Finding the main point of your essay often feels like searching for a mythological beast in the woods. When we start hunting, the process is long, winding, and stressful. But maybe it doesn't have to be.
There are too many parallels between writing essays and chasing Sasquatches. We're overdue for a comprehensive field guide. The parallels are insane. Both are "discovery processes" that can be extremely strenuous if you don't know what you're doing.
Before you start your hunt, you're excited how your discovery will read in TIME. "This will be the best idea ever."
Midway through, you're not sure if the damn thing ever existed in the first place. "I've lost my mind."
It's so easy to give up on the hunt for our furry friend. This is why our unfinished Drafts bucket overflows. "Something's missing."
Your "Aha" moment hits you like a train of clarity. All of a sudden you're curious again. It makes the whole journey worth it. You know you've found your big idea when it's clear, bold, surprising, and clever. Bubbles gets it.
- A Sasquatch is (anatomically) huge (if true) - it's bold.
- It'll shatter your world view - it's surprising.
- It's elusive, and sometimes hard to find - it's clever.
- BUT, you'll know it when you see it - it's clear.
You can use these four qualities of Sasquatch to test early ideas you're considering. It's a way to see if you're onto something before you venture out on a 7-hour trek. Running a title & subtitle through this rubric is a great pre-writing step to see if you're onto something worth obsessing over.
Even if we start on the right foot, there's always a journey into the unexpected. As Salvador Dali said, "If you know what you're going to paint, why even start?"
We can write for hours without fully arriving at something that shakes us and gives us the chills. Every hour we can try something different. We hide in trees, play the kazoo, leave trails of laxative berries. Nothing works.
Then one morning when you're heating up beans, you randomly find yourself face to face with an eight foot beast. You're in the right place, at the right time, in the right lighting, with a can of Frijoles in your left hand, and 15-megapixel cell phone camera in your right hand.
The journey was random. Without a real understanding of how or why you discovered Sasquatch, you did. Transmitting your finding to the world is an obligation. The world needs the juicy photo of your beast!
If you discover your Sasquatch mid-essay, but don't re-write, it can feel like a bit like Where's Waldo. The Sasquatch is in there, but there's so much noise, that it's actually pretty easy to miss it.
The journey to find Sasquatch
An unmistakable picture of (angry) Sasquatch
Discovery is a two part process: search and convey.
If you wrote a draft without knowing the Sasquatch, chances are, it's not structured in a way for a total stranger to see it clearly.
If you showed them the image on the left, they'll say, "Maybe there's a Sasquatch in there?"
If you show them the image on the right, you'll get a, "Holy fuck it's a god-damn Samsquanch!"
Moral of the story: You don't have time to re-write all of your essays from scratch. But the ones that matter to you are almost always worth it.
First write for yourself, then write for your reader.