I’ll get to the video clip at the end, but I first want to summarize what are often considered bad essay topics. I’ve sorted them into three categories.

The first category of bad topics is referred to as the 5 Ds: Drugs, Divorce, Depression, Death, Dating. Why shouldn’t you write about these? I think it’s difficult to write about these topics in an appropriate way.

The second category of bad topics is the cliche essay. These include essays about  parents/grandparents, sports, mission trips, your resume, immigrant experiences, and travel abroad. Pretty much the most popular things high school students write about. Why shouldn’t you write about these? Basically they fall under common tropes and become predictable and boring.

The third category of bad topics isn’t really a topic but an approach and that is writing too broadly and trying to cover too much ground. Covering too much ground doesn’t give you an opportunity to explore deeply. Depth trumps breadth.

All that said, I wouldn’t go so far as to say never write on one of those topics. I’ve read great essays that dealt with death or divorce. And the reality is that coming up with a truly original topic is probably not going to happen. The most important thing is to find a topic that’s meaningful to you and if it happens to fall under one of the “bad” categories you’ll have to work extra hard to make your zeal and voice shine through.

Remember, no one else has your voice.


Now for the video clip. I love these guys. Bullying is not a new story. But tell it with passion and a unique voice and it will be compelling.