Writing Prompt: This I Believe
Identity & Metamorphoses
NYUAD – Prof. A. Hilgendorf
You are restructuring and rewriting your own statement of personal belief. I understand
how challenging this is—it requires intense self-examination, and many find it difficult to
begin, but you already have. To guide you through this process, consider this structure:
Tell a story about you: Be specific. Move your “belief” from the abstract to the
understandable, out of a mental space you understand to one that your audience can
connect to and understand. Ground the belief in the events that have shaped your core
values. Consider moments when belief was formed or tested or changed. Think of your own
experience, life, and family, and tell of the things you know that no one else does. Your
story need not be heart-warming or gut-wrenching—it can even be funny—but it should
be real. Make sure your story ties to the essence of your daily life philosophy and the
shaping of your beliefs.
Be specific, “Show, don’t tell”: Your draft should be between 600 to 1000 words. Notice
how specific the topics are within the essays you read. What is specific to you may have a
wider impact with the detail of the specificity.
Name your belief: If you can’t name it in a sentence or two, your essay might not be about
belief. Also, rather than writing a list, consider focusing on one core belief. Think of ways to
state the belief in more than one way throughout the text.
Be positive: Write about what you do believe, not what you don’t believe. Avoid
statements of religious dogma, preaching, or editorializing.
Be personal: Make your essay about you; speak in the first person. Avoid speaking in the
editorial “we.” Tell a story from your own life; this is not an opinion piece about social
ideals. Write in words and phrases that are comfortable for you to speak. I recommend you
read your essay aloud to yourself several times, and each time edit it and simplify it until
you find the words, tone, and story that truly echo your belief and the way you speak.
This personal essay is a creative exercise and will not be graded once you submit your
essay. You are encouraged to take risks as a writer.
a) Use Times New Roman, 12-point font
b) Always type and double-space your work
c) Give each assignment a title of your choice.
d) For each document you submit, title your assignment
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