The Art of the Personal Essay

I’ll bet most of you haven’t really thought about the term “personal essay” since those dreaded college applications, but personal essays are much more than those 600 words on the Common App. Personal essays are also an extremely viable way to make money from your memories and perspectives. They offer writers a chance to explore styles and topics of writing, and offer readers a chance to learn something new and read something wonderful. So what exactly is a personal essay? I dedicate a good portion of my research report toward answering that question, so I thought I would just provide a quote from David Hood’s blog, who can supply a definition much more concisely than I can.

“A personal essay is either a personal narrative in which the author writes about a personal incident or experience that provided significant personal meaning or a lesson learned, or it is a personal opinion about some topic or issue that is important to the writer.”

Personal essays are becoming more and more popular in the age of social media, as our collective desire to learn about the lives and experiences of others grows. Since personal essays are usually fairly short, they offer an enticing story without the commitment of a novel but with all the artistry intact. One of the best things about the personal essay market is that it’s so broad. Publications of all genres and all sizes are accepting submissions for personal essays, from Buzzfeed to the Christian Science Monitor, from New York Times Magazine to UCF’s very own Florida Review. The possibilities are endless, so get to writing!



One thought on “The Art of the Personal Essay

  1. Allison Miehl February 17, 2015 / 4:25 am

    You’re totally right about the growing popularity of personal essays. It makes sense that readers want to learn about other people’s lives and experiences; I know I do. I think that personal essays are also great for people who are just entering publishing because they are short (like you mentioned) and they relate to what people know best– themselves. It’s easy to make them relatable, and they can make readers feel like they have a real connection to the writer (or even to the organization that publishes the piece).


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