The Age of the Essay: Uncovering the True Essence of Writing

Alessio Frateily

Hatched by Alessio Frateily

Nov 27, 2023

3 min read


The Age of the Essay: Uncovering the True Essence of Writing

In "The Age of the Essay," the author delves into the true nature of essays and how they are written. A common misconception is that essays are solely focused on English literature, but in reality, they encompass a wide range of subjects. However, the teaching of writing in schools has predominantly been inherited by English professors, leading to a focus on literature as the subject of writing. This shift has its drawbacks, as an expert in literature does not necessarily equate to being a skilled writer.

The introduction of research into the curriculum further complicated the teaching of writing. While professors in other fields, such as math or history, could conduct original research in their respective areas, the professors of rhetoric or composition faced a challenge in finding suitable research topics. English literature seemed to be the closest fit, leading to a skewed emphasis on literature in writing education.

Furthermore, the author highlights the difference between real essays and the essays students are often required to write in school. Unlike school essays that take a definitive position and defend it, real essays explore questions and attempt to figure something out. They are not bound by predetermined theses but are rather characterized by curiosity and exploration.

The historical origins of essays are traced back to Michel de Montaigne, who published a book of "essais" in 1580. Montaigne's approach to writing was distinct from that of lawyers, as his essays were attempts to figure something out rather than arguments defending a position. The French verb "essayer," meaning "to try," perfectly encapsulates the essence of an essay—an endeavor to understand and explore.

Moving on to "Your First 60 Days" by Patrick McKenzie, the focus shifts to the realm of entrepreneurship and building a successful business. McKenzie emphasizes the importance of the microconf mentality, which allows individuals to lead the lives they desire. By making wise decisions, knowing what to build, and creating a marketing platform to attract the right audience, entrepreneurs can achieve a better work-life balance and make a positive impact on their communities.

While the first 60 days of a business venture are crucial, it is equally important to maintain consistency and focus on the long-term goals. Providing value to the community and capturing value for oneself should be the guiding principles throughout a 40-year career. It is imperative not to lose sight of the "why" behind the business and to remember that the ultimate goal is to make a meaningful impact.

Additionally, McKenzie offers actionable advice on creating an email course. He suggests making a promise with every subject line and overdelivering on that promise. This copywriting trick is essential in capturing the audience's attention and building trust. It is also important to strike a balance between educational content and sales emails, ensuring that sales pitches are given their own space to avoid being overshadowed.

Front-loading delivery is another crucial aspect of an email course. By providing immediate value to subscribers, entrepreneurs can establish a positive rapport and keep their audience engaged. Regular communication is also key, with an initial frequency of approximately three emails per week in the first week and six emails per month in the first month. After the course concludes, the frequency can be adjusted to once every two to four weeks, allowing subscribers to decide if they genuinely enjoy the content.

In conclusion, the art of writing essays goes beyond the confines of school assignments. Real essays are driven by curiosity and the desire to explore, rather than defending a specific position. Moreover, building a successful business requires a long-term perspective and a focus on providing value to the community. By incorporating actionable advice, such as making promises, front-loading delivery, and finding the right balance between education and sales, entrepreneurs can effectively engage their audience and achieve long-term success.

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