“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” E.L. Doctorow, novelist
For nearly three years, I’ve been traveling around the country teaching a course called “Clear Writing Through Critical Thinking.” So it was gratifying to pick up a USA Today article that cited a survey by the Social Science Research Council concluding a liberal arts education can “provide a leg up in a down economy.” It turns out that recent college grads who scored highest on a standardized test to measure skills most associated with a liberal arts education, were much more likely to be better off financially than those who scored lowest.
And what were those skills? The ability to think critically, reason analytically, and write effectively. The high scorers in the survey were:
•Three times less likely to be unemployed than those who hadn’t.
•Half as likely to be living with their parents.
•Far less likely to have amassed credit card debt.
To be sure, grades and other factors influence a student’s chances of success, too. But, says Richard Arum, a New York University professor who helped write a Georgetown University study on education and the workforce, “Students would do well to appreciate the extent to which their development of general skills, not just majors and institution attended, is related to successful adult transitions.”
In training, I stress the concept of “writing is thinking” as one of the three foundations of effective writing (the others being “know your audience” and “edit/revise,” or quality control).
As the author Joan Didion said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.”
Writing allows you to think – really think over time – about what you know and what you might need to find out before you put your thoughts in some logical order.