Gut feelings, to use a phrase popular among sportscasters, are tough monsters to use when it comes to knowing when and where to use them. What about the sports field? Yes, of course. What about the casino? Most likely not. English class in high school? It’s complex, to say the least. Gut instincts are all about sensing a situation or an issue and reacting in the best, most suitable, and frequently awesome way possible; yet, in an English class, the only realistic way to do so is to know your material inside and out. And it needs guts and instincts to produce a great essay without focusing on organisation (which is what I mean when I say gut instincts). It here’s my metaphor: An athlete with extensive physical training and excellent hand-eye coordination can perform feats that ordinary people cannot and do so with ease. It’s even natural. However, these achievements are made possible by the athlete’s extensive training and dedication. The same is true for the English student. As a result, I’ve compiled a list of topics you should think about before handing in what you think are flawlessly composed and written essays based only on your gut impulses.

Speak with a professional.

That’s right: the first thing you should do is consult with a professional writer or editor. I understand that you are presumably in high school and that reaching out to these people may be challenging. Instead, I’d speak with your English teacher. He or she is there to act as a compass for you, assessing where you are in terms of writing talents and advising you on the best course of action. Gut instincts are fantastic, but they must be refined. Nobody can tell you what you need to work on more than a teacher or a professional editor when it comes to writing from the hip rather than focusing on grammar and organisation.

Don’t forget to bring a sample of professional writing with you. Take one of the blog posts you created during the summer and polish it up, remembering to write from the heart, the gut, or wherever your inspiration comes from. “However, Phillip,” you inquire, “do I go about doing this?” So….

Count on your technological expertise.

The technical grasp of the language, believe it or not, is what makes writing from the gut so successful. This style of writing will come more effortlessly if you already have a strong grammatical basis and are adept at coming up with essay subjects. And, though I know many students despise outlining essays ahead of time (see my previous blog on the Importance of Brainstorming), there are occasions when, if you have the ability, you can create a brilliant essay with nothing more than a sound technical basis.

Yes, your intuition can go you a long way. For example, I went through my entire university career not knowing the difference between a subject and a verb and still managed to maintain a good GPA. This isn’t true for every English major, but I like to think that my instincts guided me through all of those essays; to be honest, I didn’t plan a single one. Nothing was done in the way of brainstorming. My degree was earned solely on the basis of gut feeling and knowing what looked good or wrong.

I regret not being able to achieve more in those writings if I had known what I know today. There was no plan or editing step where I learned about subject-verb agreement, the distinction between topic sentences and supporting facts, or how to write a powerful thesis. There were a few things I either didn’t want to know or didn’t care about. And it bothered me. My foundation, together with the fact that my instincts didn’t fail me, was what kept me together. So, when all of my grades were added together, I had a substantially higher GPA than the national average. After this long digression, I suppose my point is that intuition alone won’t get you an A. In order to truly achieve, you must have some sort of basis. Know exactly what is required of you on any essay, at the very least. Now it’s your turn!

Know what you’re doing.

Another thing you should never do is create an essay without first researching your sources. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised (or perhaps not) at how many individuals attempt to write an essay without first reading the novel, play, or short storey they’ll be writing about. No Fear or Coles Notes Shakespeare, like any other study aid, is a poor substitute for the original source material. Have faith in me. Read a lot of books. Plays should be read. Short stories should be read.

This topic is similar to one of my previous Study Tactics posts, in which I discussed numerous strategies for remembering specifics from your source material. Look through the archives and you’ll find it; it’s quite nice, I guarantee. But here’s the gist of it: Read your subject from beginning to end, discuss it in class, and do everything else you normally do. When studying, though, keep an eye out for aspects in the book that you might use in an essay. Choose a subject from the book and look for occurrences in it that correspond to that topic. You’re seeking for specific specifics to include in your body paragraphs, such as examples from the text. You will be considerably better equipped to compose an essay without having to spend time arranging your knowledge if you are familiar with the book’s topics and have details to support a viewpoint on those themes.

So, does a reactionary essay with no predetermined subjects and only gut instincts have a place in the classroom? Yes, indeed. However, you can only accomplish this feat if you follow a strict set of guidelines, which include receiving feedback from a professional (your teacher), relying on a firm foundation of writing abilities, and having a thorough understanding of the subject matter. But keep in mind that as you develop your technical basis, your writing will increase enormously, and gut impulses will only go you so far. You have been forewarned.

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