Personal writing has always been a favorite genre of mine to read and write. I imagine many agree with me; the very nature of the persona essay seems to make it generally likable. If I had to describe that nature in two words, I would say: relatable uniqueness.
I felt this phrase as watched a couple dozen students’ introductory videos and read five of the matching personal essays. Many of the stories were near-retellings of experiences I’ve had myself: family councils, auditioning for music groups several times before making it in, funerals of elderly relatives I never knew well. But each essayist brought something foreign to me, whether it was quirky diction, the expression of feelings I’d never had in my parallel experiences, or a scripture connection I’d never thought of.
Admittedly, several essays described events I’ve never seen in my own life, such as the death of a father, and being in an emotionally abusive relationship, and suicide. But I was still able to relate to these essayists because of the emotions they described in their work. So these, too, demonstrated relatable uniqueness.
I would’ve deemed the essays’ video introductions superfluous except for the fact that seeing and hearing the essayists strengthened my connection to them and their writing. The writers who gave me a taste of their stories had the most effective videos for that reason. Similarly, while each essay I read impressed and touched me to some extent, I found certain literary approaches more effective than others. The essays that hit me hardest and quenched my thirst were those with a clear theme carried clearly but not redundantly throughout the piece. I’ll have to remember and apply this when I write my own personal essay(s) in the future.