Friday, June 25, 2010

For years, I was convinced that I would write for a living. I mean, really write, man. Words with grace and dignity and brawn. Words that will kick your ass and make you want more. Words like the ones I read while hunkered for the night or while sprawled in a lawn chair. Necessary words. Honest words. Urgent words.

No dice. It turns out I'll write for a living, and the words will be necessary, honest, and urgent in a very different way than I could have anticipated even two years ago. They'll also be dense and dry, and I will have to labor to work my favorite words into my pleadings (not poems) and memos (not memoirs). The rules of style and citation that I can barely keep straight now will be what Strunk and White was to me when this blog got started.

But when I reflect on all the collected years of ambitions to Really Write, I come back to something that a judge told a roomful of young legal hotshots and a few tag-alongs like me yesterday: Words are your craft. He followed this statement with a screed on why it's necessary to polish writing skills, why typos are the super-poisoned kiss of death in federal courts, and why he hates cliches. I was checked out a that point because "words are your craft" is something I've heard before from creative writing mentors/professors and from my editors at newspapers too.

And words are my craft. (Notice that I began my sentence with a conjunction - it's not ignorance of the fine and revered rules of grammar, it's a device to get attention! Enough meta, though. You know I know how to write.) Words have never been my craft in any particular way, though, so signing my style away to the legal gods shakes me up a little. Going lawyer is a commitment to a writing style, among other things, that I'm not quite prepared to accept. I don't really have a choice, though. My emails are already shorter, more direct. My longhand letters lack the long, ponderous sentences they once had. That just might be a good thing.

Still, the effect of but one year of legal writing is not one of minced words per se, but ground words. Pureed words. They're made to be consumed and absorbed quickly. This, they say, is the big difference between legal writing and every other style of writing. I'm not sure there really is a huge difference. Simple writing will always rock, and simple writing will always be my goal.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Same suit, second verse

I will wear my only suit three days in a row this week.