Thursday, November 18, 2010

Stuff My Writing Students Say -- Part Six

"I find that I am so excited to write and write that I fear for my day job. At the moment I am reviewing a contract concerning asparagus - how can that compete with writing class?"

Here's something interesting (well, interesting to me): In the dozen or so different writing classes I have taught or workshops I have led over the past couple of years, there has almost always been a student who is an attorney.

The common thread seems to be a particularly affecting desire, longing, yearning, to write -- to write creatively, to shed their logical, linear, clinical mind-sets, and indulge an interest in creating prose that explores messy boundaries, unclear scenarios, emotional complications, oblique approaches, and the intersection of imagination and reality.

What's cool for me, as I help these sometimes very frustrated attorneys navigate a place in their lives for creative writing, is that I can point out to them a few traits which they see as a disadvantage, but I assure them are benefits: how their skills as legal thinkers can help their creative nonfiction writing. I'm talking about an attention to small details (and how those small details can affect something larger), an understanding of how to utilize punctuation to intended effect, an ability to consider situations, people (and by extension, themselves) from many perspectives, and – my favorite – a way of taking in and engaging with feedback in a calmly logical, ordered way.

The newish writer I quoted above doesn't just speak for attorneys of course. I've had others – in jobs that have included physician, truck driver and caterer – who tell me more or less the same thing: writing lures, teases, tempts them when they should be paying attention to something else.

To which I can only reply: Welcome to the dark side. There is no turning back. Better stash a notebook in your white coat, on the passenger seat or behind the spice rack.


margosita said...

I know a couple lawyers who want to be writers, as well. I think they tend to be the kind of smart bookish types who didn't think they could make a living off writing and opted for law school.

I think another good trait lawyers have is the ability to bill hours and keep their butts in the chair. I think more writer types could borrow for them. I know, for one, that I am not billing nearly enough writing hours as I should be. (Of course, the pay off is not big money but work done. Needed for different reasons, but still vital, I think.)

margosita said...

-oops. Borrow FROM. And I meant borrow the idea of billing hours, not borrow money. (Though that's not a bad idea, if you can get one to bank roll you...)

kario said...

I love that we all have the capacity and desire to be creative in our lives. For some of us who began by pursuing the more traditionally logic-bound trades, I think it often comes out in particularly strong ways because we haven't allowed ourselves the notion of creativity as a way of life, for the most part.