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Definition of essay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

Definition of essay  (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

  • composition

attempt , try , endeavor , essay , strive mean to make an effort to accomplish an end.

attempt stresses the initiation or beginning of an effort.

try is often close to attempt but may stress effort or experiment made in the hope of testing or proving something.

endeavor heightens the implications of exertion and difficulty.

essay implies difficulty but also suggests tentative trying or experimenting.

strive implies great exertion against great difficulty and specifically suggests persistent effort.

Examples of essay in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'essay.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Middle French essai , ultimately from Late Latin exagium act of weighing, from Latin ex- + agere to drive — more at agent

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Phrases Containing essay

  • essay question
  • photo - essay

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To 'Essay' or 'Assay'?

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Dictionary Entries Near essay

Cite this entry.

“Essay.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/essay. Accessed 13 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

Kids definition of essay.

Kids Definition of essay  (Entry 2 of 2)

More from Merriam-Webster on essay

Nglish: Translation of essay for Spanish Speakers

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Cambridge Dictionary

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Meaning of essay in English

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  • I want to finish off this essay before I go to bed .
  • His essay was full of spelling errors .
  • Have you given that essay in yet ?
  • Have you handed in your history essay yet ?
  • I'd like to discuss the first point in your essay.
  • boilerplate
  • composition
  • dissertation
  • essay question
  • peer review
  • go after someone
  • go all out idiom
  • go down swinging/fighting idiom
  • go for it idiom
  • go for someone
  • shoot the works idiom
  • smarten (someone/something) up
  • smarten up your act idiom
  • square the circle idiom
  • step on the gas idiom

essay | Intermediate English

Examples of essay, collocations with essay.

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[ noun es -ey es -ey , e- sey verb e- sey ]

  • a short literary composition on a particular theme or subject, usually in prose and generally analytic, speculative, or interpretative.

a picture essay.

  • an effort to perform or accomplish something; attempt.
  • Philately. a design for a proposed stamp differing in any way from the design of the stamp as issued.
  • Obsolete. a tentative effort; trial; assay.

verb (used with object)

  • to try; attempt.
  • to put to the test; make trial of.
  • a short literary composition dealing with a subject analytically or speculatively
  • an attempt or endeavour; effort
  • a test or trial
  • to attempt or endeavour; try
  • to test or try out
  • A short piece of writing on one subject, usually presenting the author's own views. Michel de Montaigne , Francis Bacon (see also Bacon ), and Ralph Waldo Emerson are celebrated for their essays.

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Other words from.

  • es·sayer noun
  • prees·say verb (used without object)
  • unes·sayed adjective
  • well-es·sayed adjective

Word History and Origins

Origin of essay 1

Example Sentences

As several of my colleagues commented, the result is good enough that it could pass for an essay written by a first-year undergraduate, and even get a pretty decent grade.

GPT-3 also raises concerns about the future of essay writing in the education system.

This little essay helps focus on self-knowledge in what you’re best at, and how you should prioritize your time.

As Steven Feldstein argues in the opening essay, technonationalism plays a part in the strengthening of other autocracies too.

He’s written a collection of essays on civil engineering life titled Bridginess, and to this day he and Lauren go on “bridge dates,” where they enjoy a meal and admire the view of a nearby span.

I think a certain kind of compelling essay has a piece of that.

The current attack on the Jews,” he wrote in a 1937 essay, “targets not just this people of 15 million but mankind as such.

The impulse to interpret seems to me what makes personal essay writing compelling.

To be honest, I think a lot of good essay writing comes out of that.

Someone recently sent me an old Joan Didion essay on self-respect that appeared in Vogue.

There is more of the uplifted forefinger and the reiterated point than I should have allowed myself in an essay.

Consequently he was able to turn in a clear essay upon the subject, which, upon examination, the king found to be free from error.

It is no part of the present essay to attempt to detail the particulars of a code of social legislation.

But angels and ministers of grace defend us from ministers of religion who essay art criticism!

It is fit that the imagination, which is free to go through all things, should essay such excursions.

Related Words

  • dissertation
  • Literary Terms
  • Definition & Examples
  • When & How to Write an Essay

I. What is an Essay?

An essay is a form of writing in paragraph form that uses informal language, although it can be written formally. Essays may be written in first-person point of view (I, ours, mine), but third-person (people, he, she) is preferable in most academic essays. Essays do not require research as most academic reports and papers do; however, they should cite any literary works that are used within the paper.

When thinking of essays, we normally think of the five-paragraph essay: Paragraph 1 is the introduction, paragraphs 2-4 are the body covering three main ideas, and paragraph 5 is the conclusion. Sixth and seventh graders may start out with three paragraph essays in order to learn the concepts. However, essays may be longer than five paragraphs. Essays are easier and quicker to read than books, so are a preferred way to express ideas and concepts when bringing them to public attention.

II. Examples of Essays

Many of our most famous Americans have written essays. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson wrote essays about being good citizens and concepts to build the new United States. In the pre-Civil War days of the 1800s, people such as:

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (an author) wrote essays on self-improvement
  • Susan B. Anthony wrote on women’s right to vote
  • Frederick Douglass wrote on the issue of African Americans’ future in the U.S.

Through each era of American history, well-known figures in areas such as politics, literature, the arts, business, etc., voiced their opinions through short and long essays.

The ultimate persuasive essay that most students learn about and read in social studies is the “Declaration of Independence” by Thomas Jefferson in 1776. Other founding fathers edited and critiqued it, but he drafted the first version. He builds a strong argument by stating his premise (claim) then proceeds to give the evidence in a straightforward manner before coming to his logical conclusion.

III. Types of Essays

A. expository.

Essays written to explore and explain ideas are called expository essays (they expose truths). These will be more formal types of essays usually written in third person, to be more objective. There are many forms, each one having its own organizational pattern.  Cause/Effect essays explain the reason (cause) for something that happens after (effect). Definition essays define an idea or concept. Compare/ Contrast essays will look at two items and show how they are similar (compare) and different (contrast).

b. Persuasive

An argumentative paper presents an idea or concept with the intention of attempting to change a reader’s mind or actions . These may be written in second person, using “you” in order to speak to the reader. This is called a persuasive essay. There will be a premise (claim) followed by evidence to show why you should believe the claim.

c. Narrative

Narrative means story, so narrative essays will illustrate and describe an event of some kind to tell a story. Most times, they will be written in first person. The writer will use descriptive terms, and may have paragraphs that tell a beginning, middle, and end in place of the five paragraphs with introduction, body, and conclusion. However, if there is a lesson to be learned, a five-paragraph may be used to ensure the lesson is shown.

d. Descriptive

The goal of a descriptive essay is to vividly describe an event, item, place, memory, etc. This essay may be written in any point of view, depending on what’s being described. There is a lot of freedom of language in descriptive essays, which can include figurative language, as well.

IV. The Importance of Essays

Essays are an important piece of literature that can be used in a variety of situations. They’re a flexible type of writing, which makes them useful in many settings . History can be traced and understood through essays from theorists, leaders, artists of various arts, and regular citizens of countries throughout the world and time. For students, learning to write essays is also important because as they leave school and enter college and/or the work force, it is vital for them to be able to express themselves well.

V. Examples of Essays in Literature

Sir Francis Bacon was a leading philosopher who influenced the colonies in the 1600s. Many of America’s founding fathers also favored his philosophies toward government. Bacon wrote an essay titled “Of Nobility” in 1601 , in which he defines the concept of nobility in relation to people and government. The following is the introduction of his definition essay. Note the use of “we” for his point of view, which includes his readers while still sounding rather formal.

 “We will speak of nobility, first as a portion of an estate, then as a condition of particular persons. A monarchy, where there is no nobility at all, is ever a pure and absolute tyranny; as that of the Turks. For nobility attempers sovereignty, and draws the eyes of the people, somewhat aside from the line royal. But for democracies, they need it not; and they are commonly more quiet, and less subject to sedition, than where there are stirps of nobles. For men’s eyes are upon the business, and not upon the persons; or if upon the persons, it is for the business’ sake, as fittest, and not for flags and pedigree. We see the Switzers last well, notwithstanding their diversity of religion, and of cantons. For utility is their bond, and not respects. The united provinces of the Low Countries, in their government, excel; for where there is an equality, the consultations are more indifferent, and the payments and tributes, more cheerful. A great and potent nobility, addeth majesty to a monarch, but diminisheth power; and putteth life and spirit into the people, but presseth their fortune. It is well, when nobles are not too great for sovereignty nor for justice; and yet maintained in that height, as the insolency of inferiors may be broken upon them, before it come on too fast upon the majesty of kings. A numerous nobility causeth poverty, and inconvenience in a state; for it is a surcharge of expense; and besides, it being of necessity, that many of the nobility fall, in time, to be weak in fortune, it maketh a kind of disproportion, between honor and means.”

A popular modern day essayist is Barbara Kingsolver. Her book, “Small Wonders,” is full of essays describing her thoughts and experiences both at home and around the world. Her intention with her essays is to make her readers think about various social issues, mainly concerning the environment and how people treat each other. The link below is to an essay in which a child in an Iranian village she visited had disappeared. The boy was found three days later in a bear’s cave, alive and well, protected by a mother bear. She uses a narrative essay to tell her story.

VI. Examples of Essays in Pop Culture

Many rap songs are basically mini essays, expressing outrage and sorrow over social issues today, just as the 1960s had a lot of anti-war and peace songs that told stories and described social problems of that time. Any good song writer will pay attention to current events and express ideas in a creative way.

A well-known essay written in 1997 by Mary Schmich, a columnist with the Chicago Tribune, was made into a popular video on MTV by Baz Luhrmann. Schmich’s thesis is to wear sunscreen, but she adds strong advice with supporting details throughout the body of her essay, reverting to her thesis in the conclusion.

Baz Luhrmann - Everybody's Free To Wear Sunscreen

VII. Related Terms

Research paper.

