Week of 2 Oct 2006
Essay 2 PrewritingMon Tue
Write about your passion.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? What keeps you going through your day? What makes life worth living? Use your passion as your topic, and develop a thesis that makes a specific, non-obvious claim about your passion. Remember to provide a thesis statement that provides the reasoning blueprint that gives shape to the rest of your essay. (Like Essay 1, Essay 2 will be 2-3 pages long.)
You may want to be a movie star, or a sports superhero, or find true love. Those are dreams or long-term goals. It's important to have those goals. But what do you do -- whenever you get the chance -- to keep you going as you pursue those dreams? What gets you excited enough to keep working at something every chance you get?
Look closely at the Showing and Telling handout, in order to make sure that you are not only choosing specific details, but that the details you choose are vivid and precise.
Many students choose to write about their favorite sport. That will work just fine, but what is it about that sport that makes you so passionate about it?
Saying "my sport/activity is fun" or "my sport/activity makes me happy" is not a complex, defensible thesis statement. You don't need to convince me that knitting or kayaking or collecting bottlecaps is the best thing ever invented on the planet, and that anyone who doesn't like it as much as you do is an idiot. Your goal isn't to win an argument. Rather, you should demonstrate your ability to choose vivid, specific details from your own experiences to support a claim that you want to make about your passion. Choose specific details that SHOW me why it excites you so much.
Let's return to the sports example for a moment. You may feel the adrenaline rush when you see the ball coming at you; you may feel the rattling bones when you collide with an opponent; you may feel your muscles burning when you push yourself beyond your own limits. These details are useful, but when they come in a list like this, they don't add up to mean very much.
Rather than give a laundry list of things that happened to you during your senior year, focus instead on a specific choice that you made on a specific day -- perhaps in the middle of a game, or right before your first piano recital, or when you snapped the picture that you entered in your first photography contest.
My own passion is words, but "I love words" is not a thesis statement. Neither is "I love words because X, Y, and Z." But if I used "words" as the topic, I could shift my focus to a specific event that changed my way of thinking.
I am an English professor today becuase of an experience I had in high school physics. No, I didn't fail it. Actually, I did quite well in that class. Admiral Peebles was a retired U.S. naval officer who worked on nuclear submarines. He had us hook up wires to car batteries and shake metal filings onto paper so that we could see the shape of the magnetic fields around the wires. One day, he passed around a Styrofoam cup no bigger than a shot glass, and said a submarine on the bottom of the ocean needs to increase its internal air pressure in order to fight against the huge pressure of the water outside. Just as the weight of the water squeezes the sub, the weight of the air pressure squeezed a regular-sized the foam cup down to miniature size. He expected us to do math to prove we could apply the concepts, but in order to prove that we understood the concepts, we first had to write. "Give me students who can read and write," he said, "and I can teach them math and physics. Give me students who can read and write, and I can teach them to pilot a submarine." His respect for the humanities prompted me to examine other ways that technology and literacy are related. The example of Admiral Peebles helped me to realize not only that writing is a fantastic invention of the human intellect, but also that by teaching literacy skills, I could help change the world.What is my thesis? "By teaching literacy skills, I could help change the world."