First of all, know this: apathy is your enemy. Without passion for your subject, you will not be very effective at convincing your audience that the issue at hand is important. So, if you're asked to write an essay about the importance of something, your first tasks are meditation and introspection -- think long and hard about the things that make you angry or excited. If you don't have the freedom to choose your own subject and your assigned topic leaves you cold, try doing an Internet search for some relevant keywords along with the word "injustice." This is sure to get your blood boiling.
Read, Read, Read
We are fortunate to be living in such an information-rich environment. What was it like for people in the 1970s who wanted to be experts in hydroponic gardening? That took some dedication. These days, obvious ignorance in your writing will be more difficult than ever for people to overlook. Therefore, before you start writing, invest some time in reading what others have said about your subject -- especially people who disagree with you. This opposing point of view will be invaluable to you as you prepare to make your point with enthusiasm.
Staring at a blank page can be intimidating, even for professional writers. Don't worry about the finished product yet, just put something down. Some people find that they can write more freely with pen and paper than on the computer. Try it. Battling your inner censor can be tough, especially when you are writing about something you feel is very important. You are very likely trying to argue for or against its necessity. This is heavy stuff. However, don't let yourself become overwhelmed before you even get rolling. Try this exercise to get your creative juices flowing: pretend you are simply writing to a close friend, someone you trust.
Variety Is the Spice of Life
Imagine your intended audience. Who are they? Where do they come from and what are their fears? No matter who they are, they'll appreciate reading your opinions along with some support from other people -- especially if these other people have some established credibility, be it in the form of a Heisman Trophy or a doctorate from Yale. Seek out a variety of sources when you do your research and also when you present these ideas to your readers. Although essays need not incorporate as many outside sources as research papers, support and perspective always add power to your work. Look for inspiration from both highbrow and lowbrow culture, on YouTube, from alternative presses, as well as from media conglomerates and independent blogs. In short, leave no stone unturned.
Test the Waters
Once you have a draft prepared and before you solicit feedback from others, read your work aloud. This will really help in tweaking the overall flow of your work. Then consider sharing your essay on a small scale before turning it in to your professor or submitting it to the local newspaper. After all, if you post it to Facebook or your blog, you can always take it down if it isn't well-received. Post it with a request for comments and suggestions. On an even smaller scale, think about emailing it to a handful of friends or family members whose writing you respect. If your subject is truly important and you have been successful in communicating that, people will have a strong reaction, be it positive or negative.
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