Research papers follow the same basic format of an essay. They have an introductory paragraph, the body, and a conclusion. However, research papers have strict guidelines regarding a title page, header, sub-headers within the paper, citations throughout and in a bibliography page, the size and type of font, and margins. The purpose of a research paper is to explore an area by looking at previous research. Some research papers may include additional studies by the author, which would then be compared to previous research. The point of view is an objective third-person. No opinion is allowed. Any claims must be backed up with research.

VIII. Conclusion

Students dread hearing that they are going to write an essay, but essays are one of the easiest and most relaxed types of writing they will learn. Mastering the essay will make research papers much easier, since they have the same basic structure. Many historical events can be better understood through essays written by people involved in those times. The continuation of essays in today’s times will allow future historians to understand how our new world of technology and information impacted us.

List of Terms

  • Alliteration
  • Amplification
  • Anachronism
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Antonomasia
  • APA Citation
  • Aposiopesis
  • Autobiography
  • Bildungsroman
  • Characterization
  • Circumlocution
  • Cliffhanger
  • Comic Relief
  • Connotation
  • Deus ex machina
  • Deuteragonist
  • Doppelganger
  • Double Entendre
  • Dramatic irony
  • Equivocation
  • Extended Metaphor
  • Figures of Speech
  • Flash-forward
  • Foreshadowing
  • Intertextuality
  • Juxtaposition
  • Literary Device
  • Malapropism
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Parallelism
  • Pathetic Fallacy
  • Personification
  • Point of View
  • Polysyndeton
  • Protagonist
  • Red Herring
  • Rhetorical Device
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Science Fiction
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • Synesthesia
  • Turning Point
  • Understatement
  • Urban Legend
  • Verisimilitude
  • Essay Guide
  • Cite This Website

What is an Essay?

10 May, 2020

11 minutes read

Author:  Tomas White

Well, beyond a jumble of words usually around 2,000 words or so - what is an essay, exactly? Whether you’re taking English, sociology, history, biology, art, or a speech class, it’s likely you’ll have to write an essay or two. So how is an essay different than a research paper or a review? Let’s find out!

What is an essay

Defining the Term – What is an Essay?

The essay is a written piece that is designed to present an idea, propose an argument, express the emotion or initiate debate. It is a tool that is used to present writer’s ideas in a non-fictional way. Multiple applications of this type of writing go way beyond, providing political manifestos and art criticism as well as personal observations and reflections of the author.

what is an essay

An essay can be as short as 500 words, it can also be 5000 words or more.  However, most essays fall somewhere around 1000 to 3000 words ; this word range provides the writer enough space to thoroughly develop an argument and work to convince the reader of the author’s perspective regarding a particular issue.  The topics of essays are boundless: they can range from the best form of government to the benefits of eating peppermint leaves daily. As a professional provider of custom writing, our service has helped thousands of customers to turn in essays in various forms and disciplines.

Origins of the Essay

Over the course of more than six centuries essays were used to question assumptions, argue trivial opinions and to initiate global discussions. Let’s have a closer look into historical progress and various applications of this literary phenomenon to find out exactly what it is.

Today’s modern word “essay” can trace its roots back to the French “essayer” which translates closely to mean “to attempt” .  This is an apt name for this writing form because the essay’s ultimate purpose is to attempt to convince the audience of something.  An essay’s topic can range broadly and include everything from the best of Shakespeare’s plays to the joys of April.

The essay comes in many shapes and sizes; it can focus on a personal experience or a purely academic exploration of a topic.  Essays are classified as a subjective writing form because while they include expository elements, they can rely on personal narratives to support the writer’s viewpoint.  The essay genre includes a diverse array of academic writings ranging from literary criticism to meditations on the natural world.  Most typically, the essay exists as a shorter writing form; essays are rarely the length of a novel.  However, several historic examples, such as John Locke’s seminal work “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” just shows that a well-organized essay can be as long as a novel.

The Essay in Literature

The essay enjoys a long and renowned history in literature.  They first began gaining in popularity in the early 16 th century, and their popularity has continued today both with original writers and ghost writers.  Many readers prefer this short form in which the writer seems to speak directly to the reader, presenting a particular claim and working to defend it through a variety of means.  Not sure if you’ve ever read a great essay? You wouldn’t believe how many pieces of literature are actually nothing less than essays, or evolved into more complex structures from the essay. Check out this list of literary favorites:

  • The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon
  • Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
  • Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag
  • High-Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now and Never by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion
  • Naked by David Sedaris
  • Walden; or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau

Pretty much as long as writers have had something to say, they’ve created essays to communicate their viewpoint on pretty much any topic you can think of!

Top essays in literature

The Essay in Academics

Not only are students required to read a variety of essays during their academic education, but they will likely be required to write several different kinds of essays throughout their scholastic career.  Don’t love to write?  Then consider working with a ghost essay writer !  While all essays require an introduction, body paragraphs in support of the argumentative thesis statement, and a conclusion, academic essays can take several different formats in the way they approach a topic.  Common essays required in high school, college, and post-graduate classes include:

Five paragraph essay

This is the most common type of a formal essay. The type of paper that students are usually exposed to when they first hear about the concept of the essay itself. It follows easy outline structure – an opening introduction paragraph; three body paragraphs to expand the thesis; and conclusion to sum it up.

Argumentative essay

These essays are commonly assigned to explore a controversial issue.  The goal is to identify the major positions on either side and work to support the side the writer agrees with while refuting the opposing side’s potential arguments.

Compare and Contrast essay

This essay compares two items, such as two poems, and works to identify similarities and differences, discussing the strength and weaknesses of each.  This essay can focus on more than just two items, however.  The point of this essay is to reveal new connections the reader may not have considered previously.

Definition essay

This essay has a sole purpose – defining a term or a concept in as much detail as possible. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, not quite. The most important part of the process is picking up the word. Before zooming it up under the microscope, make sure to choose something roomy so you can define it under multiple angles. The definition essay outline will reflect those angles and scopes.

Descriptive essay

Perhaps the most fun to write, this essay focuses on describing its subject using all five of the senses.  The writer aims to fully describe the topic; for example, a descriptive essay could aim to describe the ocean to someone who’s never seen it or the job of a teacher.  Descriptive essays rely heavily on detail and the paragraphs can be organized by sense.

Illustration essay

The purpose of this essay is to describe an idea, occasion or a concept with the help of clear and vocal examples. “Illustration” itself is handled in the body paragraphs section. Each of the statements, presented in the essay needs to be supported with several examples. Illustration essay helps the author to connect with his audience by breaking the barriers with real-life examples – clear and indisputable.

Informative Essay

Being one the basic essay types, the informative essay is as easy as it sounds from a technical standpoint. High school is where students usually encounter with informative essay first time. The purpose of this paper is to describe an idea, concept or any other abstract subject with the help of proper research and a generous amount of storytelling.

Narrative essay

This type of essay focuses on describing a certain event or experience, most often chronologically.  It could be a historic event or an ordinary day or month in a regular person’s life. Narrative essay proclaims a free approach to writing it, therefore it does not always require conventional attributes, like the outline. The narrative itself typically unfolds through a personal lens, and is thus considered to be a subjective form of writing.

Persuasive essay

The purpose of the persuasive essay is to provide the audience with a 360-view on the concept idea or certain topic – to persuade the reader to adopt a certain viewpoint. The viewpoints can range widely from why visiting the dentist is important to why dogs make the best pets to why blue is the best color.  Strong, persuasive language is a defining characteristic of this essay type.

Types of essays

The Essay in Art

Several other artistic mediums have adopted the essay as a means of communicating with their audience.  In the visual arts, such as painting or sculpting, the rough sketches of the final product are sometimes deemed essays.  Likewise, directors may opt to create a film essay which is similar to a documentary in that it offers a personal reflection on a relevant issue.  Finally, photographers often create photographic essays in which they use a series of photographs to tell a story, similar to a narrative or a descriptive essay.

Drawing the line – question answered

“What is an Essay?” is quite a polarizing question. On one hand, it can easily be answered in a couple of words. On the other, it is surely the most profound and self-established type of content there ever was. Going back through the history of the last five-six centuries helps us understand where did it come from and how it is being applied ever since.

If you must write an essay, follow these five important steps to works towards earning the “A” you want:

  • Understand and review the kind of essay you must write
  • Brainstorm your argument
  • Find research from reliable sources to support your perspective
  • Cite all sources parenthetically within the paper and on the Works Cited page
  • Follow all grammatical rules

Generally speaking, when you must write any type of essay, start sooner rather than later!  Don’t procrastinate – give yourself time to develop your perspective and work on crafting a unique and original approach to the topic.  Remember: it’s always a good idea to have another set of eyes (or three) look over your essay before handing in the final draft to your teacher or professor.  Don’t trust your fellow classmates?  Consider hiring an editor or a ghostwriter to help out!

If you are still unsure on whether you can cope with your task – you are in the right place to get help. HandMadeWriting is the perfect answer to the question “Who can write my essay?”

A life lesson in Romeo and Juliet taught by death

A life lesson in Romeo and Juliet taught by death

Due to human nature, we draw conclusions only when life gives us a lesson since the experience of others is not so effective and powerful. Therefore, when analyzing and sorting out common problems we face, we may trace a parallel with well-known book characters or real historical figures. Moreover, we often compare our situations with […]

Ethical Research Paper Topics

Ethical Research Paper Topics

Writing a research paper on ethics is not an easy task, especially if you do not possess excellent writing skills and do not like to contemplate controversial questions. But an ethics course is obligatory in all higher education institutions, and students have to look for a way out and be creative. When you find an […]

Art Research Paper Topics

Art Research Paper Topics

Students obtaining degrees in fine art and art & design programs most commonly need to write a paper on art topics. However, this subject is becoming more popular in educational institutions for expanding students’ horizons. Thus, both groups of receivers of education: those who are into arts and those who only get acquainted with art […]

What Are the Different Types and Characteristics of Essays?

