Published in


The key to quick success isn’t a brilliant plan

What I learned from trying to write a good essay

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

An essay for many, is a student’s worst nightmare. I’ve just recently been assigned my next. In the light of that, I’m reminded of the fatal flaw I made on my last where because of that, I spent in total an extra 50 hours writing.

The best example of this can be seen on one Saturday morning: I had recently got feedback on a previous draft that basically said, “Rewrite your essay or you’re going to get an F.” Apparently the problem had been it wasn’t debatable. Now, it was time to rewrite.

The first step was creating a new thesis as I had realized the topic I chose was problematic. So, I had quickly read up on a few topics and created a couple theses for each of them.

Not being able to find one that I liked, I took a quick break and came back with a fresh perspective.

But that didn’t help, because I was still stuck. I pondered the flaws and advantages of going with one, but all of them still seemed generic. Further, I wasn’t sure if any of them were debatable. I wasn’t willing to repeat that same mistake.

Feeling desperate, I decided to call a family friend and retired teacher. I explained to her the original prompt which was about the European Industrial Revolution. I then elaborated on the 3 topics -child labor, trade unions, women’s rights- that I had chosen going into depth on the weaknesses and strengths of each one.

The entire process of explaining this to her had felt so tiring and I couldn’t understand why. Only after looking at the time, I realized that I had spent over 2 hours going over each topic and answering her questions. I needed to pick soon so that I could begin re-researching. I was already a bit behind.

Attempting to move quickly, I asked her the big question: “So, which one do you think is best?”

“Trade Unions” she said.

I thought about that for a second. Feeling that wasn’t good enough, I then asked her “why?” I needed more than just the choice. I couldn’t risk getting feedback that said “Rewrite or get an F” again.

She elaborated on her thoughts in which I fired 3 more questions. I had reached understanding as to her point of view, and while I was concerned that she might not be seeing the whole picture, her thoughts had validity. I felt slightly confident as to the route I was going, but wanting to make sure that this time my thesis was debatable, I asked her, “Is this thesis debatable?”

She said “I think this is the most debatable you can possibly make your thesis.”

I frowned. I was on the verge of ending the now 5-hour-long call and then she had said that. Did that mean my thesis wasn’t actually debatable? I asked for clarification and to keep it short, I spent another hour going over the theses only to stick with the one she had picked an hour ago.

I ended the call, feeling worried but hopeful for how this essay was going to go.

Fast-forward to the end, I had turned in that thesis and the feedback said, “This isn’t debatable.”

Further, in frustration I had given up on writing about trade unions and moved to child labor. In the end, I stuck with that decision as I had turned in my final essay on child labor.

To reframe things, I essentially wasted 6 hours on trying to pick a thesis only to ultimately change my mind.

What does that mean for you?

Well, it means that you’re not going to make a perfect decision from the start. That’s exactly what I had tried to do. Stuck with indecision and wanting to avoid repeating the past, I had spent 6 hours analyzing every detail and ebb of each topic and thesis. I believed doing that would help me make the right decision.

But it didn’t. Because there’s no such thing as a perfect plan. Attempting to create a perfect plan from the spart, especially without actually doing any of the work, sets yourself up for failure.

Having the most-detailed plan doesn’t mean you’re going to succeed faster than everyone else because you thought about everything. There lies no practical hands-on experience or actual progress in planning. Planning is just thinking. Sometimes it’s necessary, but on that Saturday morning, I can testify that it wasn’t.

As humans, it’s up to us to figure out when we need to plan for a bit and when we need to just start. And in that process, it’s important to understand that success isn’t achieved with a perfect plan. It requires failure, changing your mind, experimenting, and constant progress.

I say cheers to that.




We curate and disseminate outstanding articles from diverse domains and disciplines to create fusion and synergy.

Recommended from Medium

How Do I Write About The Days of Red Couches?

Write Your Way to Health and Happiness

Crow’s Feet Writing Prompt

9 Pieces of “Harsh Writing Advice” from the Depths of Twitter

I’m a Full-Time Writer Because I Have to Be

How Characters with Unresolved Trauma Can Cause Writers Huge Headaches

Why the Dune Movie Felt Boring, but the Book Hooked Me

Critical Aspects of a critique — An Exercise

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Nathan M

Nathan M

I use my abundant experience to write about productivity, enjoying life a bit more, and being a slightly less annoying human.

More from Medium

The Very Best Articles I Read Last Week: Vol V

Why I Started Writing and You Should Too

You Don’t Need To Watch Another YouTuber Teaching You How To Write

6 ways to Be more authentic around others