An Essay upon Essay: The Art of Essay Writing

Rehmat Ullah
Many books have thus far been written on essay writing for guiding students and aspirant candidates appearing in competitive examinations. But, the writer has written this exclusive article on ‘an essay upon essays and the art of essay writing’ aimed to guide in easy way students and candidates of various competitive examinations including Central Superior Services (CSS) and Provincial Civil Services (PCS) conducted by Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) and Provincial Public Service Commission (Balochistan, Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) respectively.
The article on essay has been written to guide in a simple way with great tips to students and candidates ─ particularly those belonging to Balochistan ─ who appear in such examinations under competitive pressure; because, denizens from Balochistan are deprived of academies, which prepare candidates, with competent English teachers to teach them satisfactorily the essay writing in the province including in Quetta. After all, they compete the candidates from metropolitan cities equipped with all academic facilities available to them.
There is no denying the fact that the essay has to have occupied a very significant place in the history of all classic and contemporary literature. Whatever the medium of language through which the essay finds its expression, there are certain qualities which the essayist has to cultivate, and ascertain viewpoints to adopt if you are to write a readable essay.
You may ask yourself, to begin with, what are the pains and pleasures experienced in the writing of essays. As no pleasure without its prior pain; such is the law of nature and the principle of dinner before dessert. And, no essays, let us remember, without practicing extensively essaying.
It behooves us well to see what an attempt at such writing, an essay, in other words, is. Derivation and history: The word essay is derived from the French root, ‘essai’, which means a trial or an experiment. In fact, it was a Frenchman, Montaigne, who first used this word to describe his attempts which he made in his first famous ‘essays’. And, Francis Bacon took it from the French and thus introduced it in the English language. It has now become one of the most fruitful forms of English literature.
There is a shadow of a doubt whether any other prose form has got equal importance with the essay. All the best writers of today are essayists or remained once essayists. In English literature, the word ‘essay’ occupies significance of the essay itself. Meaning thereby an attempt, an experiment and an endeavor. But it is, let us note, an experiment ending in an experience. That experience is the source of pleasure, although the experiment is full of pains primarily until this discomfort zone turns into comfort area by attempting the experience. But the experiment is worthwhile making in view of the experience which promises to be pleasurable.
Kinds of essays: people often distinguish between two kinds of essays: the personal and impersonal essay. By the personal essay is meant an essay in which the treatment is important, not the subject; whereas the impersonal essay, on the other hand, is one in which the matter is important, not the manner. The one is subjective, almost lyrical, whereas to other is objective, almost narrative and descriptive. But in all such distinctions, a student or candidate must be careful to note the importance of both personal and impersonal. For ultimately, matter and manner are one. There is no matter without form; no form without matter. But now one aspect is emphasized, and then another; and hence the distinction between the personal and the impersonal forms of the essay.
An essay, then, surely is an attempt. As such, there is no finality about it. All attempts are tentative of an arrangement, agreement, etc. not definite or certain. They are groping to try and find something that you cannot see, by feeling with your hands in some direction. These attempts involve methods. There is a way of doing things which ensures success. And all good roads, we know, lead to the north. Whatever our way of doing a thing is, constant attempts until reaching the north, by reducing the imperfections in your attempts. What is, then, the way of the essay? It is an art. By doing the practice. For sure practice reduces imperfection in your skill. For practice requires energy. Directing your energy in the right direction to the north. This needs self-discipline.
Bestselling author of ‘1,000 Success Principles’ by Kop Kopmeyer, comprising four volumes each contains 250 success principles says, “Of all the 1,000 principles for success, the most important success principle of all is ie ‘self-discipline’. Other 999 success principles, without self-discipline, none of them work”. “With self-discipline, they all work. Self-discipline is the ability to do what you should do when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not. Self-discipline is the key to personal greatness that makes everything else possible. With self-discipline, the average person can rise as far and as fast as his talents and intelligence can take him. But without self-discipline, a person with every blessing of background, education, and opportunity will seldom rise above mediocrity”, as opined by Brian Tracy, author of ‘miracles of self-discipline’ a bestselling book.