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

The term essay comes from the French for "trial" or "attempt." French author Michel de Montaigne coined the term when he assigned the title Essais to his first publication in 1580. In "Montaigne: A Biography" (1984), Donald Frame notes that Montaigne "often used the verb essayer (in modern French, normally to try ) in ways close to his project, related to experience, with the sense of trying out or testing."

An essay is a short work of nonfiction , while a writer of essays is called an essayist. In writing instruction, essay is often used as another word for composition . In an essay, an authorial voice  (or narrator ) typically invites an implied reader  (the audience ) to accept as authentic a certain textual mode of experience. 

Definitions and Observations

  • "[An essay is a] composition , usually in prose .., which may be of only a few hundred words (like Bacon's "Essays") or of book length (like Locke's "Essay Concerning Human Understanding") and which discusses, formally or informally, a topic or a variety of topics." (J.A. Cuddon, "Dictionary of Literary Terms". Basil, 1991)
  • " Essays are how we speak to one another in print — caroming thoughts not merely in order to convey a certain packet of information, but with a special edge or bounce of personal character in a kind of public letter." (Edward Hoagland, Introduction, "The Best American Essays : 1999". Houghton, 1999)
  • "[T]he essay traffics in fact and tells the truth, yet it seems to feel free to enliven, to shape, to embellish, to make use as necessary of elements of the imaginative and the fictive — thus its inclusion in that rather unfortunate current designation ' creative nonfiction .'" (G. Douglas Atkins, "Reading Essays: An Invitation". University of Georgia Press, 2007)

Montaigne's Autobiographical Essays "Although Michel de Montaigne, who fathered the modern essay in the 16th century, wrote autobiographically (like the essayists who claim to be his followers today), his autobiography was always in the service of larger existential discoveries. He was forever on the lookout for life lessons. If he recounted the sauces he had for dinner and the stones that weighted his kidney, it was to find an element of truth that we could put in our pockets and carry away, that he could put in his own pocket. After all, Philosophy — which is what he thought he practiced in his essays, as had his idols, Seneca and Cicero, before him — is about 'learning to live.' And here lies the problem with essayists today: not that they speak of themselves, but that they do so with no effort to make their experience relevant or useful to anyone else, with no effort to extract from it any generalizable insight into the human condition." (Cristina Nehring, "What’s Wrong With the American Essay." Truthdig, Nov. 29, 2007)

The Artful Formlessness of the Essay "[G]ood essays are works of literary art. Their supposed formlessness is more a strategy to disarm the reader with the appearance of unstudied spontaneity than a reality of composition. . . . "The essay form as a whole has long been associated with an experimental method. This idea goes back to Montaigne and his endlessly suggestive use of the term essai for his writing. To essay is to attempt, to test, to make a run at something without knowing whether you are going to succeed. The experimental association also derives from the other fountain-head of the essay, Francis Bacon , and his stress on the empirical inductive method, so useful in the development of the social sciences." (Phillip Lopate, "The Art of the Personal Essay". Anchor, 1994)

Articles vs. Essays "[W]hat finally distinguishes an essay from an article may just be the author's gumption, the extent to which personal voice, vision, and style are the prime movers and shapers, even though the authorial 'I' may be only a remote energy, nowhere visible but everywhere present." (Justin Kaplan, ed. "The Best American Essays: 1990". Ticknor & Fields, 1990) "I am predisposed to the essay with knowledge to impart — but, unlike journalism, which exists primarily to present facts, the essays transcend their data, or transmute it into personal meaning. The memorable essay, unlike the article, is not place or time-bound; it survives the occasion of its original composition. Indeed, in the most brilliant essays, language is not merely the medium of communication ; it is communication." (Joyce Carol Oates, quoted by Robert Atwan in "The Best American Essays, College Edition", 2nd ed. Houghton Mifflin, 1998) "I speak of a 'genuine' essay because fakes abound. Here the old-fashioned term poetaster may apply, if only obliquely. As the poetaster is to the poet — a lesser aspirant — so the average article is to the essay: a look-alike knockoff guaranteed not to wear well. An article is often gossip. An essay is reflection and insight. An article often has the temporary advantage of social heat — what's hot out there right now. An essay's heat is interior. An article can be timely, topical, engaged in the issues and personalities of the moment; it is likely to be stale within the month. In five years it may have acquired the quaint aura of a rotary phone. An article is usually Siamese-twinned to its date of birth. An essay defies its date of birth — and ours, too. (A necessary caveat: some genuine essays are popularly called 'articles' — but this is no more than an idle, though persistent, habit of speech. What's in a name? The ephemeral is the ephemeral. The enduring is the enduring.)" (Cynthia Ozick, "SHE: Portrait of the Essay as a Warm Body." The Atlantic Monthly, September 1998)

The Status of the Essay "Though the essay has been a popular form of writing in British and American periodicals since the 18th century, until recently its status in the literary canon has been, at best, uncertain. Relegated to the composition class, frequently dismissed as mere journalism, and generally ignored as an object for serious academic study, the essay has sat, in James Thurber's phrase, ' on the edge of the chair of Literature.' "In recent years, however, prompted by both a renewed interest in rhetoric and by poststructuralist redefinitions of literature itself, the essay — as well as such related forms of 'literary nonfiction' as biography , autobiography , and travel and nature writing — has begun to attract increasing critical attention and respect." (Richard Nordquist, "Essay," in "Encylopedia of American Literature", ed. S. R. Serafin. Continuum, 1999)

The Contemporary Essay "At present, the American magazine essay , both the long feature piece and the critical essay, is flourishing, in unlikely circumstances... "There are plenty of reasons for this. One is that magazines, big and small, are taking over some of the cultural and literary ground vacated by newspapers in their seemingly unstoppable evaporation. Another is that the contemporary essay has for some time now been gaining energy as an escape from, or rival to, the perceived conservatism of much mainstream fiction... "So the contemporary essay is often to be seen engaged in acts of apparent anti-novelization: in place of plot , there is drift or the fracture of numbered paragraphs; in place of a frozen verisimilitude, there may be a sly and knowing movement between reality and fictionality; in place of the impersonal author of standard-issue third-person realism, the authorial self pops in and out of the picture, with a liberty hard to pull off in fiction." (James Wood, "Reality Effects." The New Yorker, Dec. 19 & 26, 2011)

The Lighter Side of Essays: "The Breakfast Club" Essay Assignment "All right people, we're going to try something a little different today. We are going to write an essay of not less than a thousand words describing to me who you think you are. And when I say 'essay,' I mean 'essay,' not one word repeated a thousand times. Is that clear, Mr. Bender?" (Paul Gleason as Mr. Vernon) Saturday, March 24, 1984 Shermer High School Shermer, Illinois 60062 Dear Mr. Vernon, We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did was wrong. But we think you're crazy to make us write this essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us — in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That's the way we saw each other at seven o'clock this morning. We were brainwashed... But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain and an athlete and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club (Anthony Michael Hall as Brian Johnson, "The Breakfast Club", 1985)

  • The Essay: History and Definition
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  • Definition and Examples of Formal Essays
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  • Definition and Examples of Analysis in Composition
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10.6 Definition

Learning objectives.

  • Determine the purpose and structure of the definition essay.
  • Understand how to write a definition essay.

The Purpose of Definition in Writing

The purpose of a definition essay may seem self-explanatory: the purpose of the definition essay is to simply define something. But defining terms in writing is often more complicated than just consulting a dictionary. In fact, the way we define terms can have far-reaching consequences for individuals as well as collective groups.

Take, for example, a word like alcoholism . The way in which one defines alcoholism depends on its legal, moral, and medical contexts. Lawyers may define alcoholism in terms of its legality; parents may define alcoholism in terms of its morality; and doctors will define alcoholism in terms of symptoms and diagnostic criteria. Think also of terms that people tend to debate in our broader culture. How we define words, such as marriage and climate change , has enormous impact on policy decisions and even on daily decisions. Think about conversations couples may have in which words like commitment , respect , or love need clarification.

Defining terms within a relationship, or any other context, can at first be difficult, but once a definition is established between two people or a group of people, it is easier to have productive dialogues. Definitions, then, establish the way in which people communicate ideas. They set parameters for a given discourse, which is why they are so important.

When writing definition essays, avoid terms that are too simple, that lack complexity. Think in terms of concepts, such as hero , immigration , or loyalty , rather than physical objects. Definitions of concepts, rather than objects, are often fluid and contentious, making for a more effective definition essay.

Writing at Work

Definitions play a critical role in all workplace environments. Take the term sexual harassment , for example. Sexual harassment is broadly defined on the federal level, but each company may have additional criteria that define it further. Knowing how your workplace defines and treats all sexual harassment allegations is important. Think, too, about how your company defines lateness , productivity , or contributions .

On a separate sheet of paper, write about a time in your own life in which the definition of a word, or the lack of a definition, caused an argument. Your term could be something as simple as the category of an all-star in sports or how to define a good movie. Or it could be something with higher stakes and wider impact, such as a political argument. Explain how the conversation began, how the argument hinged on the definition of the word, and how the incident was finally resolved.

Collaboration

Please share with a classmate and compare your responses.

The Structure of a Definition Essay

The definition essay opens with a general discussion of the term to be defined. You then state as your thesis your definition of the term.

The rest of the essay should explain the rationale for your definition. Remember that a dictionary’s definition is limiting, and you should not rely strictly on the dictionary entry. Instead, consider the context in which you are using the word. Context identifies the circumstances, conditions, or setting in which something exists or occurs. Often words take on different meanings depending on the context in which they are used. For example, the ideal leader in a battlefield setting could likely be very different than a leader in an elementary school setting. If a context is missing from the essay, the essay may be too short or the main points could be confusing or misunderstood.

