• Jenny Runkel

What Google Maps and Your Essay Have in Common

Google Maps is a modern miracle in the palm of your hand. Except for when you’re walking in the heart of a city and you’re in a hurry. There seems to be vortex of sorts, created by the tall buildings, that must function like some sort of invisibility cloak. I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit standing on the sidewalk in front of our Midtown condo, trying to figure out which way Google wanted me to walk. Just this week, I worked myself into an emotional knot as my icon fluttered from one side of the street to the other while I stood still. After a few minutes, I threw in the towel and cancelled my plans before ever moving my feet. God forbid I walk the wrong way.


There’s something deeply hardwired in most of us that can’t stand the thought of going in the wrong direction. It’s a waste of time and of effort and we like to be right. But if we really stop to think about it, there really is no wrong direction – especially according to GoogleMaps. There are just multiple ways to get to the same destination. Sometimes you’ll need to re-route, but you’ll never get there if you just continue to stand still.


Starting a piece of writing, especially one that may make or break your acceptance into the college of your choice, is daunting. It’s tempting to stand still a little longer, hoping for the Muse to point you in the right direction and give you a clear path.


But here’s the truth: Clarity comes from movement, not standing still.


Employ these three tactics the next time you write (or walk somewhere downtown) and you’ll arrive before you know it.


1. Know Your Destination

Really study the prompt and the school. Besides just glancing at the word count and reading the first three words of the question, you should spend time analyzing the question they’re asking and the question they’re really asking. (Hint: it’s not always what you think).


2. Give Yourself Margin

If you give yourself some margin on your due dates and build in plenty of time for revision – which is where all good writing comes from anyway – you can take the roundabout way to your destination and probably find some unexpected surprises along your route.


3. Just Start Walking

Before you can talk yourself out of an idea, just start walking with it. Give yourself permission to create a Sh*tty First Draft and consider it a success when you get something – anything - on the page.


So, what do Google Maps and your college essay have in common? You. You have to do the actual walking and you don't have to wait to know where to go. Trust yourself and the process. The only way you won’t get there is if you don’t start.

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