Personal Experience Essay Ideas For Imagination

Let Your Imagination Play

Allow your creativity to have fun

You’ve seen the articles and the personal experiences from other writers. The tales of the grind. All the creativity and wonder that was the first draft, examined under a microscope for every error and confusing sentence structure in the next. The editing process is the most important step to getting your work out to an audience, yet it can be the most brutal.

Have you ever wondered how many potentially amazing novels, screenplays, and articles are just hanging in edit limbo, never to be seen by anyone? Let’s face it, how many times have your creative bombshells hit the paper only to be brought to a screeching halt the second time you run through it? I know some of my own work needs my attention. Hell, some of my work doesn’t even make it out of my brain. Some ideas work so much nicer dancing as concepts, floating in my imagination, free from the reality that the plot doesn’t come together and the characters are only interesting to me.

And that’s what editing really feels like. It’s killing all those untamed ideas that want to run off wild into the far pastures. But, you know the truth deep down. Those ideas need to be wrangled in, brought to bear, and sometimes totally destroyed. How terrible! It’s enough to bring the most inspired moments to a standstill.

How do we break that grind?

Favorite School Subject: Recess

Elementary school had it right. You have to break up multiplying fractions and writing in cursive with some quality jungle gym time. The same principle holds true for the creative process. No matter how much you love what you do, whether it’s writing, drawing, or cold calling random houses about credit cards they don’t have, there will be aspects that aren’t fun. So, you have to take a break from those things. You need to jump off the figurative playground swings and fly through the air for a little bit.

For the creative person, this means allowing your imagination to take over for a bit, and sometimes we need a little help to get the ball rolling.

The Movie Adventure

I don’t know what it is, but going to the movies always feels like a mini adventure to me. I like getting there for the First Look or the Twenty, or whatever the twenty-minute commercial is called before the commercials for other movies start. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the anticipation building. Maybe I like to forget what the hell I’m even watching by the time the twelve different production company logos pretend to be the start of the movie. Who knows?

What I do know is, I can take the stories from movies way too far. A good movie gets me thinking about the characters and what may have happened after the credits roll. A really legendary story will get me thinking about my own stories within that universe. Now, I haven’t succumbed to the temptation to write fan fiction (yet), but I have developed characters in my brain and plot lines, swimming in the ether, that allows me to purely create. It’s like letting my imagination go out to recess and not worry about the spelling test that’s coming when the bell rings. I can develop a character’s personality and fit in a story that makes sense in the given universe. If only people knew how many badass Jedi there are running around in my head.

Call it a waste, taking valuable time from stories that I actually should be writing, but not only is it fine to let your imagination run wild, it’s completely necessary. There have been story elements that I have placed in my own work that started from my creative play time. It also allows for me to stop hating how poorly my sentences flow and get back to the pure creation of fiction writing that has made me fall in love with doing all of this in the first place.

Sometimes, though, you need to really put yourself in the middle of a story.

Death Mountain Hop

There’s nothing like virtually breaking pots and cutting grass to get yourself away from the headache of editing. Yet, video games just might be the most attacked past time for being a complete waste of life. Maybe, it’s more on my own radar because, if anything takes me away from writing, saving Hyrule and doing laps around the Normandy are the worst offenders. There are days I kill way too much time playing games, but there are times it has been completely beneficial for my push through editing.

For the most part, video games allow you to truly become someone else. You take on a role and course your way through a plot, in a way that other genres of storytelling can’t quite match. There’s an investment in the puzzles that are completed and the hordes of bipedal turtles that are jumped on. The imagination can invest in something other than sewing up the ragged edges of your own story for a little bit.

There’s also an inspiration factor. Video games have a unique edge on other stories, especially the lengthy RPG. There’s time to explain every detail. The world building can be as meticulous and expansive as the creators want. Anything that doesn’t fit into the actual plot, can be placed in a codex and unraveled as a player explores the world around them. Those details can let the imagination bask in the pure creation of another creative mind. Those details may not even come into play, but still add depth to the world around the player.

The Witcher is the perfect example. A story based off of folklore and other works in such a detailed fashion that every monster you face has some background to go with it. It was enough to make me dive back into the source material, curious about where all these folklores came from, and how the writers utilized them for their own story. Then I got my own ideas and, oops, I wrote a book inspired by my research into those medieval cultures. Indulging my imagination sure seems like a good idea.

Put Your Feet Up

Watching movies, TV and playing video games won’t help at all if you don’t relax. It’s something you have to allow yourself to do. It almost takes practice. I mean, I have too much practice, but still. We can get so caught up in our own schedules and things we have to do, it’s hard to enjoy the moment. I’ve had near nervous breakdowns knowing that I just have to edit that chapter, I have to develop that character, this scene is never going to work, I need a new story right now, I have to post something to my blog, to medium, I can’t let people forget my articles…then my brain just explodes, which is always good for finishing a creative project. I can stress myself out better than anyone I know, and if you’re like me, you are pretty good at stressing yourself out too.

