The Writers’ Centre: the Heart of Radical Change in the College
story | Jolene Lum
photo | Jolene Lum
At the end-of-year farewell lunch for the Writers’ Centre team, I came to reflect on the writing process and the Centre’s physical location as a unique corridor for radical change and resistance. When I offered my piece on how my privilege of being involved with the Centre as a peer tutor since my freshman and sophomore years had shaped my critical approaches to the world, I tried to make a point for how the method of writing endorsed by the Writers’ Centre shapes our community through the very attention paid to detail and how disparate elements hold together. I spoke about how writing similarly is the centre of our college experiences that demands our ability to coherently articulate how different pieces of evidence, theorems, and statistical data alike is what contributes to a unique and persuasive argument that impacts the world around us.
At this point, the inimitable Larry chimed in to say that this process is what constitutes the heart of radical change— that we succeed in a writing consultation when the student leaves the session having changed their mind about how they thought of something, entirely prompted by writing that has already been done. Radical change, even when an assignment is to be submitted the very same night, sometimes. The Writers’ Centre is the heart of this community, and is so because it is the only corridor for movement— of minds and hearts alike— without a destination. Writing is the process of thinking, because it is the process of weaving, un-weaving, and weaving anew.
It is how the writing process demands that jump into exploration, to reflect upon how analysis can be deepened with different pieces of evidence, to make insightful transitions from idea to idea, and only then to attempt to glean larger implications from those links to understand the world around us, that cultivates an active propensity to think critically both in and outside academia. The writing process mimics the intellectual exploration of a student in their liberal arts journey, through deep analysis, shifts in perspective, and larger imprints of meaning. This is what some of us might call building the essay from inside out: to ground our feet in the context of what already exists in order to discover different ways of looking at what is around us, and responding with synthesis.
Upon graduation, I look back and already begin to see why it would be so difficult to replicate or create another space like the Writers’ Centre outside where it is in our college. As it stands, reading the world and its texts is frustrating, and the ways that the economy expects us to respond to our experience is only more so. I fear not having a space for people around me to come together to deliberate, to revisit texts and ideas before racing towards a deadline. And I know that few spaces outside of my college career will cater to having other people to speak to, before we align ourselves to goals that may not have been deliberated carefully either. But I know that there is great solace in how the Writers’ Centre here continues to anchor my own experiences of reading and writing, and I look forward to future students who walk through its doors will recognize the unparalleled value of deliberation, and change of heart in the process of writing. As I exit the college, I will prepare for harsher deadlines, expectations, and practicalities to take over, and I hope to still have the impulse to, as often as possible, take up the challenge of letting deliberation and writing change my mind.
Thanks to the Writers’ Centre, I have had the opportunity to relive the texts of the Common Curriculum again and again, to encounter texts from seminars I never had the opportunity to enrol in, and to encounter ideas as texts in themselves. As these texts and ideas lay before me time and again, the Writers’ Centre gave me the space to radically change my mind about many of them, and to reconsider the fact that good arguments and perspectives come not from the premises that may have been obvious, but from a process of doing, undoing, and doing again.