The following passage is taken from the appendix of my new book “Home Study Projects and New Ideas for English Language Arts.” (You can find this book on amazon.com Just type the book’s title in the search bar.)
Like most people, I have had to write many essays unde exam pressure. This was back in the dark ages (the 1950s and1960s) when few people were aware of mental conditions such as dyslexia which made essay writing much more difficult for dyslexics. I was not dyslexic but I had two other problems which made essay writing in the time-constrained conditionof an exam particularly difficult.
The first problem was my ‘abstract-random’ thought-processing pattern (I could handle abstractions well enough; the problem was that my ideas tended to come to me in a random, scattered way and not in an easy-to-follow sequential manner. “Abstract-sequential” people do not have this problem. Another problem was my obsessive compulsiveness which caused me to waste valuable time checking my work more than once. (Once is enough!) This was a serious handicap in examinations, particularly examinations with essays at the end. I wasted so much time compulsively
re-checking my answers to the first part of the exam (the part with short questions) that I didn’t have enough time left to spend on the essays. It was only years later that I found a solution to the problem: a fool-proof method for writing an essay (or a whole book, for that matter). Here it is:
A LOGICAL METHOD FOR WRITING AN ESSAY
(a) determine what your topic will be (if you have a choice in the
(b) brainstorm the topic: jot down all the points that you can think of. Phrases will do; don’t bother with sentences. Label the points from top to bottom: a, b, c, d, etc. Don’t rush this and don’t even think about the order in which you write the points down.
(c) Keeping the topic of your essay in mind, find the point which marks the first thing to mention. Label this point 1 then look for a point which seems to follow it logically and label it point 2.
Continue this procedure and list point 3, point 4, etc. As you do this, be on the alert for points that you don’t need. Cross them out. This process requires careful thought and shouldn’t be rushed. Keep going until all the points that you brainstormed have been numbered or discarded. Now that you have determined the sequence of ideas, the essay will be far easier to write.
(d) Find a good topic sentence and write the essay. Once you start writing you might want to add some ideas and maybe exclude others on your list.
By following this method you will experience less anxiety and the right ideas and words will come to you easier because your thought channels will not be cluttered with worries about what you are going to say next or what you are going to write about. (It has been proven that worry and anxiety make it harder to remember things.) Also, it is very unlikely that you will fail to cover the main points because you have already included most of them in your brainstorming list (section b). When writing exams many people start writing without a plan and soon find themselves in a muddle. This feeling of confusion results in tension and tension sabotages memory and clarity ofnthinking. What a shame! It doesn’t have to be this way. I have found that this method works for every kind of writing, from short essays to lengthy books