This narrative essay was composed by a student during her second week in a college course in freshman composition. (This version has been mildly edited and updated.) Notice how the student uses specific descriptions and examples to keep us interested in her experience, and how she relies on third-person point of view to maintain a degree of distance. Note also how certain details introduced early in the essay reappear near the end.
The subject of this student's essay is writer's block. If you have experienced writer's block and you're interested in learning how to overcome it, see these articles:
- Twelve Quick Tips for Beating Writer's Block
- Writers on Writing: Overcoming Writer's Block
- Robert Pirsig on Overcoming Writer's Block and Narrowing a Topic
- Writers on Writing: The Myth of Inspiration
Composing My First College Essay
by Sandy Klem
Sandy is sitting at her desk, nervously tugging at her frizzy hair and worrying about the essay she should have written for her English class. Three days ago she was given the assignment, and now the paper is due in just one hour. She uncaps her Bic, carefully prints her name at the top of the page, and then squeezes her eyes shut as she waits for inspiration.
Writing about summer vacations, embarrassing moments, and the adventures of a quarter has never been one of her favorite pastimes. She would rather be outside missing a bus (it would be less frustrating) or catching a cold (it would be more enjoyable). Still, after burning hamburger patties all summer to pay for her tuition, she is not about to throw in the towel (or even her broken laptop) in this, the second week of the term.
Perhaps, she thinks, a few aerobic exercises will send the creative juices shooting up to her skull. Switching on her iPod and the external speakers, she begins to gyrate across the room. Her souvenir spoons rattle on the dresser, posters unhinge themselves from the wall, and empty bottles shimmy off the book shelf and crash to the floor. Still, she receives no inspiration, just threats and curses from a few late-sleepers down the hall.
Sandy squelches the music and trudges back to her desk. The blank sheet of paper stares at her, almost snickering it seems. She retaliates by defacing it with loops and squiggles and curlicues that puncture the paper. That accomplished, she glances at the clock radio: forty minutes to go.
Taking a fresh sheet of paper, she writes her name--once, twice, twenty times. Then she crumples it into a ball and tosses it at the glowering clock. She misses. Her future flashes before her eyes: she will be a failed writer, a college dropout. Eventually she will become one of those bag ladies who sleep in doorways and drink Sterno and argue with themselves on buses. Then her life will be an endless summer vacation of cold, rainy weather. Her life will be one long embarrassing moment. Without a quarter to her name, she will never enjoy a single adventure.
Sandy picks up her well-nibbled pen, and now, with determination and enthusiasm, she begins to write quickly. "Sandy is sitting at her desk," she writes, "nervously tugging at her frizzy hair and worrying about the essay she should have written for her English class. . . ."