The Reflective Essay


Our lives are funny things. We often define them by what we are, by what we are not, by where we are, and by where we are not. I like to say things like “I am from Seattle,” and “My family came from Sweden,” or even “My wife has red hair.” Funnily enough, though, these things do very, very little to actually offer much insight into who we are.

So let’s deal with it.

In our first essay of the year we’ll be reflecting on ourselves through a series of metaphors that we create. Author Zora Neale Hurston defined herself as a brown paper bag filled with “a first-water diamond, an empty spool, bits of broken glass, lengths of string, a key to a door long since crumbled away” and “a nail bent under the weight of things too heavy for any nail.” As we begin writing our first essay, start thinking about what things might help to illustrate who you are as a person. We’ll be sharing them together to get some ideas flowing.

To get an overview of the entire unit, you can check out the Unit Goals summary here. It isn’t exhaustive, but it should give you a clear idea about what I expect of you. It also connects with the Writing Portfolio, which you should take a look at.

Here’s the first of our prewriting assignments.

For your reading pleasure (and for an example of how to write topic sentences that aren’t boring and rote) here is Hurston’s essay How it feels to be colored me.