those! In today’s digital age, giving a handwritten letter to your girlfriend or wife is a truly unforgettable romantic gesture that’s sure to impress. Of course, composing a personalized, honest letter is easier said than done. It can make you feel vulnerable—and you may even find yourself at a loss for words! Luckily, these sample love letters for her can give you a great starting point.
- Sometimes I just think back to the first time I laid eyes on you. I knew right then that I had found someone incredible. Ever since that very moment all I have ever wanted was to be with you. No matter how dark my day is, seeing you always brightens it and makes me realize that with you, I am doing right. Your heart is so pure and so forgiving that it will always be the center of my attention, no matter what else is going on in my life. I look forward to this day and many more just like it for you will forever be in my heart.
- You have gripped my soul with a ferocity reserved for a castaway clinging to a raft in the middle of the ocean. If my soul is the raft, it is your hold that keeps me afloat. Don’t ever let go. I love you.
- Whenever I am with you, it is like having my emotional batteries recharged with joy. Your smile radiates into me. Your touch sends little shivers through my body. Your presence pleases my mind and your soul pours peace on mine. I love you…madly, sincerely, completely and with no reservation, in a way that is blissfully wonderful.
Classic Love Letters for Him
Since writing was first invented, couples have exchanged romantic letters as a sincere expression of undying love and affection. Giving your boyfriend or husband a love letter is a timeless and carefully crafted way to say that you care about him. Of course, putting your deepest thoughts about your loved one on paper can be a daunting task. If you need a little inspiration, take a peek at these sample love letters for him to get those writing juices flowing!
- I want you to know that there's no one who can replace you. The way you look, the way you always know what I am thinking about, the way you gave me hug when I need it the most, and the way you listen to me is priceless. You have touched me more profoundly than I ever thought you could. I love you.
- I’m so completely in love with you. I wake to think of you and I sleep to see you in my dreams. Everyday seems like a blessing since I have met you. I feel so lucky and honored to be in love with you with all of my heart. Thank you for sharing your love with me. It’s a truly wonderful gift. I will love you always.
- You were already on my mind when I woke up this morning. Funny how I just can't stop thinking about you. Six months ago we hadn't even met, and now you are the most important person in my life. So, I just wanted to say I love you, and I can't wait to see you again.
Love SMS Ideas for Her
Love letters may be ageless, but in today’s day-and-age, romantic text messages are the easiest way to let your special someone know that you’re thinking about her. The best part? Sweet texts can pack a big emotional punch without spending a lot of money, time, or effort. Whether you’re giving your girlfriend a creative “good morning” or shooting your wife a midday compliment complete with emojis, these love text message ideas are sure to make her heart flutter!
Short Text Messages
- You make me forget how to breathe.
- Nobody is perfect, but you’re so close it’s scary
- All I need is you right here.
- I love you more than I did yesterday but not more than I will tomorrow
Cute Romantic Text Messages
- The only time I stupidly smile at my phone is when I get text messages from you.
- What is love? It is what makes your cell phone ring every time I send text messages.
- I always wake up smiling. I think it’s your fault.
- I can’t explain the way you make me feel when I hear your voice or see your face, but I adore it.
- Just had to let you know… loving you is the best thing that happened to me
Witty Love Text Message Ideas
Romantic SMS Ideas with Emojis
Love SMS Ideas for Him
Want to let your boyfriend know that he’s on your mind first thing in the morning? Wish you could give your husband a little midday pick-me-up? Luckily, technology has made this not just possible, but easy! Sending a romantic sms is a great way to make your man feel good anytime, anywhere. Whether you’re saying “I love you” in words or emojis, these romantic text messages will help you put a smile on his face.
Short Text Messages
- Stop making me think about you! I’m busy.
- Cuddling with you would be perfect right now
- If nothing lasts forever, can I be your nothing?
- You make my heart melt!
- I couldn’t ignore you even if I wanted to.
Cute Romantic Text Messages
Witty Love Text Messages
- You’re just like bacon . You make everything better.
- Forget the butterflies, I feel the whole zoo when I am with you!