The remainder of the essay should explain different aspects of the term’s definition. For example, if you were defining a good leader in an elementary classroom setting, you might define such a leader according to personality traits: patience, consistency, and flexibility. Each attribute would be explained in its own paragraph.

For definition essays, try to think of concepts that you have a personal stake in. You are more likely to write a more engaging definition essay if you are writing about an idea that has personal value and importance.

It is a good idea to occasionally assess your role in the workplace. You can do this through the process of definition. Identify your role at work by defining not only the routine tasks but also those gray areas where your responsibilities might overlap with those of others. Coming up with a clear definition of roles and responsibilities can add value to your résumé and even increase productivity in the workplace.

On a separate sheet of paper, define each of the following items in your own terms. If you can, establish a context for your definition.

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Writing a Definition Essay

Choose a topic that will be complex enough to be discussed at length. Choosing a word or phrase of personal relevance often leads to a more interesting and engaging essay.

After you have chosen your word or phrase, start your essay with an introduction that establishes the relevancy of the term in the chosen specific context. Your thesis comes at the end of the introduction, and it should clearly state your definition of the term in the specific context. Establishing a functional context from the beginning will orient readers and minimize misunderstandings.

The body paragraphs should each be dedicated to explaining a different facet of your definition. Make sure to use clear examples and strong details to illustrate your points. Your concluding paragraph should pull together all the different elements of your definition to ultimately reinforce your thesis. See Chapter 15 “Readings: Examples of Essays” to read a sample definition essay.

Create a full definition essay from one of the items you already defined in Note 10.64 “Exercise 2” . Be sure to include an interesting introduction, a clear thesis, a well-explained context, distinct body paragraphs, and a conclusion that pulls everything together.

Key Takeaways

  • Definitions establish the way in which people communicate ideas. They set parameters for a given discourse.
  • Context affects the meaning and usage of words.
  • The thesis of a definition essay should clearly state the writer’s definition of the term in the specific context.
  • Body paragraphs should explain the various facets of the definition stated in the thesis.
  • The conclusion should pull all the elements of the definition together at the end and reinforce the thesis.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Tchiki Davis, Ph.D.

Growth Mindset

What is manifestation science-based ways to manifest, here's what the research says about manifestation..

Updated December 3, 2023 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader

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What is manifestation?

The word " manifestation " means to turn an idea into a reality. Usually, we want to manifest things that improve our happiness and well-being (take this well-being quiz to check your current level of well-being). People generally talk about manifestation as the process of using thoughts, feelings, and beliefs to bring something into reality, but given the science behind manifestation, it seems important to also include actions as a key part of the manifestation process.

What does manifestation really mean?

Manifestation has become popular thanks to books like The Secret and The Law of Attraction . Unfortunately, most psychological scientists will tell you that these books are based on pseudoscience—they claim to be scientific and factual, but they're not actually based on scientific evidence.

So as a psychological scientist I can't, in good conscience , recommend these books. However, I feel like many psychologists throw out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to the idea of "manifestation." They'll often say it's junk science. But I say: Of course we can manifest positive things in our lives—if we couldn't then what would be the point of therapy , wellness interventions, or any of the tools we use to help people?

So what does the science actually say about manifestation ? How can we take a goal or idea we have in our heads and make it real?

What is the science behind manifestation?

There actually is science behind the idea of manifestation—that is, turning an idea into a real thing. Here are some areas of research and how they lend support to manifestation:

A growth mindset can help you manifest your dreams and reach your goals

Research by Dr. Carol Dweck clearly shows that believing you can do something makes it more likely that you'll successfully do it. That means that our beliefs about our ability to learn, grow, and succeed—our growth mindset —can indeed affect whether we effectively manifest what we desire.

Importantly, this research suggests that if we truly believe we can achieve something, we are willing to do the hard work to achieve it. This is in contrast to law-of-attraction style manifestation which suggests that belief alone is enough to bring about manifestation. Ultimately, the science suggests that our beliefs bring about behaviors (and responses from others) that lead to the outcomes we desire.

Self-fulfilling prophecies may explain manifestation

Research shows that our expectations, positive or negative, tend to be confirmed. This is what is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. So if we expect to bring our idea to life or reach our goal, we're more likely to.

For example, if you don't think you can succeed in some goal, let's say getting your dream job, you'll set in motion events that will actually make it more likely that you won't get your dream job. Maybe you'll be cold or grumpy during a job interview. Maybe you'll engage in negative self-talk with someone who could help you. Or maybe you'll just feel angry and not spend the necessary time required to reach your goal. Your beliefs set in motion circumstances that affect your ability to manifest an outcome.

Negativity bias may explain perceptions about manifestation

Research shows that if we're already feeling bad, we're more likely to interpret neutral circumstances in a negative way. It may be that someone with a more positive attitude just pays more attention to the ways in which they have successfully manifested parts of their dreams. Another person with a more negative outlook may experience the exact same things and only see where they failed to manifest what they desired. That's how bias may affect manifestation .

Upward spirals of positive emotion may explain manifestation success

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson's research has also shown that positive emotions enable us to think more creatively. Similarly, Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky has shown that happiness leads to success and not the other way around. People who are generally happy and positive attract more opportunities, have better relationships, and seem to be able to manifest what they set their minds to more easily.

It makes sense when you think about it, right? We prefer to be around positive, optimistic people. And being around people with a negative attitude? It's off-putting and doesn't lead us to want to help these people.

How do we use science to manifest what we want?

1. Get clear on what you want to manifest

what is the meaning of a essay

What do you actually want? Spend some time focusing to get clarity on your manifestation goal. Mindful meditation can be a useful tool for this—it quiets the mind and helps increase self-awareness . Or, you could talk to a friend. Sometimes just talking can help you gain the clarity you need to manifest something.

2. Manifest what matters to you

When deciding what to manifest, ask yourself a few reflection questions:

  • Will this make me happy and fulfilled?
  • Does it feel right for me? (Or is there something or someone influencing me?)
  • Will this do any harm to myself or others?

By asking yourself these questions you can choose the right things to manifest—things that you will be more likely to believe in, things that you have positive expectations about, and things that make you feel more positive. As a result, you'll be more likely to manifest them.

3. Visualize your manifestation to generate positive emotions

Visualizing what you desire can help you feel positive emotions related to it more strongly. And those emotions can help you believe in yourself more. Just close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and imagine a scene from your future life as you desire it. Here's a future visualization exercise if you need more help.

Created with content from The Berkeley Well-Being Institute.

Tchiki Davis, Ph.D.

Tchiki Davis, Ph.D. , is a consultant, writer, and expert on well-being technology.

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Guest Essay

We Can Get the Electricity We Need Without Frying the Planet (or Our Pocketbooks)

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By Jonathan Mingle

Mr. Mingle is an independent journalist and the author of “Gaslight: The Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Fight for America’s Energy Future.”

Electric utilities from Georgia to Wisconsin to Virginia are predicting a dizzying surge in power demand from new industrial facilities, electric vehicles and, most of all, the data centers that store our digital photos and will enable large-language models for artificial intelligence. For months now, they have been signaling that they won’t be able to keep up.

To keep the lights on, many utility companies are proposing to build dozens of new power plants that burn natural gas. North Carolina-based Duke Energy alone wants to add 8.9 gigawatts of new gas-fired capacity — more than the entire country added in 2023. Using their own projections of soaring energy demands as justification, these companies are also pushing back on the climate targets set by their states and the Biden administration.

If state regulators sign off on these plans, they will be gambling with our country’s future. We need to electrify everything from cars to appliances to slow climate change, but we won’t be able to reach our climate goals if we power all of those machines with dirty energy.

There is a better way. But to get there, legislators will need to overhaul the incentives driving utilities to double down on natural gas, so that they can turn a profit without cooking the planet.

Companies like Duke, Dominion Energy and Georgia Power argue that they need more gas-fired plants to reliably provide power during times of peak demand — for instance, on a hot summer weekday afternoon when home cooling systems and data servers are all humming at maximum output, and the grid strains to keep up. But those peaks tend to materialize only for a few dozen hours per year, and there are ways to deal with them that don’t require a massive amount of new methane-burning infrastructure.

The real reason the utilities want to build these plants is quite simple: The more stuff they build, the more money they make. Regulators let utilities charge their customers enough money to cover what they spend on assets like combustion turbines and wires, plus a generous rate of return (up to 10 percent) for their investors. This longstanding arrangement incentivizes power providers to build expensive things whether society needs them or not, in lieu of lower-cost, cleaner options, and to invoke their duty to keep the lights on as a post hoc rationalization.

This dynamic can push some companies to extreme lengths in pursuit of gas-generated profits. Nearly a decade ago, Dominion and Duke partnered to build a 600-mile-long pipeline across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, largely to supply their own new power plants. Back then, the companies cited their own forecasts of rising energy demand and claimed more gas supply was needed to back up intermittent wind- and solar-generated power coming onto the grid. But it soon became clear that there wasn’t any need for those plants, and most were canceled. The pipeline’s core premise had proved to be a mirage. And in 2020 , faced with relentless grass-roots opposition, Dominion and Duke finally abandoned it.

It makes sense that Dominion and Duke executives would pursue these potentially lucrative investments; their job is to maximize returns for their shareholders. But utilities aren’t like other shareholder-owned companies. They are granted the right to be monopolies in exchange for providing essential services to society. And regulators’ job is to hold them accountable to the public interest. This century-old model is in dire need of an upgrade, so that utilities can be compensated for achieving goals — such as using clean, affordable energy and building a resilient grid — that are in everyone’s interest.

Although breathless forecasts of artificial intelligence gobbling up all of our power supply may or may not prove correct, there’s no question that after decades of remaining mostly flat, electricity demand is increasing. Fortunately, utilities have plenty of ways to meet this new need.

