I’m writing this post for myself right now, and not as a particular tutorial.

But this is something I struggle with a lot, and it occurred to me that maybe I could think through it on the page.

I struggle with writing personal essays. Not the short story variety, but usually in a short bio capacity. Resumes are a good example. Any sort of school application essay is also a common one. Cover letters too. Or if you need to share some background about yourself as a guest speaker.

I know I am not the only one.

Many people I consider to be very strong and rather prolific writers also experience this kind of paralysis.

Words just stop. I can’t get to the finish line.


Overanalysis Paralysis

Something I realized quickly, and hence the title of the post.

When you are unable to write, it is one of two reasons:

  1. You don’t have something to say
  2. You have something to say, but there are obstacles in the way

In my experience, the latter is far more common. Most people have some kind of inner dialogue, even if they are introverted, that means that they have something to say.

I suspect I am dealing with a very specific kind of block though.

Picture a crowded room of people all trying to run out the same tiny door at the same time.

What happens?

They get stuck.

No one gets out.

I think this is what happens when I have too much to say.

I get into a loop where I want to say everything and my thoughts are just flying everywhere. And I don’t want to lose any of these thoughts.

So I get stuck trying to chase these scampering critters around, spinning myself in circles and ultimately unable to shepherd even a single one out the gates.

Personal Essays Are Hard

I got to thinking: why do these particular types of essays seem to stump so many people?

Two reasons:

  1. Lack of perspective/too many details. It is hard to see the forest for the trees when it comes to you.

  2. Word-limited. Whether a hard word limit is indicated, concision is critical because you want your personal brand to be punchy, and to carry maximal weight.

These opposing events creates the blocking tension described above: too many words vying for an especially small page.

How to write personal essays faster

I have spent years trying to figure this out. I don’t have to write such personal pieces frequently, so I usually never come back to try to solve the problem.

But here we are, and maybe it’s time!

I came up with a few options:

  • Remove the “personal”. Pretend you’re writing the story of a friend. It gets a lot easier because you can get some perspective on what actually matters, if you were to consider yourself from a higher level.

  • Ask a friend. Making it a conversation with a friend naturally creates distance and perspective. This person can probably give you objective input on what they would want to consider.

  • Write, then edit. Easy to forget because most times, we just want to set it and forget it. Ship it and never look back. But if we focus first on just getting words on the page, without the restraints of perfection, we’re more likely to get something out. Which as we all know, is really the first step.


So that’s what I am going to do. I’ll write this as if I were coaching someone else, and I will set a timer and just write. And be able walk away, and then come back to edit it.

Wish me luck…