A Guide to Writing a 500 Word Writing Sample

Michelle Mogilner

You start to panic. Is this what the career of a writer is going to be like? Hours of self-doubt interrupted by the occasional fleeting sensation of inspiration?

Dear Writer,

Congratulations! You have just been told that you’re being considered for a writing position at your desired company. You have opened your email and breathed a sigh of relief that your lackluster resume was accepted with open arms. But your journey is not finished yet! You pause at the words “writing sample” and your mind runs through a list of every essay and short story you wrote in the past year that might help you guarantee your position. You slowly come to realize that all your previous work will probably not help you here. Like an end-of-term exam, you must compress your skill set into a few paragraphs that will hopefully convey the fact that you know what you’re talking about. Suddenly, you find yourself staring at a blank word document. The cursor traces the white belly of the page and the blinking black line is reminiscent of the cross-armed high school teacher impatiently tapping their foot against the hard floor.

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