It affords the writer great freedom: not only to be confident or admit doubt but to speak personally yet invoke others’ ideas, to be rational and/or emotional.
And essayists write at a length that enables them, within a year, to explore a number of topics, whereas in a book, they’ll likely only tackle one.
But from having engaged with you in this interview, at the risk of presumptuousness and being patronizing, it’s clear to me that whatever decrement you’ve suffered, your brain remains enviable. I’d like to end by saying that I’ve had an enduring appreciation of psychology and so I’m pleased that this will appear in Psychology Today.
I had already read "Against Joie de Vivre" and 'What Happened to the Personal Essay." Those are what motivated me to invite him to be interviewed.
And as a reader, per-minute of my time, I’m getting a helluva lot: practical takeaways, a literary experience, and an intimate experience with the writer. I might mention that some writers who longed to be novelists were better as essayists: Sontag, Baldwin, Vidal, Mary Mc Carthy, Mailer.
On personality and relationships MN: In your essay, you wrote, “There is no harder work I can think of than taking myself off to somewhere pleasant, where I am forced to stay for hours and have fun…I don’t even like water beds.” But why not fan the flames of, as you term it, “hedonistic delusion” rather than, as psychiatrist Irv Yalom writes, “stare into the sun?Oh and have fun writing because it enhances both the writer’s and reader’s experience.MN: I believe the personal essay is underrated for both writer and reader.As part of a national essay competition, current and future psychology students were asked to explain their study motivation.Each student describes in 250 words or less (i) why I chose psychology as a major and (ii) how I'm motivated to succeed at psychology studies.The essays demonstrate the value from having a vision for your career – whether it's detailed or "big picture" – before you start a psychology degree.Having a long-term goal in mind offers a reliable source of study motivation.The best, most inspiring essays are published here.As you can see, psychology students are often motivated by personal experiences and a wish for healthier, happier communities.Also, most good essays are conversations with yourself, not just your decided thoughts but your dilemmas.Contradictory strands create an essay that’s richly ambivalent.