They include “ virtual power plants ” — when technologies such as home batteries, rooftop solar systems, smart water heaters and thermostats are linked together and managed via software to provide the same services as a conventional power plant. Utilities in Vermont, Colorado and Massachusetts are already using them, to quickly respond to rising demand at a much lower cost than operating natural gas combustion turbines. According to one estimate , virtual power plants could lower U.S. utilities’ costs by as much as $35 billion over the next decade.

Utilities could also accelerate efforts to replace outdated transmission lines with newer ones that can carry double the electric current and to bring more battery storage online. They can compensate customers for using less energy during times when demand is high and invest far more in energy efficiency, helping customers to adopt devices that use less electricity.

All of these solutions would save customers money and reduce carbon emissions. They could, according to a Department of Energy analysis , meet the entire projected growth in U.S. peak electricity demand over the next decade.

Sure, they wouldn’t provide utilities nearly as much money as building new gas-fired power plants. But that’s why public utility commissions must step in to require utilities to make investments that benefit the climate and their customers, without scaring off their shareholders. What’s needed is not more regulation, just smarter regulation.

There are promising signs that this shift is already underway. In Connecticut, where customers pay some of the highest electricity rates in the nation, the chairwoman of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority has created a program to test-drive tweaks to utilities’ incentive structure, as part of a larger initiative to build an “equitable, modern electric grid.”

More than a dozen other state legislatures have directed regulators to impose or study some kind of performance-based regulation to reward utilities based on what they do , instead of on how much they spend . This move has predictably elicited pushback from some companies, which believe that their traditional business models are under threat. But others have embraced the new opportunities: Hawaii’s approach has earned the support of the state’s biggest electric utility.

We need utilities to succeed now more than ever before. But the definition of success needs to evolve. We need them not only to shore up a grid being battered by extreme weather and wildfires fueled by climate change, but also to fully embrace the work of phasing out fossil fuels.

The United States has very little chance of reining in its emissions without investor-owned utilities putting their expertise and deep resources to work. We can’t build a carbon-free energy system without them — or without regulators and lawmakers willing to compel them to accelerate, rather than postpone, the clean energy transition.

Jonathan Mingle is an independent journalist and the author of “Gaslight: The Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Fight for America’s Energy Future.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow the New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Instagram , TikTok , WhatsApp , X and Threads .

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I Guess I Can Do It With a Literal Broken Heart

As the Eras Tour resumes today, one ELLE editor shares how a song from Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department had an unexpected connection to his health.

The other week, I felt like Taylor Swift.

No, I haven’t been in the recording studio writing an album, touring the globe, or raking in dough. I wasn’t shimmering in a body suit or performing to millions of fans. I didn’t break Spotify records with The Tortured Poets Department. Instead, I filled the holes in my busy week by listening and dancing to “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart” over and over again, claiming the track as my own.

Whenever I’m in a rotten head space, I lose myself to the music. Whether there are people around or not, I dream of flouncing around a dance floor on my wedding day or performing in front of a stadium to thousands of fans. It’s therapy, the light at the end of my day, and often, what I look forward to the most: a 10 P.M. dance break.

This past December, when I was in Los Angeles for our annual Women in Hollywood event, I ended one particularly stressful day with a tango. I strutted through my hotel room in my black, tiny underwear and took a few minutes to perform my greatest living room hits, culminating with “Breathless,” by the Corrs.

I started dancing, hitting each body roll and ass shake, giving the performance of a lifetime. Then, at the end of the song, I pumped my hand into the sky like I was holding a microphone. A sharp pain shot across my chest and body. Within a matter of seconds, my tour came to an end. I was on my bed, almost immobile and worried about what I had just done. The pain slowly subsided. I drifted off to sleep and hoped the next day would bring healing.

The following morning, I thought all was fixed. I went to a boxing class, hit a punch, and the pain came right back. I convinced myself I was having a heart attack. I looked up the symptoms on WebMD, talked with some coworkers, and then thought it was all over. I tracked down the nearest hospital, called my family, and tried to talk it through with a provider on the phone. After my anxiety came down, and I got some professional advice, I realized it was most likely a pull. I decided to power through. I could still move.

I went through the rest of that week in Los Angeles assisting with our event with a dull pain in my chest. When I got back to New York, my primary care provider confirmed my suspicions: I had pulled a muscle. It would take some time to heal. He still wanted to run an electrocardiogram (EKG) to be safe.

After being hooked up to the machine as if I were a science experiment, my doctor came back. He recommended I see a cardiologist as soon as possible. I had pulled my chest, but something else was, in fact, wrong.

Six doctor’s appointments, two weeks on a heart monitor, and an ultrasound later, I was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome (WPW). Essentially, I have an extra pathway in my heart where signals sometimes travel. My resting heart rate can skyrocket to 200 beats per minute. When not treated properly, WPW can lead to sudden cardiac arrest and death in children and young adults.

.css-1aear8u:before{margin:0 auto 0.9375rem;width:34px;height:25px;content:'';display:block;background-repeat:no-repeat;}.loaded .css-1aear8u:before{background-image:url(/_assets/design-tokens/elle/static/images/quote.fddce92.svg);} .css-1bvxk2j{font-family:SaolDisplay,SaolDisplay-fallback,SaolDisplay-roboto,SaolDisplay-local,Georgia,Times,serif;font-size:1.625rem;font-weight:normal;line-height:1.2;margin:0rem;margin-bottom:0.3125rem;}@media(max-width: 48rem){.css-1bvxk2j{font-size:2.125rem;line-height:1.1;}}@media(min-width: 40.625rem){.css-1bvxk2j{font-size:2.125rem;line-height:1.2;}}@media(min-width: 64rem){.css-1bvxk2j{font-size:2.25rem;line-height:1.1;}}@media(min-width: 73.75rem){.css-1bvxk2j{font-size:2.375rem;line-height:1.2;}}.css-1bvxk2j b,.css-1bvxk2j strong{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;}.css-1bvxk2j em,.css-1bvxk2j i{font-style:italic;font-family:inherit;}.css-1bvxk2j i,.css-1bvxk2j em{font-style:italic;} I’d feel a heftier heart rate when I had anxiety or was listening to fast-paced music. ... I had convinced myself that was something everyone experienced. They told me it was not.”

Every doctor I saw asked if I felt this high heart rate. I commented that I did, but I thought it was normal. I’d feel a heftier heart rate when I had anxiety or was listening to fast-paced music. I’d quickly lose my breath while running or feel pressure in my chest at my weekly Barry’s classes. I had convinced myself that was something everyone experienced. They told me it was not. Some patients don’t catch this condition until they’re elderly; apparently I was lucky I caught it now. We could fix it with a simple surgery, an ablation, which had a 96 percent success rate. I said yes to the procedure, and we got a date on the calendar.

The night before the surgery, I couldn’t help but play a mental supercut of the moments in my life that had made me pause, moments that made me, in reference to the song that caused me to catch the problem, breathless. I thought about the gorgeous weddings I’d attended. I thought about hearing the overture of Merrily We Roll Along played by a full orchestra for the first time. I thought about kissing a beautiful boy with cherry lips under a disco ball. I thought about the devastating end of The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai and when Parvati, Cirie, Amanda, and Natalie convinced Erik to give up individual immunity on Survivor . I thought about a recent meet cute and my first bite of the crab rangoon pizza at Fong’s in Des Moines, Iowa. I thought about my night at MetLife Stadium at Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. I thought about seeing my dad cry when the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. I thought about my mom caucusing in 2016 to support her politically active son and the year I won my family’s annual Christmas board game competition. I thought about the first time seeing my name on the masthead or in a byline in ELLE Magazine. I thought about my roommate Alex, who helped me through every doctor’s appointment and was slated to go with me to the surgery the following day. I thought about my other friends who offered to take care of me, too. I thought about every single person I loved.

And then, I had the surgery. It seemed to go well. I scheduled a follow-up.

Just a few days before The Tortured Poets Department dropped, I went into my doctor for the final A-OK. I had felt better, and I was convinced the surgery worked. He told me it did not. It would take a second surgery to fix. I was in the 4 percent.

I may not be performing in front of millions of fans, but Taylor’s ability to create music that’s relatable while speaking about her extraordinary situations is unmatched. To learn that even the world’s biggest pop star has powered through her own private battles made me feel more connected to her. Many of my colleagues and friends, each carrying on with their own silent struggles, have commented how this song has been their recent anthem, and it’s become a standout topic on social media.

To learn that even the world’s biggest pop star has powered through her own private battles made me feel more connected to her.”

We shuffle along to the beats of many drums. We are sometimes asked for more and we do it, all while haunted by paralyzing thoughts, yearning for a break and sleep. Internally we are miserable, but we peddle forward. It’s a side effect of the human condition. Of course, we need to take time for ourselves too, but I have gotten through my most challenging moments, terrifying times, and biggest heartbreaks by picking myself up and forcing myself to get back out there. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

I have to remind myself often that little Sam would be in awe of me right now. He would be astounded by all I’m accomplishing and the shows I’ve attended. Little Sam would love my unabashed queerness and my recent body confidence. But he wouldn’t be able to handle my very full plate: health complications, boy problems, and a sometimes challenging (but also rewarding) career. I’m sure little Taylor would feel the same way about big Taylor right now too.

So yes, I guess I can really do it with a literal broken heart. Taylor and I have that in common. I have my second surgery in late May. Hopefully, in June, Taylor’s song will remind me of a time when I was stronger than I had ever been before.

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The True Meaning of Loyalty: a Deep Dive into its Core Aspects and Implications

This essay about the complex nature of loyalty explores its profound impact on personal relationships, professional affiliations, and national sentiments. It highlights the ethical dilemmas of balancing allegiance with personal integrity, cautioning against blind loyalty’s potential for harm. Loyalty’s role in identity formation and societal cohesion is examined, emphasizing the importance of critical reflection in navigating its complexities. Ultimately, the essay underscores loyalty’s significance in human interaction while advocating for a nuanced understanding that aligns with ethical standards and promotes collective well-being.

