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For example, take this prompt: “• “A Rat’s Tale”: A writer discusses her failure to be the sister her brother wanted and what she learned.• “Pancake Chronicles”: An entertaining account of a disastrous first job.• “A Heartbroken Temp at Brides.com”: After a groom changes his mind, his would-be bride, with “no money, no apartment, no job” takes a position at a wedding website.Another source of inspiration is Ron Lieber’s annual contest for the best college essays that address issues of money, work and social class.
Contestants were allowed to write stories, essays, plays, memoirs or poetry, and could use lines like these: After you look at the full list of first lines, jump over to read the work of our winners, and see how they took first sentences like “I am parked in a rental car in front of the house where I grew up,” and made them their own.
Around Valentine’s Day that same year, we invited students to use first lines from the weekly Modern Love column as “passion prompts,” and that time we showed them how to take the basic idea from the essay and adapt it for themselves: Scroll through the feature, and either follow the prompts we suggest, or use any of the images that catch your interest to write whatever you like. What personal connection to the content can you make?
Read “How Keeping a Diary Can Surprise You” to learn more — and check out what other teenagers told us back in 2011 when we asked, Do You Keep a Diary or Journal? Go back, read over what you wrote, look for patterns and think about what these “personal stories” reveal about you.
A recent article on the Well blog suggests that writing and editing stories about yourself can help you see your life differently, and actually lead to behavioral changes: The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves.
But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right.
Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.
Do you think his observations are even more true today?
What stories do you have to tell about life online?
In this post we suggest several ways to inspire your students’ own personal writing, using Times models as “mentor texts,” and advice from our writers on everything from avoiding “zombie nouns” to writing “dangerous” college essays.
And since we’ve linked to but a fraction of the thousands of engaging personal pieces published in the paper over the years, we also invite you to add your own suggestions in the comments.