Justin Flynn ’23

Masterclass Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing, Professional Development Course

“Without having some understanding of what goes on in other people’s minds, you can’t be fully human. You will always be lost forever on some narcissistic island . . . All the things that are constituent of living a fully realized 
life spring from the ability to go outside your own experience. And how do we do that? We learn to do that through stories.” —Malcolm Gladwell

It is from the heart that perception of other minds contributes to the human experience—that we are simply not only one in a collective, but also one with the collective. This, I think, is the most genuine bit of advice Malcolm Gladwell shares, and it comes from a place he believes to be his purpose: the use of writing as a gateway to explore other’s minds.

Malcolm Gladwell’s Masterclass on Writing dives delightfully into his process as a non-fiction writer and includes twenty-four video sessions devoted to the specific processes of creating non-fiction prose. From learning how to structure a narrative with flaws that “leave an aftertaste with the reader,” learning how to engage readers by breaking up intellectually rigorous parts of stories with ‘candy,’ and learning how to withhold information with purpose in order to hold readers with a story, Malcolm Gladwell intricately guides his students (and me) through techniques they can engage in and simply understand. My own participation with this professional development course is one that will help my academic writing and has influenced my perspective on how non-fiction stories are meant to connect starkly different worlds. His tips on drafting and revising (advising to start writing while researching and continue to edit for clarity), structuring language (advising to write in a concise, simple way with ideas that are especially sophisticated), and titles (advising that they should contain emotional tension and be self-contradicting) have been particularly helpful and notable during my learning.

This professional development course has been largely influential in allowing me to explore a topic I have not yet pursued on the Williams campus: non-fiction writing. Additionally, it has allowed me to refresh on simple writing skills such as tone, diction, and writing structure, all of which I have become out of practice with during the time off I have recently taken from Williams. It has reminded me how much I enjoy exploring the topic of writing, rhetoric, and story construction, and encouraged me to pursue courses further relating to the topic matter during my academic experience.

I extend my gratitude to the Bruce C. Davey 1944 Internship, which, through the generosity of his estate, created the ability for me to engage in this professional development course over this past summer—thank you.