Years of formal education have drummed into us the idea of essay as formula, a rigid structure to follow. That structure may have helped to organise your thinking, but essay-writing also sparks less positive memories: of set titles that fail to inspire, non-negotiable deadlines, struggles to meet a particular word count.
Go back to the original meaning of the term, though – from the French essayer, ‘to try’ – and the essay becomes a whole lot more interesting.
I was reminded of this in a recent Vox podcast about the work of Albert Camus, which also explores why he chose the essay form.
“An essai is a trial, it’s an attempt. And… success is not guaranteed,” says Robert Zaretsky, a philosopher and historian, interviewed on the podcast.Continue reading ““Success is not guaranteed”: writing as exploration”