Maybe it’s just me, but as soon as I’ve put the effort into writing a full paragraph or section out in complete, well-phrased sentences, I get lazy when it comes to revising them. And I don’t mean checking spelling and grammar – I mean revising at the structural and analytical levels. This can lead to what I call “Frankenpaper:” a paper that includes patches and fragments of writing and ideas that were part of an earlier draft but don’t flow with later, more developed ideas. The best way to avoid “Frankenpaper” from the start is to free-write by hand or make a detailed outline to get your ideas out before you starting actually parsing out a full draft. You’ll be more likely to amend your writing if it isn’t all typed up in neat little paragraphs. If you get a brilliant idea after you’ve done the bulk of your writing, don’t hesitate to annex entire paragraphs and sections and rewrite them. Rewriting is never as difficult as it seems and it may even save you time in the long run struggling to make a paragraph work that, in the end, just doesn’t fit.
This is good advice for any essay-writing situation, but especially when you want to know how to write a personal statement for grad school. Instead of making a long list of your attributes, consider sharing a story which demonstrates those traits. The members of the admissions committee will probably remember an interesting story longer than a repetitive listing of personal characteristics. Be selective in your choice of stories and consider telling the story to friends or family members to see what kind of reaction you receive. You will want a story that relates to the program you hope to study or that exemplifies qualities you will need to have to succeed in the field.
I am only at Tip #2 and can already feel my “inner writer” coming back to life. I’ve been torturing myself for so long — many new ideas and perspectives to share and nothing but dread at the thought of the actual writing. I was always such a “good student”, and by the time I finished grad school I no longer enjoyed either reading or writing. Pretty sad statement, even sadder that the ill effects have lasted three decades.
The only writing advice I’ve read so far basically boils down to: it’s work, you just have to do it, set aside a specific time and force yourself…. all about as appealing as my mother’s shoe leather lamb chops. I can’t thank you enough for your approach. I think it’s going to work for me, and just know I am immensely grateful beyond what words can express. Yes!