The other big difference between a real essay and the things they make you write in school is that a real essay doesn't take a position and then defend it. That principle, like the idea that we ought to be writing about literature, turns out to be another intellectual hangover of long forgotten origins.
This makes much more sense, is much more interesting, and I think makes for a much better paper overall... but one can't do it quickly. There's got to be more rumination, more rolling around of ideas to explore- it's more playful and almost counterintuitive. Start somewhere, then wander around and connect some dots.
You just can't do it in a day, or maybe even a few days. It's no good for an undergrad, in terms of academic work, but I can immediately see the value in doing this regularly.
Perhaps we'll see some essays here, in the future.