Think about it this way; we should enjoy the creativity of others because that’s what we hope an audience will do with our own work. Yes, it’s about balance. Yes, I do in fact, have to get that chapter edited today. But, I also can’t let my creativity get bogged down in the overwhelming labor of the doing.

So, go let your creativity play. Set a time for it, make it a part of the schedule you keep wishing you had made for the week. Allow yourself to enjoy it. Then get back to work, refreshed, with new ideas that may just work their way into your own stories.

The following Graduation Writing Proficiency Examination essays were written by HSU students during a regularly scheduled GWPE.  Except for the elimination of cross-outs, the essays are reproduced here exactly as written.  Insofar as possible, the essays were chosen to represent the entire range of possible scores.  (No essay received a score of One on Essay Topic I.)  The majors represented by the authors of these essays are, in alphabetical order, Art, Biology, Business Administration, Environmental Resources Engineering, Fisheries, Geography, Geology, Industrial Arts, and Resource Planning and Interpretation.

Personal-Experience Essay Prompt

You have 45 minutes to write on the following topic.

A distinguished essayist once wrote: "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested."

Write an essay in which you:

  1. Describe a book that has strongly affected you.
  2. Explain how your reading of this book changed your outlook.
  3. Tell why you think this book had such a profound effect on you.
Sample Essay Score:  Six

During my third year of college I became acutely aware of the Womens Rights Issue.  I made an attempt to re-examine many of the cultural norms that I had previously accepted as just being "the natural order of things."  One of the paths I took to expand my awareness of the female psyche involved women's literature.  That is why I spent one weekend of my life in bed--crying, laughing, feeling sometimes confused, and often, incredibly angry and distraught.  On that rainy Humboldt Friday night I had decided to read "The Women's Room."

The author, Marilyn Fridey, describes the lives of several women from the 1950's to present.  These women are nothing out of the ordinary.  They either go to college and then get married, or they get married without bothering about the pretense of college--after all, they know that college is only a way to find more economically promising husbands.  Myra, the main character whose life is traced throughout the book vaguely wonders why she is not content cooking pot roast, scraping shit from the baby's diapers, and picking up her husband's dry cleaning.  Her only solace is the neighborhood of women who share concerns over coffee in the afternoons.

They wonder why Katherine, a Catholic woman who has 9 children and an alcoholic husband, committed suicide.  "She had a normal life, they thought, she just should have talked her husband into using birth control."  As for the rest of the women, including Myra, their lives, fears, disappointments and yearnings, were much more subtle, yet equally suicidal in their quiet desperation.

Many years down the road, Myra's life finally changes. Her husband has "made it", the kids have grown, and life is easy economically.  Myra has a nervous breakdown.  Once recovered, she divorces, and becomes a graduate student at Yale.  Though painful and difficult, it is here that she comes to terms with herself, realizes her potential, and learns to live with herself--not necessarily happily--but at least honestly.

After I finished the story of Myras world that Sunday evening, I woke up in the middle of the night sobbing uncontrollably from a terrible nightmare.  Though I couldn't remember the dream, I came to a profound realization. Myra's life was my mothers.

Most of my life I had revered, respected and admired my father for going to college, being intelligent and worldly, having power and control.  In short for being a man.

My mother always seemed too "wishy-washy", easily trodden upon, overly dependent because she had chosen the role of HOUSEWIFE, MOTHER.  I rebelled against the tradition, and feared wearing those chains someday.  Consequently, I strove to be like my father.

Until this book, I never realized how much more courage it took for a person to live within a stifled role, and find contentment by living through other people.  During that night of crying I understood my mother for the first time--I respected her inner strength, compassion, gentleness.

Ever since then, my relationship with my mother has evolved, and we are very close.  I will probably never adopt the role in life that she chose to take, but I now respect her for her life, and understand the reasons why she made those choices.  Reading of Myra's evolution as a female changed the way I feel towards myself, my feelings and compassion for my mother, and provided me with a much more sensitive view towards the lives of many women in our society today.

Comment:Clearly a well-written, superior essay.  Each of the three parts of the topic is covered and well developed, with considerable detail provided.  Despite an occasional lapse in the use of the possessive and a few other matters, the paper is strong in mechanics.  Sentence structure is sophisticated and effective.

Sample Essay Score:  5

Through the ages of 8-15 I was an avid reader of pleasure books.  The majority of the books were mysteries such as Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys.  Books about animals were avoided because they usually had a very sentimental theme, and I was very emotional when it came to animal suffering.

When I was approximately 10 years old I read a book titled Misty & Chatlenaque.  This book was about a young horse that was stranded on an island.  It had been on a horse-trading ship when the ship wrecked on the rocks.  Misty went through several adventures where wild dogs tried to kill her, horse traders tried to capture her (and beat her in the process), and the sea tried to swallow her.

A little girl who lived on the Island found Misty and tried to protect her from the wild dogs and horse traders.  The story was told from the horse's point view, and the agony and terror Misty went through passed on to me.  I felt as if it were me who was being chased and beat.

A girl at the age of ten is influenced by the things she sees and reads.  Years after reading the book I had the notion that horse ranches were terrible to horses.  I also felt that horses were very human in the sense that they could think, feel, understand, and have emotions.

