Our grandson hopped up and down and pointed when he opened a game on Christmas morning. “Hungry Hippos,” apparently, is the most exciting thing next to hockey. However, we soon discovered marbles rolling everywhere around the living room, including under the couch, and a new game, “frustration,” began. We needed a plan to keep all those marbles together. Some minor adaptations proved helpful. No more runaway marbles.
Ever read an essay where the marbles ran everywhere? I confess sometimes they are interesting and fun to read, but if the writer’s purpose is to make a point, then he must keep one main idea running throughout the piece, not several scattered ideas. On the other hand, have you read columns or blogs that stay with you for weeks? Their sticking-power often lies in their cohesiveness, their glue.
Glue your essay together with one specific thought. For example, you could start your essay with “the big idea” or your opinion that, if you want to see change in your life, you must set goals, not resolutions. In the next three paragraphs, lay out at least two reasons why it is important to set goals and one reason why the other opinion–New Year’s resolutions–does not work.
Your first paragraph could make the point that setting goals forces you to be specific, not general. Your second paragraph could state that setting goals allows you to create a timeline. Your third paragraph could challenge the popular tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions and point out how they do not work. Then, in your final paragraph, you could conclude with your main idea again and your support.
If you can sum up your piece in one sentence, your essay will be remembered. One beautiful marble for the reader to look at and recall. If you can’t, then you need to gather those runaway thoughts, choose the best one, and work with it.
If Pam Mytroen could spend all day in her kitchen baking pies, brownies, and making turkey dinner for friends, she would. But Murray Pura once told her to write first and then bake—advice that she is trying to stick with these days, except, of course, when her grandchildren stop in for milk and cookies.