The writer has to be like the firefighter, whose job, while everyone else is fleeing the flames, is to run straight into them. Your material feels too hot, too shameful, to even think about? Therefore you must write about it.That's Jonathan Franzen in the Introduction, a rich and rewarding essay about the writing of essays. I normally wouldn't ask students to read the Introduction to an anthology, but in this case, it does exactly what I want from a reading assignment early in the semester. I haven't finished the book yet, but the essays I've read vary in style and substance but not in demonstrated willingness to take risks, to move beyond the stuffy constraints suggested by the very word essay.
I knew I was taking a risk when I put the book on my syllabus, but in this case, it looks like the risk will pay off.