How it works

Loyalty is a nuanced and layered characteristic, widely regarded as a paramount virtue in human conduct. It permeates various facets of life, influencing personal bonds, professional affiliations, and even national sentiments. Yet, understanding the true essence of loyalty involves exploring more than just steadfastness or allegiance; it requires delving into a deep commitment that manifests in diverse ways and carries profound consequences for individuals and communities alike.

At its heart, loyalty represents a deep-seated emotional and ethical commitment to an entity outside oneself—be it a person, a group, an organization, or a cause.

This bond compels individuals to prioritize the welfare of the entity to which they are loyal, sometimes sacrificing their own interests in the process. Such commitments are grounded in virtues like trust, honesty, and selflessness. When these virtues are reciprocated, they fortify relationships, making them resilient and enduring.

However, loyalty is multifaceted and can be ethically complex. It poses significant questions about how one can balance fidelity with personal ethics and independence. The challenge lies in remaining faithful while still maintaining one’s principles and identity. This becomes particularly tricky when the demands of loyalty potentially conflict with personal morals. In such scenarios, loyalty not only tests one’s ethical boundaries but also underscores the strength of their moral convictions.

The broader implications of loyalty touch upon ethical and social dimensions, particularly in professional and national contexts. In workplaces, loyalty can enhance organizational culture and productivity, but an overemphasis on loyalty might lead to unethical practices, as individuals overlook broader consequences to protect their company. This darker aspect of loyalty serves as a caution, reminding us of the need for ethical limits and balanced judgment.

In matters of national loyalty, patriotism can cultivate a sense of community and shared purpose. However, history shows that extreme loyalty to a nation can result in exclusion, injustice, and conflict. Thus, a nuanced approach to loyalty involves critical scrutiny and questioning, even when dealing with deeply held allegiances.

Loyalty also significantly influences identity formation, reinforcing a sense of belonging and shaping how individuals make decisions within their relational and social spheres. While this can provide psychological stability and continuity, it can also create conflict, especially in diverse societies where various loyalties might overlap or clash.

Understanding loyalty, therefore, is not about endorsing an unwavering allegiance but rather about engaging in a thoughtful and dynamic process. It involves continually assessing the implications of loyalty against personal values and changing circumstances. Such reflective engagement ensures that loyalty remains constructive and aligned with ethical standards.

In essence, loyalty is a vital yet complex attribute of human interaction. It strengthens connections, fosters social cohesion, and promotes collective well-being. Nevertheless, it also demands discernment, ethical vigilance, and a commitment to balancing personal integrity with the needs of others. The real significance of loyalty lies not merely in its practice but in understanding and managing its intricate dynamics to enhance, not hinder, human relationships.

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With Arms Wide Open

How did creed, the most hated band of the 1990s, become so beloved—and even cool i sailed the seas with thousands of fellow lunatics to find out..

It’s high noon on a blazing April day, which is the ideal time to be sitting in an Irish pub aboard a cruise ship the size of a small asteroid. The bar is called O’Sheehan’s—yes, pronounced “oceans”—and it’s located deep within the belly of the boat, just above the teppanyaki joint, the sake bar, and the lustrous duty-free shops. This consciousness-altering diorama of infinite seas and cloying Guinness-themed paraphernalia is where I meet Colleen Sullivan, a 46-year-old woman with a beehive of curly red hair and arms encased by plastic wristbands. She wants to tell me how Creed changed her life.

A few moments earlier, Sullivan dropped one of those wristbands on my table—an invitation to talk. It’s lime-green and emblazoned with pink lettering that reads “Rock the Boat With Creed.” I slip it past my hand and sidle up to her booth. Sullivan uses one nuclear-yellow-painted fingernail to hook back the wristbands on her right arm. Underneath is the pinched autograph of Scott Stapp, the band’s mercurial lead singer, enshrined in tattoo ink. This, it seems, is not her first rodeo.

We are both here for “Summer of ’99,” a weekendlong cruise and concert festival for which Creed—as in the Christian-lite rock band that sold more than 28 million albums in the U.S. alone and yet may be the most widely disdained group in modern times—is reuniting for the first time in 12 years. Roughly 2,400 other Creed fans are along for the round-trip ride from Miami to the Bahamas, and the rest of the bill is occupied by the dregs of turn-of-the-millennium alt-rock stardom. Buckcherry is here. So are Vertical Horizon, Fuel, and 3 Doors Down, the latter of whom hasn’t released an album since 2016.

To celebrate, Sixthman, the booking agency responsible for this and many other cruises, has thoroughly Creed-ified every element of the ship. The band’s logo is printed on the napkins and scripted across the blackjack felt. The TV screens at the bar are tuned to a near-constant loop of Creed’s performance at Woodstock ’99. The onboard library has been converted to a merch store selling Creed hoodies and shot glasses. The stock music piped into the corridors has been swapped out for Hinder’s “Lips of an Angel,” Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy,” and 3 Doors Down’s “Kryptonite.” When I turn on the closed-circuit television in my cabin, a channel called New Movies plays Scream 3 and Can’t Hardly Wait . And four elevator doors in the boat’s central plaza are plastered with the words “Can You Take Me Higher or Lower?” Sixthman pulled similar stunts with 311’s “ Caribbean Cruise ,” Train’s “ Sail Across the Sun ” cruise, and Kid Rock’s notoriously debauched “ Chillin’ the Most ” cruise—the Kid Rock cruise also took place on the vessel I’m on, the Norwegian Pearl . The idea is to teleport a captive audience back into the dirtbags they once embodied and to a simpler time, when Scott Stapp controlled the universe.

Sullivan tells me that her relationship with Creed overlaps with her sobriety story. She first became a fan of the band in the late 1990s, when “Higher” and “With Arms Wide Open” were soaring up the Billboard charts. Then, Sullivan started using, and her appreciation for the divine proportions of those songs faded in service of more corporeal needs. Years later, after Creed broke up and Sullivan got clean, she returned to the music and discovered a dogma of her own: Maybe she had been put on earth to love Stapp—and Creed—harder, and with more urgency, than anyone else in the world.

“He helped me grow with those old Creed songs,” she tells me. “When I saw Scott for the first time live, he had just gotten clean too. I’d go to the shows and there would be tears streaming down my face.” Her left arm contains another Stapp tattoo, with the words “His Love Was Thunder in the Sky” scrawled up to her elbow, surrounded by a constellation of quarter notes. It’s a lyric taken from a 2013 Stapp solo song called “Jesus Was a Rockstar.” The singer Sharpie’d it onto her body himself.

“Summer of ’99” is Creed’s second attempt to reunite, after it disbanded in both 2004 and 2012 amid clashing egos and substance issues. The band couldn’t have picked a better time to get back together. If you haven’t noticed, we’re in the midst of an extremely unlikely Creed renaissance, redeeming the most reviled—and, perhaps more damningly, most uncool —band in the world. For much of the past 20 years, hating Creed has been a natural extension of being a music fan: In 2013 Rolling Stone readers voted the group “the worst band of the 1990s,” beating out a murderers’ row of Hootie and the Blowfish, Nickelback, and Hanson. Entertainment Weekly, reviewing Human Clay , the band’s bestselling album and one of the highest-selling albums of all time, bemoaned the record’s “lunkheaded kegger rock” and “quasi-spiritual lyrics that have all the resonance of a self-help manual.” Meanwhile, Robert Christgau, the self-appointed dean of American rock critics, wrote Creed off as “God-fearing grunge babies,” comparing the group unfavorably with Limp Bizkit.

The disrespect was reflected more sharply by Stapp’s own contemporaries. In the early 2000s, Dexter Holland, the frontman of the Offspring, played shows wearing a T-shirt that read “Even Jesus Hates Creed.” After leaked images of a sex tape filmed in 1999 featuring Stapp and Kid Rock and a room full of groupies made it onto the internet, Kid Rock retorted by saying that his fans didn’t care about the pornography but were appalled that he was hanging out with someone like Stapp. The comedian David Cross, who embodies the archetype of the exact sort of coastal hipsters who became the band’s loudest hecklers, dedicated swaths of his stand-up material to bird-dogging the singer. (One choice punchline: “That guy hangs out outside a junior high school girls locker room and writes down poetry he overhears.”) Then, in 2002, after a disastrous show in Chicago at which a belligerently drunk Stapp forgot the words to his songs and stumbled off the stage for 10 minutes, four attendees unsuccessfully sued the band for $2 million. Holland’s shirt didn’t go far enough—at the group’s lowest, even Creed fans hated Creed.

All this acrimony plunged Stapp into several episodes of psychic distress. His dependence on alcohol and painkillers was well documented during the band’s initial brush with success, but after Creed’s short-lived reconciliation, Stapp spiraled into a truly cavernous nadir. In 2014 the singer started posting unsettling videos to Facebook, asserting that he had been victimized by a cascading financial scam and was living in a Holiday Inn. That same year, TMZ released 911 calls made by Stapp’s wife Jaclyn claiming that he had printed out reams of CIA documents and was threatening to kill Barack Obama. But these days, Stapp—who announced a bipolar diagnosis in 2015—appears to be on much firmer ground, and the band has reportedly patched up some of those long-gestating interpersonal wounds.

But with time comes wisdom, and in 2024 neither the critical slander nor the troubling reports about Stapp’s mental state are anywhere to be found. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Creed is good, a shift that, as Stapp told Esquire , “just started happening” around 2021. The new paradigm likely solidified the next year, when Creed’s mythically patriotic post-9/11 halftime show, played on Thanksgiving in 2001, began to accrue latter-day meme status. The set was ridiculous and immaculately lip-synced by Stapp and company. Yoked, shirtless angels spin through the air, and cheerleaders pump out pompom routines synchronized with “My Sacrifice,” all while the live broadcast is interspersed with grim footage from ground zero. It’s garishly, unapologetically American, issued just before the unsavory decline of the Bush administration clicked into place. Today both of those relics—Creed and the unified national optimism—are worth getting wistful about. “This is where we peaked as a nation,” wrote football commentator Mike Golic Jr., linking to the video.

