A great essay is not unlike a sexy bare bottom

9 Prompts for Writing Essays that Knock People’s Socks Off

because people are best without socks, and you deserve to be internet famous

Even though the internet is filled with fascinating pictures and videos of cats, lattes, and dance moves — you may have noticed that writing — specifically, writing in the form essays (sonnets — eh, not so much) — still has a ton of viral power.

If you’ve got a business or a personal brand to promote but you’ve never thought of yourself primarily as a writer, you may feel a bit intimidated by the internet’s vast writing game. It’s understandable.

So today I want to give you 9 writing prompts that will help you generate pure social gold in essayistic form.

A Surprising Truth About Essays

Here’s the thing not a whole lot of people don’t know about essays: the word “essay” comes from the French verb “essai” which means “to try.”

That’s not so scary, right? Essaying just means you’re trying.

In an essay, you’re essentially just trying in writing to answer a question that’s important to you and (if you would like your essay to be read) to others.

Montaigne, the writer who’s often considered the first real modern essayist, would just wake up in the morning in his writing tower (yes, he had a writing tower — sorry you’re not a cool old French land owner with a tower — that’s okay, you can make do with a sofa or a coffee shop)…

…. and he would ask himself a question like “What do I know about friendship?”

And then Montaigne would write down his answer to that question. Simple.

Montaigne’s answer would range from his personal experience to reference to what he learned from books, to anecdotal stories he had heard from people he knew.

Then Montaigne would title the essay something wild and crazy, like “On Friendship.”

It really can be that simple. The hardest part is asking yourself the right question.

So here’s some questions to get your essaying into high gear.

Just choose a question, then sit down, ask yourself the question, and answer it in writing, based on your personal experience, great books you’ve read, and anecdotes you’ve heard.

  1. What do I know to be true that no one else in my field knows (or admits to knowing), and why is it important that everyone else know it, too?
  2. When was a time I was really stuck and miserable, but then I discovered something in my field that changed my life?
  3. Why does my field truly matter right now, and why are my colleagues fantastic for being committed to it?
  4. What am I concerned about right now thanks to my specialized knowledge (in coding, in parenting, in space travel — whatever you’re expert in), and why should everyone else be concerned about it, too?
  5. What am I really excited about right now thanks to my specialized knowledge, and why should everyone else be really excited about it, too?
  6. What are pitfalls in the journey that that I’m on that I would want my younger colleagues and mentees to know about so they don’t make the same mistakes as me?
  7. What kind of identity does my ideal reader aspire to inhabit, and what can I write that will give them insight and perspective to help them to claim and embody that identity (as a good man, as a fashionista, as a fierce entrepreneur)?
  8. What is the strangest, most controversial thing I know to be true about my field (whether your field is tantric sex or lawn care — or, perhaps tantric lawn care?)
  9. What do I know about friendship? (this is just always an important thing to ask yourself — and guess what? people like sharing insightful writing about friendship with their friends!)

Whew, okay, we did it. We got through the list.

Nine whole questions to essay upon!

If you enjoyed those, you can find a whole lot more from me on writing and life at carolyngraceelliott.com, where I suggest you join my email list so we can stay in touch.

Then go to your writing tower and get busy.

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