Monday, February 11, 2008

Why do people write? And what if they aren't good at it?

Narcissism aside, of course.

I've never understood the overwhelming desire to express ones ideas. 

I experience it almost daily... an overwhelming urge to tell people what I'm thinking. To inform people who I'm absolutely certain couldn't care less about what random crap is going on inside my twisted mind... all about said twisted crap. 

Why is that?

While an undergrad I took a class on creative writing. I did so because I used to love to write; to go off on strange tangents about strange things, playing with words and ideas. 

The class was a miserable failure. There's an inherent inconsistency with a course on being creative... my creativity was not only being judged, but it was being judged in relation to those around me.

Guess what? I didn't like it. Weird.

Thing is, I don't really care if people like my writing. My creativity. It means nothing to me. So when someone tries to provide me with "feedback" (also known as 'constructive criticism') I get thoroughly annoyed. Because I don't care. It's about the experience... not the end result.

As many of you know (speaking of narcissism... as if I have any proof anyone whatsoever reads this), I'm a second-year law student with rather lofty goals, particularly considering where I came from. I've done well in school. Law school, anyway. And I've decided I suck at legal writing. Not just a little. I really suck at it.

I abuse commas. I begin sentences with the word "and." And when one word will do just fine, I go out of my way to utilize a myriad of unnecessary verbiage. Additionally, I apply alliteration as an artful aid. Ahem.

What it all comes down to is the fact that I have an extremely difficult time writing something I wouldn't want to read. And legal writing... it's boring. Often painfully so. I'm a bad legal writer. I'm a bad writer in general terms as well. And, you know what? That's okay with me.

I've actually been told before that I'm a "good" writer. This is utterly false. I am able to convey ideas, emotions, states of being effectively. I can leave people feeling good or bad, depending on my choice of words. Presumably, those would be conscious choices... Presumably.

This, I am good at. But writing, in the traditional Strunk & White meets the Chicago Manual of Style out for a glass of sake' sense... I'm kinda pathetic.

So I've come to terms with that. I'm okay not being a "good" writer. I'll stick with what I got. And I'll continue to use whatever words feel right at the time, regardless of what the rules are. Because I won't write something I wouldn't want to read.


Many people read to get the point out of something. For me, it's completely different. I can appreciate Hemmingway and Tom Robbins in equal measure... because for me, it isn't about the end result of the work. It's about the journey. This has made law school an interesting experience for me... but I digress. (Don't I always?)

My father is always beating me over the head with that life lesson. Life isn't about the goal or the result. The real result for each and every one of us is death. On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everything drops to zero. Life is all about the journey, and how we get there.  How many people we can make smile along the way.  And I'm trying to live it. In law school, it isn't easy.

On a related note, Kurt Vonnegut's son - Mark - has a great quote:

"We're here to help each other through this thing, whatever it is."

Vonnegut was a bad writer too.  So it goes.

I hope that coming to terms with the fact that I'm not a "good" writer is an acceptable first step. And you know what?

Fuck the rules.

Writing is art. And rules (like laws) were made to be broken, redefined, challenged, and even ignored.


KC said...

I'm a bad legal writer, too. Some of the best legal writers out there are probably some of the most boring people out there, too.

Writing is about expressing your thoughts, and thoughts don't happen (for the interesting people) in IRAC format.

So, I agree. As a fellow legal writer that hates legal writing, f--- the rules. :)

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