Having said this, set self-discipline of the daily-goal setting for yourself. Fix certain hours of your daily time for practicing essay. Devote your specific hours and practice essaying as your daily habit and daily ritual. Then, you will see this willingness will upgrade your essay writing which improves your skill. To this end, reading must also be part of your daily goal-setting. Reading prepares you for getting acquainted yourself with a wide variety of subjects as possible.
By disciplining your time management when certain hour of clock strikes, which you dedicate for essay writing, occupy your territory, the place in your room where you study and write. This territory must have the sanctity as a gym or stadium for an iconic athlete. Here the march on the long course to the north begins. To begin with the self-discipline of daily goal-setting of which essay writing must be its essential part.
Now when the certain hour of the clock strikes and your essay writing class begins. First, be completely mindful that you must go totally off the grid. Many students and youths are addicted to the tech and digital connections by using social media etc. This is obviously destructive addictions at the age of your life when you are going to build your career. After all, being always connected to the digital world is neither healthy nor productive.  So when your self-imposed essay writing class starts first and foremost go off the grid and turn your cellphones on flight mode.
When you simply unplug yourself from tech during this specific time of your writing will also help you to de-learn your habit of extensive interaction with tech and start wiring new habit that will alter your relationship with tech. Subsequently, quitting constant connectivity with internet and interaction through social media will enable you to become an effective gatekeeper of your own life what you allow to enter in your life contributing towards achieving your goal and what you do not allow which does not contribute to your productivity. Therefore, power off your cellphone and keep it aside. No wifi, no social media, no mobile connectivity. Only and only focus on your practicing writing for these two to three hours, being the most productive time of yours which prepares you to build your future career.
Second, you must disarm all your fear. Start with courage and confidence. The courage requires that you make yourself do what you should do, that you deal with your fears rather than avoiding them. Brian Tracy says that “the biggest obstacle to success in life is fear of failure, expressed in the feeling that, “I can’t! I can’t! I can’t!”. In the face of such a situation, Tracy suggests that repeat the words to cancel fear, “I can do it!” over and over, to build up your courage and confidence. He further says that “courage is a habit, developed by practicing courage whenever it is required”. As Emerson said, “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.” Robin Sharma has beautifully summed up about it as he says, “the beautiful thing about fear is when you move towards fear, it runs away”. So make a habit of confronting your fears rather than avoiding them.
When you confront the fear of practicing essay writing then move towards it, pick the pen and paper with commencing writing, the fear gets smaller and you become braver. Discipline yourself to deal with your fear, to confront it, to do whatever it involves, as quickly as you possibly can. The payoff for identifying the fear and confronting it is tremendous, it gives you the courage and confidence to go through your life and deal with every fear-inducing situation. So burry the fear of making mistakes. Don’t bother of committing mistakes. For mistakes are an essential part of practicing essay writing. If you don’t commit mistake, you will never learn; if you don’t learn you will never hone your essay skill.
Thirdly, you are courageous enough to pick up the pen and paper; begin your writing exercise with the practice of completing one précis writing first. You must be amazed at sudden detracking from the topic which is focusing on the art of essay writing but how précis takes place in the beginning. The answer is that mastering précis writing gives you training not only in careful reading but also précis gives you clarity of expressing your ideas in concise, accurate and brief form. In short, it polishes your writing skill.
With mastering, précis writing enables you to arrange your thoughts and opinions in a manner best fitted to present those views. That, precisely, is what all essay writing involves. Try your best to make your own attempts. It is not your knowledge alone on the subject that is required by examiner, but it is putting an arrangement of your opinions in place. Mere fragments of information, ill-assorted facts, and figures, unconnected thoughts, un-coordinated ideas and feelings—all these to be avoided by the successful candidate in any examination whatsoever.
