Writing Is “Primarily An Exercise In Logic”
I spoke today to the science-writing class at Yale College taught by my friend Carl Zimmer. The students were thoughtful, bright, and had great questions. There was one quote I paraphrased for them that I’ve now gone back and looked up because I wanted to get it exactly right. It’s from William Zinsser, the legendary Yale writing instructor and author of the best book about writing I know, On Writing Well (have a look at it here.) This is the quote:
Writing is “primarily an exercise in logic,” says Zinsser, which enables us to “write our way” into an understanding of texts or concepts that previously mystified us. Why make such an effort? Because “meaning is remarkably elusive . . . Writing enables us to find out what we know and what we don’t know—about whatever we’re trying to learn.”
This is my experience of writing: as an exercise in logic. Because one word must come after another, and one sentence must follow another, writing forces me to make order out of my unruly thoughts. I find the act of writing to be soothing for that reason (and frustrating too sometimes, of course). It helps me make a little patch of order in a chaotic universe.
Does Zinsser’s description of writing resonate for you as well?