Because personal essays are more than diaries and journal entries, you need to remember that although the experience or memory is important to you, it must be of interest to people who do not know you. Therefore, selecting your topic and composing it in a writing style that will appeal to readers is the challenge of writing personal essays. These exercises are designed with this in mind.
In several pages, write about a personal experience that is memorable to you. Do it in one draft and don't worry about the style-just get it down. It's the substance that matters. Read it over and ask yourself why this would be of interest to a perfect stranger. If you can't come up with a good answer, then you know you don't have the basis for a personal essay. On the other hand, if you think it does have appeal to a wide audience, ask a few people who are barely acquaintances to read it and see if it means anything to them. If they answer in the affirmative, press them to find out why to make sure they're not just being polite.
Unlike Exercise 1, give the matter a good deal of thought and select a personal experience or reminiscence that you believe will be of interest to others. In ten pages or so. write the essay and feel free to suggest any insights or opinions you have while not transforming the essay into a commentary. Make liberal use of all the techniques discussed in this chapter. When you're done and before rewriting and editing, decide if the piece is best described as a popular or literary personal essay so you know where to submit it once it's polished and complete.