Writer’s Corner: Choosing a Topic for a Personal Essay

By Alyson Lyon

When it comes to  personal essay writing, there are an infinite number of topics. One could write about almost anything, from the family dog to an upsetting vacation to a torturous first day of high school. Essentially any experience is valid as a topic, as long as the writer’s unique point of view is central to it.

Personal essay writing is essentially a form of self-exploration that begins with the choosing of a topic. The topic alone should give the reader some insight into the mind of the writer. Undeniably great personal essay topics are honest and specific. So, when choosing a topic, think in terms of something you can be passionate about, what hits home, what excites you, what moves you.

Begin to brainstorm. List all the topics you think are worthy of examination. Maybe that time in 3rd grade when you tripped on the playground and everyone laughed. Maybe describing the contents of your father’s closet. Maybe the first job you ever held. The point is to pick something that will give you ample room to discover yourself and let your readers in.

Making lists can be helpful in choosing a topic. For example, if you know you want to write about the holidays with your family, start listing specific instances that illustrate your overall feelings. Sketch out a scene or two. If you do this for a slew of ideas, you‘ll easily be able to decide which to write about.

And remember, whatever you choose will be a reflection of you, so choose with your best interest in mind!


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