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How to Write an Essay that Changes the World

Written by: Jeffry Jones at 28 Aug 2014     

Our lives are characterized by highs and lows. When we’re at the top of our game, we feel like we’re unstoppable. It’s in these moments that we feel we can change the world just by using our words, and sometimes we really can. 

A lot of us have dreamed of writing a scathing critique of an opposing view, or conjured up an editorial that sets the record straight. We have imagined delivering powerful and poignant speeches, winning over crowds, or even defending someone in court.

These are all lofty examples of how our words can impact the world around us, and we all have within us the ability to do these things. We just have to start.

We stand on the shoulders of giants

No matter how big we may feel when we want to write something with impact, we need to acknowledge two things before we start.

  1. Someone else built the foundation of our work. In any field (bio tech, law, economics, etc.) you are building on the work of the people who came before you. Their ideas inform yours. Even if you’re rejecting the status quo, you’re writing in contrast to someone else’s ideas.
  2. There are no new ideas. Someone has likely had the thoughts you’re having now. You’re not original. People are only likely to agree with you or see the value in your words if they themselves had thought similar things.

These should be encouraging thoughts. You may not be a superstar, you may not be completely original, but you’re not alone out there. You’re going to be expressing something big and other people are going to join in. Some day, people will stand on your shoulders and reach higher than you did!

Change isn’t big

People sometimes want or expect a revolution when their words come out. The truth is, change isn’t that big to begin with. Standing at the foot of a mountain and looking up, it seems huge, but it all starts with the first step up.

Changing the world with an essay is like the first step up that mountain. You can’t say which step it was out of the thousands that was responsible for getting you to the top because it was every little step along the way.

Read if you want to write!

Knowing your essay topic in and out is essential. You won’t have anything to say if you’re not completely familiar with your field. Luckily, we live in the Internet age, where information is so easy to access.

At the end of every paper you read, look up the citations and start reading those papers. See how deep the references go and familiarize yourself with all the material available.

If you’re reading every day and keeping up on developments in your field, you’ll probably have something interesting to say about it. You may have noticed errors in previous work, or you might have gained some valuable insights that others may have missed.

Reading can make you a leader in your field. Once you have all that knowledge behind you, you’ll be able to make some significant contributions to changing the world.

The world is small

There are over 7 billion people on this planet, but it’s still so tiny! Working in any field, you’re going to find leading intellectuals or prominent people who are the ones doing the research or all the talking. If your field is your passion and you’ve got more questions, reach out to the big guys.

  • Write an email to leaders in your field. Chances are, if you’re interested or have questions about your own work, they can help.
  • Go to conferences and meet your idols, one day you’ll be their co-worker!
  • Ask for critiques of your work or ideas. Chances are, if you’re passionate and proficient, people will help you out.

Think big

Although the world is small and change is small, you still have to think big. Changing the world with an essay happens because you want it to have impact and you write in a way that gets the job done.

Have your goals in mind and work towards the highest one. This might not be the step that gets you to the top of the mountain, but soon, your foot will land at the summit. Get out there, move some mountains and change the world!

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