Whenever I passed by a horse who was behind a fence I had to stop and feed it, talk to it, pet it, and feel sorry for it.  Every horse had that "Misty" look in its eyes, and I felt it was "crying out to me".

After reading Misty and Chatlenaque, horses became more than just an animal to me.  They became something I could relate to and sympathize with.  I myself was a lonely child who felt neglected (even though I wasn't) and "penned".  While reading the book I felt the horse and I were one.  Years later I felt like horses and I had something in common and could relate to each other.

Now, I know horses do not understand what I say to them, but I still stop and talk to them as if they were human.  I feel that if I had not read that book eleven years ago I wouldn't feel as attached to horses as I do now.  To this day, I refuse to read another horse book or watch a horse movie that looks like it might be "emotional" or "sentimental".

Misty & Chatlenaque is still a very prominent book in my mind, and details of it are remembered frequently.  It has had the profound effect of altering my view of horses and will probably remain in my memory for life.  The book also had the effect of making me not want to read those kinds of books again.  Their emotional impact was too great on me so I only read mysteries and school books.  To this day I have my reservations about reading an emotional book, especially if it pertains to animals.

Comment:A very competent paper, nearly free of mechanical errors but lacking the coherent development of the superior essay.  It is also occasionally repetitious and a bit unfocused at times.  (The correct title of this book is Misty of Chincoteaque.)

Sample Essay Score:  4

In the summer of 1981 I worked for the Army Corps of Engineers on the Warm Springs Dam Project.  Much to my objections I was to spend the entire summer living alone, without my wife, since she had obligations to keep in Eureka, California.

The project was located 7 miles southwest of Cloverdale, Ca., in an area which is essentially agricultural.  Housing in the area was very scarce and the lodging which could be found was either too expensive or unsuitable.  By my own preference, I decided it would be nice to camp out in the woods for the entire duration of the summer.

At first the evenings after work were hot but beautifully peaceful.  It didn't take long though until I found my self bored to death looking for something to do besides play solitare.  How did the people in the early days of our world stand life without television.  I was forced to find some other means of entertainment which just happened to be reading.

The only reading material which was at my camp was a book left there by my wife on her last visit entitled "The Stix Complex."  This book to most of the world I'm sure has no great literary value, but to me, it was the greatest entertainment I had ever found.  I realized that in the reading of a book, ones own imagination can bring out much more detail in a story than television ever could.

I don't feel that it was the specific book that struck me so much that summer, and it probably could have been any book.  I realized that we expect to be entertained by television and movies so much that we forget that we can entertain ourselves to a much higher degree.  I still watch television, but I now read much more for enjoyment.

Comment:Although this essay addresses all three aspects of the topic, development of them is thin.  The writer devotes most of the essay to describing his situation and passes rather quickly over the book itself and its effects on him.  Still, despite a few mechanical flaws, this is clearly a competent piece of writing.

Sample Essay Score:  3

I was strongly affected by a book I read called Never Cry Wolf.  The book discribes a remote animal behavor study, located in a mountainous region of northern Canada.  The purpose of the study was to observe the animal behavior of wolfs in there natural environment. The study was conducted by a wildlife biologist, working for the Canadian goverment.

Up until the time I read the book, I had the impression that wolfs where among the meanest creatures on the planet.  I may have received this impression from childhood fairy tales that were told to me.  After reading the book severl times, my impression of wolfs had changed.  I no longer viewed wolfs as mean creatues, but instead viewed them as primarly passive creatures.  Their intent was not to harm, but to survive.

Animal behavior became a primary interest of mine after reading the book, Never Cry Wolf.  Although, I am not a wildlife major, I have assisted in a wildlife study on wolfs.  I would have never gained this experience if I had not read Never Cry wolf.  The knowledge I gained from the book has opened my eyes to nature.

Comment:While no parts of the topic are omitted, treatment of them tends to be superficial.  The writer provides very little supporting detail.  Considerable repetition is present because of the predominantly simple sentences used.  (Note, for example, how the three opening sentences can easily be combined into one: I was strongly affected by a book I read called Never Cry Wolf, which describes the behavior of wolves living in their natural environment in the mountains of northern Canada.)  Spelling is also weak.

Sample Essay Score:  2

The purpose of this essay is to describe my personal experience; that of a particular book which has greatly affected me.  This book is Sweet Thursday by John Stienbeck.  This book has greatly affected my over all outlook on life in general.  Sweet Thursdaychanged the way I think about myself and others.  Also, it has changed the way I feel about my own career.

The main character of the book was Doc.  Doc had a very profound outlook on twards life, which I found quite interesting.  He gave his career all of his attention yet still felt an emptyness inside.  This was because he was without a meaningful relationship with a women.  I too feel this emptyness, but because of Sweet Thursday I am able to understand what it is.  This understanding gives me hope when career goals are overwelming.

Comment:Although this essay does not ignore the question, it treats it very poorly.  The essay is both thin in content and lacking in development.  The writer uses repetitious simple sentences rather than more sophisticated sentence structures which would combine and properly subordinate thoughts and eliminate the repetitions.

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