Cover Photo: This photograph shows a seagull flying high above the viewer against a bright blue sky with a few wispy clouds. The seagull is positioned in such a way that it almost feels like it's looking down at us.
Photograph by Ali Maah/Unsplash

In an Essay, Let Us Borrow Your Eyeballs—or Anyone Else’s, Really, Even a Bird’s

Meaning is an abstract concept. It needs a container. Concrete details are those vessels, the building blocks, the foundation of a good essay.

Show. Don’t tell.

to put the thinking on the page

hello!show me what you’ve got, if you’re so good at it



The task: Rewrite that section of your essay and narrate the scene as if the narrator were a bird. Literally write from a bird’s eye view.Ploughshares

The Groom Will Keep His NamePage 228 in the Apple Books versionmust

Talk to someone else who was there for that emotional moment and briefly interview them.

Show your work.

Matt Ortile is the author of the essay collection The Groom Will Keep His Name and the co-editor of the nonfiction anthology Body Language. He is also the executive editor of Catapult magazine and was previously the founding editor of BuzzFeed Philippines. He has received fellowships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and MacDowell; has taught workshops for Kundiman, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and PEN America; and has written for Esquire, Vogue, Condé Nast Traveler, Out magazine, and BuzzFeed News, among others. He is a graduate of Vassar College, which means he now lives in Brooklyn.