Taking the Essay Journey

Is life one big journey? Or is life a lot of smaller journeys?

Whatever way you look at it, your journey belongs to you. And the same should be said of your coursework.

photo by Matthias Rhomberg
photo by Matthias Rhomberg

Whether you see your assignments as a long journey, or a range of shorter journeys brought together, the finished piece should also take the reader on a journey.

The journey analogy helps to show that while introductions are different to conclusions, the two still need to be related to make the most of the adventure.

An introduction is an invitation for the reader to come on a journey with you.

You outline where you’re headed and why you’ve decided to take this path. You may even suggest a couple of stop off points along the way so the reader is ready to take some mental photographs of the best views.

A conclusion allows you to sum up what you’ve explored and how you feel about it.

Now is your chance to evaluate the situation, discuss the destination you’ve chosen, and allow readers to either go home or press on and explore further.

Views are subjective.

Not everyone likes looking out to sea. Some are more interested in mountains before them.

Your introduction won’t suggest that the sea is better than the mountains. Your conclusion won’t suggest that you’ve proved how mountain-loving idiots are just plain wrong.

Your introduction will point out the amazing range of views to be had and that you’re about to explore some of them. Your conclusion will point out why, given the adventure you’ve just had, you feel the sea is pretty darn awesome and why it may give mountains a run for their money.

Map our the journey clearly

Make sure your introduction and conclusion are headed in the same direction. The last thing you want is to tell everyone that you’re about to take a journey to the sea and send everyone off to the mountains instead. It’ll only end in tears and confusion.

Don’t be afraid to make the journey your own

Steve Jobs sadly passed away on October 5 2011. As co-founder, CEO and Chairman of Apple, Jobs had a thing or three to say about setting out your own path:

“The system is that there is no system. That doesn’t mean we don’t have process.” – Steve Jobs [Source]

Creating your own journey doesn’t have to exclude others from understanding the relevance of the path you have travelled. Neither does it mean you’ll ignore everyone else along the way. If Jobs had done either of these things, Apple and its products wouldn’t have enjoyed the success they have.

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs [2005 Stanford Commencement Address]

Journeys aren’t just for essays. I hope every journey you take is special. You can make each and every pathway your own. You don’t need to be another Steve Jobs or another anyone else. You need to be YOU.

As Jobs said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life”.