‘Essay’ is a dirty word. Here’s why…

Digging through a remarkably large list of articles and essays from Paul Graham I came across an essay entitled The Age of the Essay.

It begins with this:

The most obvious difference between real essays and the things one has to write in school is that real essays are not exclusively about English literature. Certainly schools should teach students how to write. But due to a series of historical accidents the teaching of writing has gotten mixed together with the study of literature. And so all over the country students are writing not about how a baseball team with a small budget might compete with the Yankees, or the role of color in fashion, or what constitutes a good dessert, but about symbolism in Dickens. 

I can’t speak for you, but I had a serious ‘aha’ moment after reading that paragraph. This is something that all of us probably just know, but haven’t taken the time to consider fully.

I would highly recommend you read The Art of the Essay. Paul has a great style and interesting philosophies about writing.