From the essay “On Being Ill” by Virginia Woolf:
“Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to light, what precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers a little rise of temperature reveals, what ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us in the act of sickness, how we go down into the pit of death and feel the waters of annihilation close above our heads and wake thinking to find ourselves in the presence of the angels and the harpers when we have a tooth out and come to the surface in the dentist’s arm chair and confuse his ‘Rinse the mouth—rinse the mouth’ with the greeting of the Deity stooping from the floor of Heaven to welcome us—when we think of this and infinitely more, as we are so frequently forced to think of it, it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love, battle, and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.”
This is the iconic, 186-word opening sentence to Woolf’s essay, a gorgeous, dizzying arabesque of syntax that launches us into her treatise on illness.
So…you’ve probably guessed: Today we are going to write creative nonfiction.
Here is another “treatise” essay that I love and share with all my students:
On Dumpster Diving by Lars Eighner
Write a treatise. The title should begin with “On _________.”
Feel free to keep this “flash” essay length or not.