Creed nostalgia has only proliferated further since the resurrection of that halftime show. The band’s guitarist, Mark Tremonti, told the hard-rock site Blabbermouth that he’d recently noticed athletes bumping Creed as their “ go-to battle music ,” and in November, an entire stadium of Texas Rangers fans belted out “Higher” to commemorate their team’s World Series victory . Earlier this year, a viral remix of “ One Last Breath ” even began pulsing through some of the hottest parties in New York. The band has clearly crossed some sort of inscrutable cultural Rubicon and thrown reality into flux—up is down, black is white, and, due to a sublime confluence of biting irony and prostrating sincerity, Creed fucking rocks .

All this means that the inaugural edition of the “Summer of ’99” cruise is buoyed by very high stakes. It has been 12 long years since Creed last played a show, and the cruise is intended to be the dry run for a mammoth comeback tour that is scheduled for 60 dates, through summer and autumn, in basketball arenas and hockey stadiums across North America. The only remaining question is whether the band can keep it together. I’m there in a commemorative Creed Super Bowl halftime T-shirt to find out.

Several flights of stairs above O’Sheehan’s, the day before I meet Sullivan, I find Sean Patrick, a giddily beer-buzzed 34-year-old from Nashville who is standing in awe of a Coachella-sized stage that looks downright sinister on the pool deck. Creed is playing two shows this weekend, and the first is set for the very minute the boat leaves port and escapes Miami for the horizon. This means that everyone who purchased a ticket to “Summer of ’99”—which ranges from $895 for a windowless hovel to $6,381 for a stateroom with a balcony—has ascended to the top of the ship, preparing for Creed’s rebirth in a wash of Coors Light tallboys.

As of two days ago, Patrick was unaware he would be attending this cruise. Everything changed when a friend, who was on the waitlist, received a call from Norwegian Cruise Line informing him that a cabin with his name on it had miraculously become available. Patrick was suddenly presented with the opportunity to spend a tremendous amount of cash, on very short notice, to witness this reunion amid the die-hards.

Unlike Sullivan, Patrick doesn’t possess one of those highly intimate histories with the band, flecked with tales of trauma and perseverance. Still, he fell in love with Creed—even if it was only by accident.

“I think it started as a joke. The songs were good, but there was definitely a feeling of, like, Yeah, Creed! ” he tells me. “But then, next thing you know, you find yourself in your car, alone, deciding to put on Creed.”

The majority of the passengers on the Pearl have never been burdened with Patrick’s hesitance. Their relationship with Creed is genuine and free—cleansed of even the faintest whiff of irony—and, unlike Patrick, they tend to be in their late 40s and early 50s. The woman standing ankle-deep in the wading pool with a Stewie Griffin tattoo on her shin unambiguously loves Creed, and the same is probably true of whoever was lounging on a deck chair with a book, written by Fox News pundit Jesse Watters, titled Get It Together: Troubling Tales From the Liberal Fringe . Two brothers from Kentucky who work in steel mills, but not the same steel mill, tell me that loving Creed is practically a family tradition: Their eldest brother, not present on the boat, initially showed them the band’s records. Tina Smith, a 48-year-old home-care aide from Texas, crowned with a black tennis visor adorned with golden letters spelling out the name of her favorite band, loves Creed so much that she embarked on this trip all by herself. “This is my first cruise and my first vacation,” she says, proudly. (Smith is already planning her next vacation. It will coincide with another Creed show.)

Passengers I encounter that are a generation younger are clearly acquainted more with Creed the meme than Creed the band. These are the people who vibe with statements like “Born too late to own property, born just in time to be a crusader in the ‘Creed Isn’t Bad’ fight”—especially when they’re arranged as deep-fried blocks of text superimposed over the face of Keanu Reeves as Neo. If the establishment brokers of culture once settled on the position that Creed sucks, then it has been met with a youth-led insurgency that seems dead-set on shifting the consensus—if for no other reason than to savor the nectar of pure, uncut taboo.

Many members of this insurgency are aboard the Pearl , and they’re caked in emblems of internet miscellany that scream out to anyone in the know. Consider the young man, traveling with his father, who is draped in a T-shirt bearing the Creed logo below a beatific image of Nicolas Cage circa Con Air , or the many fans who wander around the innards of the Pearl in matching Scott Stapp–branded Dallas Cowboys jerseys, a reference to that halftime show. In fact, the best representatives of sardonic Creed-fandom colonists might be the youngest collection of friends that I’ve met on board. They are all in their 20s, most of them work in Boston’s medicine and science sectors, and each is dressed in a custom-ordered tropical button-down dotted with the angelic face of Scott Stapp in places where you’d expect to find coconuts and banana bunches. A week before “Summer of ’99” was announced, the four of them made a pact, via group text, that if Creed were ever to reunite, they would make it out to see the band play, no matter the cost. Their fate was sealed.

“I hated Creed. I thought they were terrible,” says Mike Hobey, who, at 28, is the oldest of the posse and therefore the one who possesses the clearest recollection of Creed’s long, strange journey toward absolution. “But then I started listening to them ironically. And I was like, Oh, shit, I like them now .”

His point is indicative of a strange tension in this new age of Creed: If “the worst band of the 1990s” is suddenly good, does that mean all music is good now? Is nothing tacky? Have the digitized music discovery apparatuses—the melting-pot TikTok algorithm, the self-replicating profusion of Spotify playlists—blurred the boundaries of good and bad taste? Am I, like Hobey, incapable of being a hater anymore?

This is what I found myself thinking about when Creed took the stage, right as the Miami skies began to mellow into a late-afternoon smolder, and put on what was, without a doubt, one of the best rock shows I’ve ever seen. The scalloped penthouses of Miami’s gleaming hotel district passed overhead as the Pearl ’s rudder kicked into gear, and Scott Stapp—looking jacked and gorgeous, chain on neck and chain on belt, flexing toward God in a tight black shirt—launched into “Are You Ready?,” the first song of the afternoon, his baritone sounding, somehow, exactly like it did in 1999. “Who would’ve thought, after our last show in 2012, our next show would be 12 years later, on a boat?” Stapp said. He is risen, indeed.

I later hear from Creed’s PR agent that Tremonti, the guitarist, was more anxious than he was excited to get this first show in the books. I also gather, from Stapp’s representative, that photographers are mandated to shoot the lead singer during only the first two songs of the set, before he begins to “glisten” (her word) with sweat. But if nerves were fraying, Creed conquered them with ease. The members of the band were enveloped by an audience that had paid a lot of money to see them, and in that atmosphere, they could do no wrong. They blitzed through a variety of album cuts before arriving at the brawny triptych of “Higher,” “One Last Breath,” and “With Arms Wide Open,” pausing briefly to wish Tremonti, who was turning 50, a happy birthday. (Stapp wiped away tears afterward, a genuinely touching moment, considering that during their first breakup, Tremonti had compared his years collaborating with Stapp—who was then in the throes of addiction— with surviving Vietnam .) Given Creed’s historic proximity to the Kid Rock brand of red-state overindulgence, I half expected the concert to detonate with violent pits and acrobatic beer stunts, but nothing remotely close to mayhem occurred. This crowd was downright polite—chaste, even—as if it had been stunned by the grandeur of Creed.

“He tried to dance pogo ,” says a disappointed German woman, basking in the pool after the show, gesturing toward her husband. Both of them explain to me that pogoing is the German word for “moshing” and that, even more astonishingly, Creed is huge in their native hamlet, just outside Düsseldorf.

“It’s a reunion after 12 years!” says her husband. “Everyone should be dancing pogo .”

Nothing about Creed’s music has changed in the past decade, which is to say that many of the quirks that people like Hobey once used to mock the band for were on brilliant display during its first show back. But the truth is that little of the smug hatred for the group has ever had much to do with the music itself. Creed’s first record, 1997’s My Own Prison , was nearly identical to the down-tuned angst of Soundgarden or Alice in Chains, drawn well inside the lines of alt-rock radio. (It earned a tasteful 4/5 rating from the longtime consumer guide AllMusic.)

The problems arose only after the band started writing the celestial hooks of Human Clay , solidifying its superstar association with other groups chasing the same crunchy highs with machine-learning efficiency: Nickelback, Staind, Shinedown, and so on. Post-grunge was the term music journalists eventually bestowed on this generation, and in retrospect, that was the kiss of death. Creed was suddenly positioned as the inheritor of the legacy of Kurt Cobain, the godfather of grunge, who bristled at all associations with the mainstream music industry and hired the notoriously bellicose Steve Albini to make Nirvana’s third album as sour and uncommercial as possible. Stapp, meanwhile, has long called Bono—he of the flowing locks, billionaire best friends , and residencies in extravagant Las Vegas monoliths —his “ rock god .” Creed’s sole aspiration was to become the biggest rock band in the world, and for a few years there, the group actually pulled it off. Cobain’s grave got a little colder.

Post-grunge steamrolled the rock business, reducing its sonic palette to an all-consuming minor-chord dirge. Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me” went quadruple platinum in 2001, eventually sparking a furious period of retaliation from the underground. (You could make the argument that the rise of the Strokes or the White Stripes or the indie-rock boom writ large is directly tied to the vise grip Creed once held on the genre.) Before long, music aesthetes adopted a new term, rather than post-grunge , to refer to the Creed phenotype: butt rock . In fact, by the late-2000s, the hatred of Creed had been so canonized that when Slate published a rebuttal —in which critic Jonah Weiner asserted that the band was “seriously underrated”—the essay was considered so “ridiculous” and contrarian as to single-handedly inspire the viral and enduring #slatepitches hashtag, instantly prompting parodies such as “ Star Wars I, II, & III, better than Star Wars IV, V, & VI .”

