Feeling Stuck on Your Personal Essay? 4 Memoirs to Inspire You

Feeling Stuck on Your Personal Essay? 4 Memoirs to Inspire You

Educated by Tara Westover

This memoir is a beautiful account of surviving an extreme Mormon survivalist sect so against the “government” that she grew up without a birth certificate. Westover details being forced to do dangerous hard labor as a kid and being abused by an older brother whose mental health issues are ignored and denied. The story is ultimately inspiring: She went on to graduate from Cambridge with a history PhD.

Good for: Writing about a complicated family upbringing

Get inspired by: Great examples of deep self-reflection and answering the “why.” Westover has had years to process what happened to her (hopefully with therapy), so she is able to describe her past in a way that is deep but not accusatory. When writing about abuse, the tone is really important in showing how you overcame the adversity, and Westover’s descriptions are a good example of showing hurt without sounding bitter, which is a hard balance to strike when writing about something so personal.

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The Secret Trick to Channeling Your Creativity

You're staring at your computer screen, the mouse blinking back at you expectantly.

You've already tried writing an email draft to a friend, using your iPhone notes app, and remembering the Write Now Revise Later mantra. You know your deadline is coming up, but you feel totally stuck. Your brain is on vacay. Your inner narrator is off duty. You can't think of anything to write. Welcome to writer's block.

Here's an easy trick: switch up when and where you write.

All of us have our own internal clocks and creativity can come when we least expect it. Some of my best writing has occurred in the twilight hours between 3 and 4 in the morning. You may find yourself suddenly inspired at 6am in bed with your journal or at noon in the park on your iPad.

For now, turn your computer off, go for a walk, get distracted, and then try again at a different time and place.

Let me know if it worked!