Why We Write Essays

I love teaching Ander Monson’s “Essay as Hack” essay. He inspires us to continue to write essays for various reasons, but my favorite reason is because the essay represents a “simulated mind.” He explains: 

Each essay we read is as close as we can get to another mind. It is a simulation of the mind working its way through a problem. This is not to suggest that every essay is good, revelatory, successful, fruitful, interesting. But stepping into an essay is stepping into the writer’s mind. We are thrown into the labyrinth, a huge stone rolling behind us. It is a straight shot of the brain in all its immediacy, its variety, strands of half-remembered text, partly-thought-through ideas, images below the surface of memory. We are thrown into process: of thinking, which is like an algorithm, a machine for replicating or simulating thought.

Monson later tells us that “reading essays gets us closer to others’ thinking, or at least the most recent version. Writing them gets us closer to our own. It at least allows us to interrupt the constant motion of our minds to put something down and consider it, think about it from a year removed, or from space on the shuttle, or in a different space, overlooking another view from a new hotel in a different city.”

This is why yesterday marked the 4th year of blogging. All 1460 (yes, 4 years) entries that interrupted the otherwise constant motion of my mind have enriched my life and my relationships. These “little essays” have made all the difference. 

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. 


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2 thoughts on “Why We Write Essays

  1. If, as C.S. Lewis said, citing a student, “We read to know we are not alone,” how much is our hope as we write, that a reader may be edified, enriched, delighted or provoked by our words.
    Congratulations of four years — I enjoy your blogs!


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