I have always loved writing. It has always been a channel for me to authentically express myself, to explore new ideas, and to exercise my creativity. However, my style of writing has always been quite flowery and abstract. I have a naturally non-linear writing style that flows freely, like a stream of consciousness, but can sometimes be difficult to understand. My mind always spins with metaphors and imagery, and conveying these thoughts through writing has always been a joy to me. I wish to express myself fully and authentically in my college essay, but I fear that colleges will find my writing style too pretentious, decked out in “purple prose”. I have a a free-flowing writing style that bleeds with my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. While many people might interpret my writing as trying too hard to be creative, it comes freely and naturally to me. I wish I could simply allow my thoughts to expand without worry, to unleash my insecurities and to genuinely express myself through my words. However, at the same time, because my writing is deeply personal and filled with subjective observations and metaphors, I feel that colleges may not understand the ideas I am trying to convey. I think (as of now), that I will write an essay about a quote that my elementary grade teacher told me that profoundly impacted my perspective in life, and I want to allow it to take form in my thoughts, flowing wildly without rule or convention. I care so much about expressing myself in the truest way, but my naturally poetic thought process can come across as a puzzle sometimes, filled with non-linear thoughts and abstract observations.
It’s as if I am molding a sculpture of my thoughts, shaping each idea and nuance into my own unique sculpture. It expresses who I am, holding my fears, dreams, and hopes. But to others, it comes across as confusing, pretentious and like a blob of clay, with no meaning or substance.
Should I allow my thoughts to freely wander, abstractly, bringing my perspectives onto the page? Or should I try to keep my style linear and traditional? I want to express myself in a unique and thoughtful way, but I don’t want to come across as pretentious or confusing.
Thanks so much for your help!
First, you must remember that the essay is only 650 words. The type of writing you are describing is very difficult to shape into such a short piece.
Secondly although you personally admire and appreciate your writing style, IMHO, you must ask yourself, if others can not understand what I am trying to say, is it truly effective? The purpose of writing is to be able to convey thoughts to others.
At the very least, work with a good English teacher on your essay and maybe you can shape your stye into an essay that would be a successful for a college application. Good luck!
Practice on what you wrote above, cut it in half, then half again. And/or Imagine you only have one minute to get the same thoughts across. Others may say, give us the 2-3 sentence digest, only that, as practice. You’ve repeated the same thought multiple times, when once would be enough.
I agree with EA that there’s writing for yourself and then writing for others. (And it’s a hot argument topic among writer friends.) I believe all your college app/supp writing is for the reader. The ability to self edit is critical. And concise writing, when needed, is a life skill.
We have no idea where you want to study or what.
Several people in history have made similar statements, but this one is by Benjamin Franklin: “I have already made this paper too long, for which I must crave pardon, not having now time to make it shorter.”
The purpose of your essay is to market yourself. You want to give the school a reason to accept you. Do you think flowery, over expressive writing is the way to accomplish that? You acknowledge that others find your writing style pretentious and confusing. Is that how you want admissions to think about you?
Thank you so much for your advice, everyone.
My current piece is 580 words, so although the length isn’t the issue, it is still filled with many flowery words and metaphors. Of course, I don’t want admissions to think of myself as pretentious and confusing, so I will try to edit it into a more concise and straightforward style. Although nobody has ever described my writing as pretentious or confusing, I fear that they will due to its very poetic style.
I’ve always written for myself and found my own writing beautiful and meaningful because it personally resonates me. Perhaps writing for others is a skill that I still need to develop. I will reach out to my English teacher and try to gain perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of my current essay. My school is also offering a college essay workshop, so I might participate in that too.
After reading these two posts from you, I find your “natural poetic process” rambling and repetitive, with lack of direction.
Choose your words carefully, pay attention to meaning, and be very concise. Focus on writing your essay for the reader.
My middle son used to write a lot like you. I’ve been very happy that his college professors have taught him to write more clearly and concisely. It’s an important skill to learn.
You’re absolutely right. I can be rambling and repetitive, with a lack of direction. But I am still learning, and still trying to understand how to formulate my thoughts in a cohesive, direct way.
Honestly, while writing these posts I felt extremely tired and confused. I am currently dealing with insecurities about myself, about my personality, my purpose in life, and even my writing style itself. Maybe I shouldn’t have started this thread in such a negative mental state.
Others have described my writing style as eloquent, thoughtful, and emotional. When writing essays for school, my English teachers have told me that I have potential, and that my thoughts are insightful and easy to understand, although I can be overly detailed and rambley at times. For the most part, I received As and Bs in my AP English essays, and a 5 on the AP English Language exam. I was under the impression that I had a good command of the English language, and that I had the ability to express my thoughts in a unique and original way.
Thank you for your thoughts, anyway. I appreciate your perspective; I am still on my journey of self-discovery and growth as a writer, and perhaps this is one of the stepping stones in the process.
It is hard to say whether your writing style is problematic without seeing a sample, because we cannot know without seeing your essay whether it in fact is pretentious, wordy, etc. If you would like to send me an excerpt (or the whole thing) in a message, I’ll be happy to take a look and let you know if I find your writing style problematic.
Thank you so much for your offer. Because I’m new to this website, I don’t have enough posts to send you a private message. Could you send me a message first?
“Others have described my writing style as eloquent, thoughtful, and emotional.”
But now you’ll be writing for college app/supps, not your own pleasure.
Before sending any essay to a forum stranger, speak with your teachers.
Why? You’re not writing for yourself, you’re trying to get a message across to your readers. They’re going to be very busy people with only a handful of minutes to spend on your app. I don’t believe they’ll take the time to look for hidden meaning. If it comes off as pretentious or confusing, I don’t think it will help you much.
Thanks for your opinion. At this point, it is very unlikely that I will use my current essay as it does not fit into the mold that colleges want or “the message” I want to send across to readers. So, I will continue to experiment with essay ideas and making my writing more concise.
That was so nicely concise!
Google “hack the college essay”–a short, readable “instruction manual” for writing the college essay. I think you would find it extremely helpful at this particular point in time.
I think you have the makings of a good writer. Try not to get too anxious about the essay. As one admissions officer said, generally essays just confirm what they see in the other parts of the application. (Teacher recommendations, good grades etc.) Occasionally there’s an essay that is so good that the applicant gets moved up a notch. Occasionally one is so awful the application goes in the reject pile despite the rest of the application.
Your first post isn’t that bad, I’ve seen much worse in terms of flowery and long winded. It seems longer than it is because you have to make sure you’ve double spaced between paragraphs the way CC’s comment box is set up now.
There are different styles of writing. You college essays are not creative writing exercises, they are more persuasive. Think “here’s what you need to know about me that makes me a great addition to your campus” not a writing sample. Not a knock on your writing, just a reminder that different situations require different styles. It’s good to recognize this since in college you will have to tailor your style to the class - just wait until you have a lab course that requires you to write in passive voice.
Hi everyone, thank you so much for your help. These past few months I have spent a lot of time working on my essays and I believe that they are written concisely, but also in a way that represents who I am and highlights my unique voice. Thank you for opening my eyes to the importance of being persuasive here-it was certainly a different approach to my creative writing, in which I mainly focused on myself instead of an audience. Even though the process was stressful at times, I’m grateful for all of the growth and introspection I’ve experienced along the road.
Thanks for coming back with an update, @janeaustennerd! You handled a lot of criticism (even when it is constructive, it still can hurt!) well.