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When I first started to write my business school essays, I quickly grew frustrated at the lack of words, rather the right flow of words, to describe my thoughts. I thought I had a sound grasp on my thoughts but then I spent hours together staring at a blank screen.
Back then, I attributed my difficulty in writing to not being a prolific writer.
Later I realized it was a problem with even the most accomplished writers. It even has a name – ‘Writer’s Block’
For most clients that I’ve worked with, writing the essays, especially the first draft is the most challenging bit. Many of them have great command over the language, are articulate, yet they find it an arduous task to pen down their thoughts.
I overcame my own challenge when I found myself a mentor to help me with writing my essays. In hindsight, my mentor encouraged attitudinal and behavioral changes that helped elevate my writing and thereby, my essays to a much higher level.
If you are struggling with your own essays, here’s why you should consider having a mentor –
Without feedback, it’s difficult for us to know what we are doing right or what needs to be improved. It’s important to have a credible source providing that feedback. In my case, my mentor was an alum of the business school I was applying to. He had been through the process himself besides being experienced in mentoring other aspirants. Additionally, he always offered honest feedback. If my writing was terrible or incoherent, he would point it out without mincing his words. He would offer helpful pointers on how I could rectify my mistakes. Both his honesty and support guided me to find my own voice, to bring in more clarity in my thoughts and writing. Above all, it made me humbler when receiving feedback, not just as a writer but also as an individual.
Horse with blinders on
That’s what we become when we are steeped in our thoughts, figuring out ways to transform them into words. It’s difficult to look at our writings from different angles, simply because we become too attached to it. Also, when writing business schools, there is an element of urgency; one doesn’t want to write forever because there’s an entire application or applications to worry about!
A good mentor will bring in that unbiased perspective to your writing. She or he can assess whether your essays answer the essay questions with the right amount of depth, clarity and conviction. Mentors can see whether the tone of your essays reflects the values business schools want to see in their future students.
And often when you, submerging in detail, are in danger of going off track, your mentor will guide you back on the right path. The right amount of depth, the right kind of writing style, right down to business school appropriate language will all be pointed out by experienced mentors.
It’s not uncommon to see your first draft being shredded or covered in red with tons of comments. It’s hugely disappointing because you’ve to start all over. Don’t get disheartened. Good mentors understand the submission constraints but also don’t want to compromise on quality. One of the ways, I bring in more focus when mentoring my clients is to draw up a schedule by when they’d turn in their essay drafts and by when I’d review their essays. This helps set the right expectations on both sides. My clients find that the schedule helps them fight inertia by staying focused on delivering the drafts. And if they find themselves in danger of missing the timelines, they flag off to me whatever is delaying their progress. What follows next is that I, together with my clients, find ways to overcome the hindrance.
Summing it up
In my own experience as a mentee, I’ve benefitted immensely from the wisdom and experience of a good mentor. Today, when I mentor my clients, many of the lessons that I share with my clients have a huge element of empathy. I know what it feels like when you start to write your business school essays. If you ever think the process is difficult, beyond your ability and you are better off delaying it or giving up altogether – please don’t. Just like the many firsts in our lives, writing business school essays is only tough at the start. Persist and you’ll see that your writing will improve with each successive draft. You may even start to enjoy writing just as I did.
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction” – John C Crosby