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Where Writers Grow

At our new online home, we’re delighted to share how we look at writing and what it can mean for the writer. Our decade of coaching has deepened our belief in the enduring personal growth a writer experiences in the journey between the blank page and the final draft.

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Stepping Off the Stage

Early in the writing process, performing is my worst enemy. The cursor keeps blinking while I keep staring. The problem in these moments is that I’ve leapfrogged over writing, straight to publishing, and to what I think the audience wants from the final draft. And then … I’m frozen.

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The Process and the Pearl

Here’s an incomplete list of things we don’t typically think about when we think about writing: the doodled-on diner napkins, the hastily-scribbled notes on the backs of receipts, the three cryptic words on a palm: “mulch, apple, Volkswagen.” The scattered moments of potentially promising thought.

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The Creative Freefall

When I started writing in elementary school, the stories flowed out of me like magic. I remember hunching over my paper, scribbling down each chapter as fast as I could. Writing was fun and effortless and — at least the way I remember it — I never agonized over ideas or phrasing.

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Give Yourself Away

As a young writer, I often felt I needed to write about something beyond myself — something accessible only to writers older, more intelligent, more talented than I was. This pressure often resulted in stagnant, dreadful writing, full of clichés.

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The One Who Knows

Her email arrived thirty minutes before we were to meet. She wrote: Attached is the same draft I sent you, but my parents had someone else look at it. The second version on the document was primarily written by my dad.

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To Learn To See Is a Blessing

A few years ago, when a student in the audience at a talk I gave about writing the college-application essay asked me what I would say if I could give only one piece of advice, I responded: “Start paying attention to what you pay attention to.

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Picking the Locks

The fall of my senior year, I spent a very long time not writing my Big College Essay. It was a project I was already supposed to know how to do — two pages with just one job: to capture, in entirety, who I was.

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The Illuminating Incident in the College Essay

I’ve had a lot of practice at writing, and yet I can still struggle to get started, just like many college applicants. Sometimes when I want to try something new, my ideas and ambitions feel so big that it’s a challenge even to write a first sentence.

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The Essayist’s Real Challenge

Don't rush to meaning! A fresher, truer "aboutness" invariably results from patient recollection. And so when "To Write a Great Essay, Think and Care Deeply" appeared in The Atlantic, we applauded.

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The Comedian and The College Applicant | Part Two

Every joke depends on sentence design. Just as a stand-up onstage is alert to the structure and style of delivery, I listen with students to their original ten sentences.

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The Comedian and the College Applicant | Part One

After learning of the delight I take in exploring the evolution of a good sentence, a friend sent me “A Stand-Up Joke is Born" from the New York Times. I didn't expect to see so many parallels between the way comedians work on a joke and the process I've developed at Hillside.

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