Essay Two: Autobiographical Essay
Due Dates:† 1st Draft:† 9/11/01
2nd Draft:† 9/13/01
Final Draft:† 9/18/01
Your purpose in this essay is twofold:† first to describe persons and narrate significant events in your life, and second to analyze how these experiences relate to your attitudes toward the world and how these attitudes have influence your thinking, values, and beliefs.† This essay gives you the opportunity to reflect on and analyze the personal experiences that have shaped your attitudes toward yourself, your family, your community, and the world.†††
Your are to reflect upon your life and choose a period of time during which you experienced some type of change. The change may be either physical, emotional, spiritual, or any combination thereof; the change is not limited to these examples. The time period should be approximately a week or more (any period of time longer than); one single day does not an event make, unless the single dayís event is so dramatic that change occurs over a period of time as a result of that single dayís event.
The event may be as a result of a personís actions or inactions, a geographical move, a tragic accident, winning the lottery, winning a sports championship, losing your best friend to cancer, etc. The possibilities are endless.
This phase in time should begin with an example of how you were before the phase began. Give the reader a good sampling of what you were like before; help the reader draw a mental image. Describe the phase in detail, but do not overwhelm your reader with irrelevant details. What was the initial "spark" that started the phase? Was it a person? An animal? An event? A non-event? Show how the phase progressed. During this, give a sampling of the change in you as it began to take place. Then show your reader the difference in you now, after the phase. Perhaps explain or comment on if this change was for the better or the worse; we are not here to judge each other, simply improve our writing. Give the phase a solid conclusion, perhaps a parable-type ending with a moral (if applicable).
Possible sources for topics include phases when you:
Played on a winning (or losing) sports team.
Were a character in a school play.
Were trying to keep a New Yearís resolution or a promise to someone.
Were recovering from a serious accident or injury.
Were experiencing spiritual growth.
Were rebelling against your parents and/or other authority.
Were influenced by a teacher, coach, or other authority figure.
Were struggling to keep up in a difficult class.
Were campaigning for an election (either yourself or another candidate).
Were adjusting to a change in your familyís situation.
Were learning to do something completely new to you (swimming, hang gliding, playing guitar, underwater basket weaving, etc).
Went to summer camp.
Were falling in (or out of) love.
Were moving to a new place (either across town or the country).
Were becoming (un)popular.
Were joining a new social or civic group.
Became a leader for the first time.
Try to choose a phase that ended some time ago instead of one that is still occurring or recently ended. This will allow you to reflect, which is important to the autobiographical phase style of writing.
Journal Exercise for Autobiograhy Assignment
List two or three phases you could write about. Be sure these are phases you went through some time ago, and that each of them lasted for more than just a couple of days. They should be times when you changed in a way that was important in your life.
Pick the one you would most like to write about. Put a star by it on the list you made. Make sure you have chosen a phase you are not still going through right now or one that only recently ended. It is difficult to reflect and see clearly when we are still involved or so close to the phase.
Write three or four sentences telling why this phase is important to you, how you changed during this phase, and why you would like to write about it.† Now, below the sentences you have just written, make a list down the page of the main things that happened during the phase, from beginning to end. Donít tell the story yet. Just list the most important parts of the story.
Under your list, write one sentence telling when your phase took place (what year, season, month for example) and where your phase happened; this may be more than one place.
Here comes the big question: of all the phases you listed back in step one, is this the one you most want to write about? If you are not sure, if you are uncomfortable with it, if it brings back too painful memories, you may wish to pick a different phase. Itís not too late to change your mind.
If you do pick a different phase, then do steps three and four above for the new phase.
Once you have chosen the phase you will write about, freewrite on this topic for 5 minutes.† Freewriting is a special kind of writing that lets you use the act of writing to ďdiscover" what you already know. It works only if you write without planning and without looking back at what you have already written. Set a specific period of time (say, five minutes) then write non-stop, without worrying about spelling or grammar. Write as fast as you can for as long as you can or until time expires. If you reach a point where you can no longer think of anything to write, simply rewrite your last word over and over again until something comes to mind. The simple plan is to keep writing, no matter what.
You will be surprised at how many ideas you can get down in five minutes.