How to Come Up With Essay Ideas

This Fall, I set a goal for myself to write more long form essays. Here’s a few ways that I come up with essay ideas.

Steal Essay Ideas Like Breakdancers Steal Moves

I used to breakdance a lot growing up and a core concept in breakdancing is taking inspiration from other areas and making it your own. Breakdancers would study moves in a variety of disciplines such as karate, gymnastics and ballet, understand the moves, and add their own flavor to it, making the move their own. This is how they develop their own style and create signature moves.

The same is true for writing essays. Most content out there isn’t original; they don’t say anything new. But rather they explain ideas and concepts with their own unique voice.

As an example, this week I read, More To That’s excellent piece Travel is No Cure For the Mind. Personally, I loved it and many other people did too — it’s one of the most popular articles on Medium. Yet, it was inspired by Seneca’s letter of the same name. The author didn’t say anything original, but rather took an existing idea and added his own spin to it.

What do you know that most people don’t?

Think of it relative to the people around you. It can be your industry, your community, your university, etc. The answer to this question suggests an interesting insight that can potentially be valuable to those around you.

What are you scared to write?

Whatever you’re scared to write, write that. There’s something about being vulnerable in your work that resonates with other readers.

October 2, 2020

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