the lawyer writer

sometimes legal                     sometimes literary                     sometimes not

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Just a Thought, Oprah

I'm a post behind, but I think it's okay because my last post was so epic. But as I do this work for a legal publisher, I start thinking more about writing and lawyering. Why, exactly do writers become lawyers? Is it because everyone we meet says "you write so well, you should be a lawyer?" I did hear that, but I could also have become a journalist, advertising executive or whoever does press releases for the White House (and is no doubt a black arts magician as well). I think what people are actually saying is "you write so well, you should become a lawyer so your writing might actually help you earn a living, as opposed to ending up as a starving artist/waiter and a drain on our society."

So maybe that's why so many lawyers are unhappy. I don't know anyone who was a pre-law major in college, because so many of us had other things in our hearts. But law seems like a practical way to use our talents and, well, continue eating three square meals a day. What they don't tell you is that it's a lifestyle, and if you're not prepared for it, you'll be yet another dissatisfied artist wrapped in a pinstriped suit.

But...Rumi was a lawyer. So was John Donne, even if he didn't practice. And Wallace Stevens. The difference between them and the likes of John Grisham, Scott Turow and Steve Martini is that the first three weren't compelled to write about law. (They also never appeared on Oprah. And they sell a lot fewer copies).

I envy those kids who start taking speech and debate classes in elementary school because they know even at this stage, that they want to be a courtroom. And, similarly, I envy those quiet kids with perpetually inkstained hands who know that they'll never do anything but be novelists. Although, come to think of it, I should have known too. I've got stories I've been working on since I was twelve. (Are they any good? I don't know. I just know that I'm compelled to keep working on them).

My agent wants me to write another law-related book. I'd like to, but I'd like it to be different than the "real-life" accounts and faux fiction out there. I'd like it to be dark and gothic and all about why us artistic types run to law like it's going to give our lives some definition. I'd like it to--god help me--say something about law and people and life.

Still...if Oprah called, I wouldn't pull a Franzen. I'd be sitting there with a big grin next to Dr. Phil and a big cardboard blow-up of my book. Hey, I like my three square meals a day. And mom would be so proud.

2 Comments:

Anonymous peter said...

I think writers become lawyers and lawyers become writers because both writers and lawyers understand that if they look at words hard enough the words fall apart. But still we need words to hang together. Putting them back together is what both writers and lawyers do.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous peter said...

here's a link listing contemporary lawyers who are poets:

http://www.wvu.edu/~lawfac/jelkins/lp-2001/intro/contemp_pt1.html

9:20 AM  

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