But, frankly, when I revisit Weiner’s piece, many of his arguments sound remarkably cogent to modern orthodoxies. “Creed seemed to irritate people precisely because its music was so unabashedly calibrated towards pleasure: Every surging riff, skyscraping chorus, and cathartic chord progression telegraphed the band’s intention to rock us, wow us, move us,” he writes. Yes, these easy gratifications might have been unpardonable sins in the summer of 1999, capping off a decade obsessively preoccupied with anxiety about all things commercial and phony. But now even LCD Soundsystem—once the standard-bearer of a certain kind of countercultural fashionability—is booking residencies sponsored by American Express. We have all become hedonists and proud sellouts, and with Creed back in vogue, it seems as if the band’s monumental intemperance has become a feature rather than a bug.

That does not mean Stapp no longer takes himself, or his art, seriously. The singer’s earnestness—some might say humorlessness—has always been a cornerstone of Creed’s brand, and there are millions of fans who will continue to meet him at his word. They brandish personal biographies that intersect with Creed’s records; they finds lines about places with “golden streets” “where blind men see” more inspiring than corny, and many of them are etched with the tattoos to prove it. But in the band’s contemporary afterlife, when all its old context evaporates, Stapp has also attracted a community eager to treat Creed like the party band it never aspired to be—the group of licentious pleasure seekers Weiner wrote about. They’re all here, sprinkled throughout the boat, ready to drink a couple of Coronas and shred their lungs to “My Sacrifice.”

After wrapping up the first night of the cruise, Creed, along with the rest of the bands on the bill, was scheduled to administer a few glad-handing sessions on the weekend itinerary. On Saturday, Tremonti chaperoned a low-key painting session while the Pearl floated into the Bahamas at a dock already crammed with other day-trippers. (Our boat was parked next to a Disney cruise, and when we disembarked, in direct earshot of all the young families, the PA blasted Puddle of Mudd’s “She Fucking Hates Me.”) Tremonti keeps busy: The previous evening, he had judged a karaoke tournament—on the main stage—alongside 3 Doors Down lead singer Brad Arnold. Toward the end of the competition, Tremonti grabbed the microphone for a rousing cover of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” which I’d like to think served as a tribute to Creed’s own tenaciousness.

Stapp, on the other hand, is slated for exactly one appointment mingling with the masses: He’ll be shooting hoops with some of the more athletically oriented Creed adherents on a helipad that doubles as a basketball court near the rear of the boat. Stapp is, by far, the most famous person on board, evidenced by the security detail that stands guard on the concrete. So I take my seat on the bleachers and watch him casually drain 10 free throws in a row in mesh shorts under the piercing Atlantic sun with the distinct tang of contractually obligated restraint. Afterward, Stapp slips back into the mysterious alcoves of the ship, while an awed buzz of fans—hoping for a selfie, an autograph, or a split second of euphoric surrender—tail him until they are sealed off for good. It is the one and only time I see him cameoing anywhere but the stage, drawing a stark contrast to the other musicians on board, who flit between the casinos, restaurants, and watering holes in the guts of the Pearl .

This makes some sort of cosmic sense. Stapp, to both his detriment and credit, has never embraced the flippancy that so many other people wanted to impose on Creed. “Sometimes I wish we weren’t so damn serious,” he said in a memorable Spin cover story from 2000, at the height of his mystique. “My agenda from the beginning was to write music that had meaning and was from the heart. You can’t force the hand of the muse.” If you’ll excuse the ostentation of the sentiment, you can maybe understand how someone like Stapp might not be able to feel like himself when he’s orchestrating photo-ops around a free-throw line with that same young man dressed in his Nic Cage–themed parody Creed shirt. He seems to find nothing trivial about Creed’s music. The threat of irrelevance shall never tame him. You cannot force the hand of the muse.

Unfortunately, Stapp’s remoteness is also why Kelly Risch, a 58-year-old from Wisconsin with streaks of ringed, white-blond hair and glam-metal eye shadow, is currently fighting back tears in the Atrium, the ship’s lobby and central bar. Risch is sipping mimosas with her sister Shannon Crass, and, like so many of the others I have spoken to on this cruise, they each have matching Creed tattoos memorializing a personal catastrophe. Twenty years ago, Risch suffered a massive blood clot in her leg and almost died. Crass printed out the lyrics to the latter-day Creed ballad “Don’t Stop Dancing”—a song about finding dignity in the chaos of life—and pinned them in Crass’ intensive care unit during her recovery. Today the chorus is painted on their wrists, right above Scott Stapp’s initials.

The sisters were two of the first 500 customers to buy tickets to “Summer of ’99,” which guaranteed them a photo with the band at its cabin. This is why Risch is crying. The photo shoot came with strict rules, all of which she respected: no Sharpies, no hugs, and no cellphones. She’d hoped for a moment, though—after spending $5,000 and traveling all the way from the upper Midwest, after clinging to life with the help of Creed, and after waiting 12 long years to have the band back—to thank the singer for his comfort. But Stapp, even indoors, was wearing dark, face-obscuring sunglasses. She didn’t even get to make eye contact.

“He’s so great with the crowd. He’s so engaging onstage,” says Crass. “I think that’s why this is disappointing.”

The two sisters are determined to make the most of the rest of their vacation. The Pearl will be pulling into Miami tomorrow at 7 a.m., and there are plenty more mimosas left to drink. I tell them I’m going to speak with Stapp, and the rest of Creed, in an hour. Do they have anything they’d like me to ask?

“Tell him not to wear sunglasses during the photos,” they say.

Creed is finishing up the meet-and-greet obligations in a chilly rococo ballroom, paneled—somewhat inexplicably—with portraits of Russian royalty. The band members have been at this all morning, after a late night finishing off the second performance of their two comeback sets. A molasses churn of Creed fans, all sea-weathered and scalded with maroon sunburns, weaves through a bulwark of chairs and tables toward the pinned black curtains at the rear.

Creed has this down to an art. The band is capable of generating a photo every 30 seconds, and afterward, the fans exit back down the aisle, with beaming smiles, their brush with stardom consummated. Stapp chugs a bottle of Fiji water and holds out his hand for a fist bump after the last of those passengers disappear. A crucifix dangles above his navel, and an American flag is stitched to his T-shirt. He’s still wearing those sunglasses.

I am given just 15 minutes to ask questions, in a makeshift interview setup against the portside windows, under the watchful surveillance of the entire Creed apparatus—both PR reps, a few scurrying Sixthman operators, the photographer, and so on. I ask what their day-to-day life is like aboard the “Summer of ’99,” in this highly concentrated environment of super fans, with no obvious escape routes. Stapp says that he has spent most of the time on the cruise “resting and exercising,” while Brian Marshall, the band’s bassist, told me he executes his privilege of being one of the band’s secondary members by frequenting the sauna and steam room. Throughout the weekend, Marshall is hardly recognized.

Scott Phillips, Creed’s drummer, confirms my suspicions about the cruise’s demographics. The ticket data reveals that a good number of the passengers aboard are under 35 years old. I’m curious to know how the band members are adjusting to this new paradigm shift, and if they wish to settle common ground between the post-ironic millennials and the much more zealous Gen Xers, who bear Creed insignias on their calves and forearms.

“People are drawn to our music for different reasons,” Stapp says. “That’s probably why you have the guys you were talking about, who want to chill and drink light beer and scream ‘Creed rocks!’ and the others, who have a much deeper, emotional impact.”

“And maybe, at some point, with the light-beer guys, it does connect with them,” Phillips adds. Stapp agrees.

But, really, the reason I’m here is because I want to ask Stapp a question I’ve been curious about for the entirety of Creed’s career. The band’s bizarre odyssey, from its warm reception among youth groups across America to the bloodthirsty backlash that met its success to this current psychedelic revival, has all orbited around a single lasting question: Why is Scott Stapp so serious? Could he ever mellow out? Does he want to? Surely now is the time. If Stapp allocated some levity for himself, then so many of the bad things people have said about him would be easier to process. Who knows? Maybe he’d have an easier time getting his arms around the current state of Creed, a group that is now, without a doubt, simultaneously the coolest and lamest band in the world. Why must he make being in Creed so difficult?

“It’s just who I am,” he says. “It’s what inspires me. It’s where I come from. And it’s tough, because you have to live it. That’s the conundrum of it all. That’s the double-edged sword. If I started writing [lighter material], there would be a dramatic shift in my existence.”

There’s a break in the conversation, then Stapp asks me to identify the name of the new Taylor Swift album. The songwriter’s 11 th record has dropped like a nuclear bomb while we’ve all been out to sea, but data restrictions mean that nobody on board can access Spotify or any other streaming service. The Norwegian Pearl serves as a butt-rock pocket dimension: The biggest story in pop music simply can’t penetrate our airtight seal of Hinder, Staind, and so much Creed. “It’s called The Tortured Poets Department ,” I reply. Outside of my fiancée, he is the only person on the entire cruise I will speak to about Taylor Swift.

“That’s what I feel,” he says, without a shred of artifice. “I connect with that title.”

Later that evening, I climb to the top of the Pearl for a final round of karaoke, where fans keep the spirit of 1999 alive for a few more hours. The bar is more hectic than it’s been all trip—everyone is willing to risk a hangover now that Monday is all that looms on the horizon. The host asks a guest if they intended to sing “Torn” by Creed or “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia. “I assume Creed, but Natalie would be a fun surprise.”

The playlist is more diverse than I expected. We are treated to both Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin’ ” and Shania Twain’s “Any Man of Mine.” Brandon Smith, one of the very few people of color aboard the cruise, crushes Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved.” A lanky kid from St. Louis unleashes a Slipknot death-growl into the microphone. A queer couple quietly slow-dances on the otherwise empty dance floor. And a 16-year-old, teeth tightened by braces, orders his last Sprite of the night. “Rockers are the most awesome people!” shouts one transcendently inebriated guest over the clamor of his Rolling Stones cover. “Creed is awesome!” On this one thing, at least, we can all agree.

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