Writing is not simply a matter of expressing preexisting thoughts clearly. It’s the process through which ideas are produced and refined.
Of all the pearls of wisdom I’ve picked up over the years, among the most valuable consists of just three words: Intuition is bias.
The Romantic poets may have believed that intuition offers special insights into higher truths. But within the academy, intuition is little more than a hunch, a suspicion, an instinct, a feeling, or a surmise that is more often wrong than right.
That’s not surprising. Gut impressions are preconceived notions that are generally the product of emotion or prejudice or a reflection of someone else’s opinions.
So, how do we get beyond intuitions? Obviously through research and critical reflection. But primarily through the writing process itself.
Writing is not merely a mode of communication. It’s a process that, if we move beyond simple formulas, forces us to reflect, think, analyze, and reason. The goal of a writing assignment worth its salt is not simply to describe or persuade or summarize: It’s to drive students to make sense of difficult material and develop their own distinctive take.
Academic writing is not simply a method of imparting information or demonstrating understanding, but the most nuanced and sophisticated way to order, analyze, apply, and synthesize information.
That’s why assigning writing, irrespective of your discipline, is essential. Writing can enhance your students’ ability to think and to analyze: To evaluate data and evidence, formulate a hypothesis, predict, and generalize.
I write a lot. Indeed, I perhaps write too much. But I’m not alone.
Journalism as a profession may be in steep decline, but writing for a public audience has never been more popular. Blogging is widespread. More academics than ever write op-eds. A host of platforms have emerged to permit us to share our thoughts. WordPress. Substack. LinkedIn.
We write for many reasons. To pontificate. To persuade. To express ourselves. To raise our profile. To establish a brand.
I write to think.
I almost never know what I’m going to say until I write and rewrite.It’s during the writing process itself that my ideas and my argument emerge. Writing’s difficult and demanding not just because crafting artful sentences and paragraphs is challenging, and organizing a piece of writing effectively is a constant struggle, but because formulating an argument is tough. Writing is both a process and a platform : It’s where you and I wrestle with other people’s ideas, ideate, iterate, and develop a distinctive point of view.Which is why I say, only partly facetiously, that my essays write themselves.The key to writing, I have found, lies in the process: a process that requires us to think systematically: To enter into a conversation, a controversy, or a debate To assess and analyze existing points of view To reconsider the controversy and in the process gradually construct a fresh interpretation or thesis To refine and revise that argument; and To figure out how to convey the argument in an interesting, engaging, and provocative manner, with a catchy lead and a bang-up […]