Don’t Give Up Now! 

You’ve got your essay question in front of you, your desktop is neatly tidied, the house is empty and quiet, and the cursor is blinking happily at the beginning of a fresh Word document. Your computer screen glows with optimism, the creative possibilities are endless, but you’ve got nothing. Your mind is as blank as your newly-created page.

No matter how much advice you’ve been given on how to write a winning scholarship essay, it’s often extremely hard to come up with a good idea and begin the process of committing your thoughts to paper. But if you are tempted to say “Screw it,” and just give up, remind yourself that you might be sacrificing a scholarship you would have won to that evil demon called writer’s block.

There was a scholarship that I almost didn’t apply for, solely because the essay topic was too hard. The money was offered by the League of Women Voters organization, and they were asking applicants to answer the question: “What Am I Doing to Make Democracy Work?” 

My initial reaction was, “What??? I’m only seventeen years old—I don‘t know!”

I pondered the question for a few days, and then tried again to formulate an essay idea, but it just wasn‘t happening. My baffled mind kept screaming, “I don’t know anything about democracy! I can‘t even remember the words to the Pledge of Allegiance most mornings!”

A few days more, and my only new thought on the subject was, “I go to history class. Does that count? What else do you possibly expect a teenager to do?” At this point, I decided the best thing might be to spare my brain further agony and just give up. I didn’t even know what the word democracy really meant, so how could I write anything intelligent about a subject that so obviously had nothing to do with the life of the average teen? It occurred to me that maybe I ought to at least know the definition of democracy before I wrote it off as a concept that was completely incomprehensible, so I picked up the family dictionary and flipped to the d-listings. There, just beneath the word “demobilize,” I read:

a : Government by the people; especially rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

See? My confusion was justified. What was I supposed to know about elected governments when I wasn’t even old enough to vote yet?!

Still, the words of that definition stuck with me, constantly nagging at the back of my mind: “… power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation…” Finally, it hit me. I was a part of democracy in action after all! At that time, I volunteered in my local Youth Court, where I helped to prosecute and defend other teenagers who had committed minor crimes and were lucky enough to avoid the fate of a more formal court hearing. This job was exactly like what the dictionary said about democracy, because “we, the people” had “power vested” in us to decide the punishments of our peers by “directly exercising” our authority through a system of representation. Okay, maybe that was a bit of a stretch, but nobody can deny that the U.S. judicial system is a crucial branch of our democratic government. And I took part in making that system work, even though I was “only” a kid!

This realization convinced me to plunge ahead and write the essay I‘d come so close to blowing off. Recalling my time spent in the courtroom, I was literally able to start my essay off with a bang of the gavel, of course. I’m so glad that I overcame my fear of the topic, because not only did I win the scholarship, but that interview was also one of the most interesting sessions that I ever attended!

All right, you probably are thinking, “Good for you, but whoop-de-do. How am I supposed to get past my writer’s block?“ Okay, fine, if my success story was not inspiring enough for you, check back soon for a list of writer’s block-busting tips to get you started on that oh-so-frustrating essay.

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