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If you want to write a great college essay you’ve got to start with great ideas. Lots of them. In this phase, you’ll think of lots of ideas, discover your stories, and write the raw material that will ultimately turn into a great college essay.

Now that you’ve completed the foundation phase and learned more about college essays and the process you’ll use to write yours, let’s check in again.

Right now, how do you feel about writing your essay?

Pretty good

Hooray! We’re glad you’re starting out with a good attitude. And, don’t worry if it doesn’t always feel that way. Professional writers and celebrated authors often describe the writing process like a roller-coaster ride, with lots of ups and downs and twists and turns. The most important thing is to remember to follow the instructions and stay on the ride till the end.

If you do, it all turns out. Promise.

Yep, we get it. That’s how a lot of the students we work with feel about writing essays. We’ll help you get there.

Remember, writing is work. It takes real thinking (not just the reading and learning what someone else has said kind of thinking), and sometimes even the best writers feel kind of down on it. So, don’t imagine that you need to feel all gung-ho every step of the way. As you go through the process, know that we’ve designed it for students just like you by working with lots and lots of students who felt the same way. The process worked for them, and it will for you too.

The good thing is, you can’t do this wrong. Just keep going.

Don't ask

That bad, huh? Don’t worry, we all have those moments. It’s part of writing. Think of all you’re doing – you’re learning something new; you’re looking at yourself in new ways, you’re trying to find a way to express to people you don’t know what it’s like to know you.

That’s a lot. It might even be kind of weird if your brain didn’t hurt a little bit. We built this process specifically to help you get through all that to a great essay. And be ready to be surprised, you might even like it by the end.

But for now, just dive in and do the activities. Everybody is different. It might take a while to feel better. And sometimes a few quick successes like just finishing some exercises can make all the difference.

No matter where you are, stick with it and you’ll end up with an essay you’ll be proud of.

Here’s a quick overview of what’s coming up

Remember in the intro video when we said during this process you would take on being someone different in each phase? (If you need a reminder, you can watch the video again.)

Well, in this phase your job is to be a thinker.

When you’re being a thinker, your attention is on ideas. How can I get ideas? How can I get more ideas? How can I come up with new and different ideas? If you listen to the experts, generating a lot of ideas is fundamental to the creative process. So that’s what this phase is all about.

As a thinker, you don’t have to put any focus or attention on structure, meaning, flow, language, grammar, spelling, and all the other stuff we typically think of when we think about writing.

In this section you will:

Find a bunch of Story Starters

Write a TON of raw content

Self-review your work

When you’re being a thinker, don’t:

  • Try to write well
  • Think in terms of organization or a finished essay
  • Edit as you go

You may be used to doing this for school papers, but here it will just slow you down without making the essay any better.

We often see students try to cut back on what they write or edit as they go, thinking that they need to fit to the word limit from the beginning. No. No. And no.  This will just mess you up. Trying to edit as you go will just block great ideas and phrases from ever getting to paper.

Later on (in the Storyteller, and Writer phases) we’ll help you make decisions about what to include and what to leave out. We’ll show you ways to trim and polish what you’ve written to get down to that word limit and to improve your writing.

So instead, when you’re being a thinker, do

  • Give yourself the freedom to not know the topic of your final essay (yet)
  • Take the time to let your ideas percolate and bubble in the back of your min
  • Explore many different stories
  • Break your work up into smaller writing session
  • Regularly review what you’ve written, and get feedback using the feedback for
  • Go for quantity, quantity, quantity!

As you create raw content, you may start to think about your topic differently. You can let it grow, evolve or even change completely. This is all part of the writing process.

You’ll know you have enough raw content when read what you’ve written and see enough to organize it into a story that says something meaningful about you.

The Being a Thinker steps

1. Find some story starters

The more ideas, the better! This isn’t about finding “The Perfect Topic.” It’s simply finding stories and ideas you could write about. You have no idea where they’ll take you!

2. Write a TON of raw content.

How do you get amazing content for your essay? You have to write, write, and write some more. But not good stuff. Start with garbage, and lots of it. We’ll show you some sneaky tricks that will unlock the stories and ideas hiding in the back of your mind. They’re in there. We promise!

3. Self-review your work.

How do you know if you’re on the right track? We’ll give you some powerful self-review tools that will help you determine just that.  Then, using a specially designed feedback form, you can get some useful input from people who know you well. We’ll have you check your work regularly–that’s one of the secrets of great communicators.

Before you start on the steps for this phase, watch this quick video about how your brain works and why coming up with lots of ideas is critical to the process. You’ll  learn how to unleash the power of your brain, and that will make writing a great essay a lot easier.