Fourth, take any subject. Preferably, from past years’ papers. Ponder deeply over it. Do not begin at once. Think for yourself on the subject, and supplement your thoughts with as much of the best ideas that have been said about the subject as it is possible for you to come across. Understand the topic. For instance, ‘water scarcity problems’. Diagnose what’s asked. Either water scarcity problems in South Asia or Pakistan or in the world or in which region. Try to ponder deeply over it. What is asked? What is it you have got to say about it? What do you know about the subject? Then, select a topic where you can express yourself with conviction and confidence. Now, begin to arrange it in some plan. Do not put the points in the beginning, as some candidates do. For this purpose, devote sufficient time about 15 to 20 minutes in studying the various choices of themes, selecting the topic and noting down points for writing in the back of the answer-sheet or question paper. Then, turn these points into developing an outline on the backside of your question paper.
Remember! the general rule is that arrange the sequence ie introduction, theme/body, and conclusion. When you feel satisfied enough reproduce the outline on your answer sheet as this framework helps to present your essay in the right course with cohesiveness and particular order. It is essential to arrange the ideas in a proper sequence. You should try to cultivate a lucid writing style, which has flow and is smooth to read. Logical and effective writing is a matter of practicing.
Fifth, start your introduction by explaining the topic and its significant features. Try to quote some outstanding opinion on the subject or relevant verse if suits the purpose best. There is any number of them if you care to remember them in the course of your studies. At the end of your introduction, give a blueprint of your ideas you are going to delineate in the body of your essay.
Sixth, the body of your essay occupies main place between the introduction and conclusion. Always make your essay a group of paragraphs, each treating with one or other of the aspects of the subject. It is usual to make the pros and cons of a subject, the advantages and disadvantages of a particular subject in the paper, international and regional aspects of the topic. The general procedure for building the body of the essay is inverted pyramid. By presenting the body of your essay most important point comes first, then move on to the less important point, thereafter lesser important, then, lastly the least important. All these points must be sequenced in a strikingly beautiful manner. Never think that that the examiner who checks your answer sheet does not know the subject. He knows it too well. He wants to know what you know about it and how you present your ideas expressively. He examines how you express yourself and arrange your ideas and thoughts in sequence. And, the examiner alone knows how perfectly terrifying is the experience of reading ill-digested, half-bugged up, and hastily written up essays of many students.
Finally comes the conclusion. And then finish it with an apt conclusion. Never be final in your judgment. For that none can do, not even the omniscient examiner! There is no finality in life, nor for that matter, in an essay. But there must be an ending as there is a beginning. And the concluding paragraph must sum up your views on the subject which you have discussed in the body of the essay between the first and the last paragraphs. This, in short, is the way to attempt a presentable essay of which the examiner will not be afraid to read. Have a sense of proportion but never be afraid of confining your essay within the number of words sought ie 3000 words. An essay should be an essay no matter even written in half of the ibid number advised.
More importantly, the approaching exam ahead is surely a challenging task not only to attempt successfully but getting group allocation of your choice which means a dream materialized at least at this point of age of your career building. The challenge contains a stressful feeling of the weight of expectations from parents, relatives, and friends. The only solution to get through these challenging exam days and overcoming these sources of stress lies in your confidence and belief in yourself that you have worked over the writing skill you have honed through your relentless practice.
One more point and the most significant one I would like to end with here is another key that extensive reading should be complemented with practicing writing. Read the models of essays presented in various books. Read various genera, research papers, editorials, and articles. They enable you cultivating a wide acquaintance with vast variety of subjects. Try to keep always a notebook with you, and collect as many interesting ideas you come across in the course of your reading in general books, newspapers, and journals. If you follow this method, you are sure to succeed in the writing of a good and readable essay. To give you future trajectory for your essay skill, it is admitted fact that no guidebook can produce a good essay writer. Anyone who practices relentlessly over a period of time can surely hone his writing skill, astonishing command over language and make an effective impression on the examiner.
The writer is a former research and policy development officer of Nacta and presently posted in the government of Balochistan. He can be reached at
DisclaimerViews expressed in this article are those of the author and Balochistan Voices not necessarily agrees with them.
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