It's the eighth grade and your book report on Of Mice and Men is due tomorrow. Are you ready to write 5 paragraphs on Lenny and his rabbits?

Just kidding–but honestly, a majority of us bid adieu to essay writing in college. If your degree is in STEM, you may have not written a non-research paper since high school. For many, it's a welcome goodbye. Overly structured, five-paragraph, “never use the first person” essays are a headache. However, brushing up on your writing skills can work in your favor: 73% of employers want candidates with strong written communication skills.

That’s not to say that you suddenly have to resume writing essays on the founding fathers. Post-graduation, the concept of “essay” becomes much looser. Now, an essay needs to:

  • Be nonfiction
  • Be short (the concept of “short” can vary wildly from 750 words like in Brevity Magazine to 10,000 words like essays in The New Yorker)
  • Express your point view

That's it. You can write a 600-word yelp review on your experience at a local diner—and that, by definition, is an essay.

I’m a (programmer, accountant, designer) so why am I writing an essay, again?

Because writing is like any skill–you need consistent practice. And essay writing can actually be really fun. You just have to shake your preconceived notion of an essay.

There are a few basic types of essays:

  • Op-eds: Short for "opposite the editorial page," this is a written prose piece usually published by a newspaper or magazine that shares the opinion of an author who is an expert in the topic they’re writing about but not a reporter or editor for the publication.

            Read: Keith Riley unpacks the influencer-led disastrous music festival, with “What Marketers Can Learn From the Fyre Festival Fiasco”.

  • Reviews: Restaurants, books, plays, movies, video games–these are essays written about an experience that answers the reader’s question, “Is this worth my time/money?”

            Read: Scott Tafoya’s scathing review of Cats 2019 (“Absolutely nothing works here!”).

  • Personal essays: These essays are usually about a personal experience and written in a much more intimate and personal manner than other essays.

Read: The New York Times’ column Modern Love is one of the most beautiful examples of personal essays, with people submitting their own stories of romance, heartbreak, and happiness.

  • Lyric essays: If poetry and essays had a baby, it would be a lyric essay. Lyric essays are much more stylized and rhythmic.

Read: One of the most famous modern lyric writers, Sherman Alexie, chronicles his childhood on a Native American Reservation in “Indian Education.”

  • Explanatory or exploratory essays: These essays use reporting and research, and generally do not draw on an author's experience. Likely most essays you wrote in school fell into this category. (This blog, actually, fits this category–albeit more informally.)

Read: NPR’s Ravenna Koenig reports on the 2019 yearlong Arctic expedition that will be the largest in history.

So how do I get started?

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula to start writing. You just have to begin. If you need a spark of creativity, there are a few methods to gather inspiration:

  • Check out this prompt generator for inspiration.
  • Set a timer for 15 minutes, and set the goal of writing continuously the whole time. Don’t worry about quality or grammar, just get the creative juices flowing.
  • Pick a movie or TV show you have a strong opinion about (positive or negative) and write a review for it.
  • Try your hand at a blog post–pick a question your clients or others in your industry frequently have, then answer it.
  • Read! A good way to inspire and improve your own writing is to read the work of others. No time to read a novel? Find an online publication you like and peruse the articles during your coffee break.

If you’re still stumped, LMD’s writers, editors, and content strategists can help you brainstorm writing ideas, create compelling copy for your next ad campaign, develop a killer digital content strategy, and review and edit your writing to make it perfect. Contact us!

Account Manager & Content Specialist
As Content Specialist, Morgan supports LMD's accounts with her research, writing, and organizational planning skills. Her writing experience extends to editorial, social media, and thought leadership planning and training. Morgan...Read more