At Guernica today is a piece by Columbia University writing instructor Abby Rabinowitz, who shares her thoughts about the power of uncertainty in our writing, specifically in the first-year college essay. I find myself agreeing with much that’s said here (indeed, my wife sent me the article under this subject heading: “it’s like you wrote this”), and I think it would make good reading for Lang writers. Here’s a snippet:
[I]t’s in this moment of uncertainty that we can see another point of view, arrive at a new idea, or come to a compromise. This perspective is necessary in writing, politics, and college itself, where every discipline is driven by the unknown. To teach this idea about science, Dr. Stuart Firestein, Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, runs a seminar called “Ignorance” in which he invites a scientist each week to describe his or her field’s many unanswered questions.
In the same way, being a writer has little to do with arguing a claim to the bitter end and everything to do with acknowledging that an argument worth making is full of complications and contradictions—that there are no simple truths.