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Question

Dear Mitch,

Last year my friend's family took him to some talk you gave in a series given by a private school for kids who wanted to know how to get into college. You talked about catches.

Could you help me come up with a catch for my essay?  I'm really good at photography thats like my favorite hobby and I'm also good at ice hockey too.  You said it's better to pick one thing than two, so which do you think I should pick and what catch?  And you said how it was important to come up with a "catch" for your college essay because that's better than things like telling them all the things you're good at.  

Thank you,

Michael 

Answer

Dear Michael,

Of course I remember being a part of that lecture series, and thank you for remembering it!  I think I said that it's a good idea to come up with a "hook," not a "catch", and I remember that because "hook" is the word I've used, and still use, to describe the fact that, as you mentioned, I do feel strongly that of all the essays I've read and have had the honor of editing over the years, the more memorable ones tended to be the ones whose authors had selected a simple "hook" rather than take what I call a 'smorgasbord' approach, mainly because even though the two-to-three pages most colleges suggest may seem like a lot of writing to you, it's not.  Trust me -- as you get older, even by the middle of your freshman year of college, you'll see that a couple of pages is a slender amount to cover even a single subject, let alone a range of topics.  So, with that said, it just so happens that I do have an idea for you.  Even though I am certainly no photographer (the few pictures I've taken in my life seem to have the subjects' heads cut off), I do recall one thing about picture taking that struck me as very interesting.   Even better, it struck me as something that must be among the biggest challenges to serious photographers, and it is this:  Believe it or not, no photographer can ever see the picture he is taking.  He or she can watch every little thing that happens until the moment he presses CLICK!, and he can see every little thing that happens following that moment, but at the instant of the CLICK, the shutter comes down, and it can come down for a tenth or even a hundredth of a second, but when the camera is clicked, that shutter comes down and blocks the light and aperture leaving the photographer in the dark -- literally.

So,  what's the big deal?  Well, to me it would seem to serve as a metaphor for life:  You can prepare and prepare for any given moment of your life, and reflect and reflect on it for years afterward, but you can never have perfect control over any moment of your life, as there is always the element of chance.

Now, I don't know if the kinds of digital cameras made today work the same way, as they don't really have to do anything that enables the photographer to produce a piece of film, which then needs to be developed, so this is something you will have to find out, and when you do, there are only two possibilities:  Either digital cameras do work on the same principle as their predecessors, or they don't.  If they do, BINGO.  If they don't, you won't be affected if you happen to be using an "old-fashioned" camera (such as one handed down to you by a relative), OR, perhaps, you could write your paper as a reflection on the difference between the old ways and the 'advantages and disadvantages' of the 'new and improved' system, which gives the user the delusion that he can contact and control the exact moment of any flash of life.

Now, please note:  I am giving you an idea to try to inspire you, but, as is the case with any idea or inspiration, it is up to you to do the right thing and make it your own. 

Hope this helps, and good luck!

-- Mitch 

P.S. I have no idea if I've used the right words, or used them in the right way, and it is entirely possible that I've confused the words "aperture" and "shutter." (I don't think I've used either of them in many, many years.)  Which is all the more reason for you to look into the matter and come up with something new!