Here's the thing about writing an essay, or a novel or a memoir – each time you do it you learn how to do it all over again. At least I have to. I'm writing an essay now that's due in January for an anthology on faith. Ever since I signed the contract for this essay I've been alternating between, Why did I ever agree to do this and could I possibly get out of it? and How very lucky I am to have someone ask me to write an essay.
So what I've been doing for the past month is jotting down little disconnected paragraphs in a folder called "Faith Essay". And as I clutch my head over my inability to write a coherent first draft, I remember that this is how I always do it. I write down random bits for a few weeks or a month or however long I have, and eventually I read it over and realize what I'm trying to say. And then I struggle through a truly awful first draft trying to put everything together. Eventually I have an essay.
I know (or imagine) there are writers out there who can do this in a much more calm and elegant manner, fully confident as they turn out an essay. But I'm not one of them. And I keep coming back to the realization that this is simply the way I write, full of false starts, bits and pieces and doubts. This is my process.
Think about your own process in writing and try making friends with it. It never gets easier, folks.