Your essay should be more like your going to a wedding and you are celebrating the marriage of your mind to powerful and enduring literature. It also wants to be a marriage of your personal response to reading Thoreau for the first time and your analytical critique of his writing.
The final shape it takes should reflect the depth of your experience, so if it has been a shallow and unfulfilling experience, you have a tough row ahead of you.
But I don't think that it is the case: all of you have plenty of "fodder" in your trough. You have our reading of "Economy;" you have our trip to Walden Pond, a slew of personal reading responses, a couple of analytical paragraphs, some Harkness discussions, and the myriad thoughts you may have kept to yourself these past few weeks that should serve as the tasty tidbits you can include in your meaty stew. (I am on a metaphor rampage here.)
Over the Weekend:
- Organize what you have: collect all of your writing responses in an organized place--a place that you can easily access while you write. I, of course, am a fan of Evernote. I use it all of the time to create rough drafts, ideas, webpages and everything else that needs to be "stored" for easy retrieval. You could just as easily create a folder in your pages document area; you could use Google docs, Microsoft Office, Notability--and even your blog.
- Start a rough draft: I usually hate the term rough draft because it implies you are writing something that is unfinished, but it always help me to just start writing "about" an essay topic, and more often than not that process defines a direction, a tone, and an overarching theme to what is ultimately "my essay." Another option is to work in an opening paragraph: "Set the Scene & State the Theme." Here is a link to my blog "Three Techniques for Writing an Opening Paragraph."
The final essay is not due until a week from TUESDAY. You must post at least five "Checkins" over the course of the week posted to your blog. e.g. Checkin #1.
We will work on the essay in class and at home all week and next weekend. Consider the possibility of creating video essay--essentially an iMovie slide show where you write a script out of your writing pieces. It can also be turned in as a written piece that will serve well as a writing piece to share with an admission application. If you are totally befuddled and daunted by the task ahead, start by simply creating a Portfolio of your work in a neat and organized fashion--including pictures, quotes, and your best work.
I hope this helps. I imagine that a good essay of this scope will require 10-12 hours of your time, so plan accordingly and don't anticipate a sudden gust of insight next weekend to get you to a distant shore.
Writing is work, but you are all pretty decent and thoughtful writers, and I really want you to have fun creating this essay by uttering the skills you already have within you. I want you to be proud of both your efforts and your final work.
I want you to give damn if only to experience the rewards that follow.
And yes, please comment on this essay of mine for the very word essay is an adaptation of the French verb essai, which simply means "to try," and all I have done in this little blog post is to try to make my points as clearly as I could.
Can anyone ask for more?
Here are a few of my essays that might help you get going: