Back to blogging with my three co-bloggers! Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays. (Usually we are on time. Usually. Ok, mostly. Sometimes? Don’t judge me.)
Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:
This week, Moma Rock chose the topic, and she said: Creative Writing. Let’s share an excerpt from something we’re currently working on, something we’ve worked on in the past, or ideas of projects we either have in the works or want to have in the works. Here’s my take:
Years ago, when I worked as a journalist and wondered what to do next (the small newspapers where I worked were closing, one after the next), I considered law school. There were definite pros to attending law school, for sure. But one of the cons that popped into mind was this: the law didn’t seem like the kind of career that would allow for much creativity. I imagined reading and writing boilerplate contracts and mundane deposition questions and transcripts. It seemed so different from the kind of writing I did as a journalist – and not in a good way. I said as much to a college friend who worked at a bank, and he said I was wrong, that even in his numbers-driven job, there was lots of room to be “creative.” I rolled my eyes. I didn’t believe him. (And I hoped he wasn’t doing “creative accounting.”)
Fast forward fifteen years, and I believe we both were right. One of the things I hate the most about practicing law is feeling like my creative side is, indeed, stifled. However, having said that, I cannot say that I have never done some creative legal writing; one look at some of the briefs in my sure-to-lose cases and my creativeness is fairly obvious. I’ve made creative arguments in creative ways. I’ve creatively used case law to support creative claims. However, in the law, “creative” equates to “loser.”
But no one can say I wasn’t creative.
I hate that the bulk of my creative writing in the last decade and a half was legal writing. It hasn’t always been so. Back in the day, back in grammar and high school and college, I loved to write creatively: short stories and poems, essays and op-ed pieces. I just loved to write.
I still love to write, but I feel my years of legal writing have changed what I care to write, and they have slowed my ease in doing so. Legal writing is largely formulaic, and not just the contracts. Even substantial motions tend to follow the same pattern: state the facts, state the law, apply the latter to the former, lather, rinse, repeat. This routine way of working has done a number on me. Early on, I struggled to learn the craft of legal writing, as I was trained to be a journalist, and journalistic writing has its own rules, ones very different from those involving court documents. But once I learned to do legal writing, I had trouble not doing it. A few years ago, as I sat down to attempt to tackle a huge creative writing project, I found myself almost unable not to write in that tight structure. I struggled to find adjectives and adverbs – we lawyers don’t use those too much in our briefs and motions (as much as we’d love to). Eventually, I found a new rhythm and can now jump back and forth between the two, but not without pause.
Although I don’t practice law full time, I still do some legal writing, spill over work from friends in Illinois. It’s almost all research and writing, which suits me just fine, as I’ve never been one for the courtroom. My legal writing is almost all the opposite of “creative.” Or at least I hope. (And I know that sounds odd.)
And I do some “creative writing,” too, though, lately, it’s been limited to this blog and some book reviews (which I love doing). Sadly, I struggle with developing independent creative writing “ideas.” I’ve never had the impulse of John Grisham or Scott Turow to mix the law with creative writing (I’ve never read a word of either of them, with the exception of Scott Turow’s memoir about law school, One L, which was very good). I would love to be a true crime writer; even as a reader, I tend to draw more toward nonfiction (especially true crime) than to fiction, and I am totally fascinated by the criminal abnormalities of the human mind. I’ve done a complete one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn from when I was young and constantly scribbled (really bad) fiction and poetry on any nearby paper surface. My tendency now is to write that which I know (which isn’t much), which is why I enjoy this blog and why my first attempt at a book was nonfiction. Writing fiction now strikes me as hard. I don’t believe I possess that skill to any measurable degree. Maybe that part of my brain was used up with my high school-aged drivel. Or maybe law school drilled it out of me. I don’t know. And I don’t know whether that skill set will return.
So, I wouldn’t expect to read a book of fiction from me, or even anything much more creative than what I come up with each week on this blog. As a blog group, we have dabbled in a little fiction on here, and I’m game for doing that again. But, overall, I guess I find real, everyday life odd, interesting, strange, and colorful enough to write about. I simply don’t feel the need – or have the ability – to imagine a different world.
It is my loss, for sure.