Sunday, May 29, 2011

very dull indeed

This is an old post that I started writing more than two years ago but never published because I decided it was stupid. However, in my efforts to update my blog more and to be less self-critical, I'll go ahead and publish it now.

Today I came across a quote which I think does a fantastic job of expressing a common-place idea. In discussing the problems of presuming that jury instructions will cure trial errors, the Fifth Circuit wrote: "[I]f you throw a skunk into the jury box, you can't instruct the jury not to smell it." Dunn v. United States, 307 F.2d 883, 886 (5th Cir. 1962). Vivid, to-the-point, and memorable.

It's brilliant writing like this that makes me feel all the inadequacies of my own writing. I may be able to string together a grammatically correct and logically sound sentence, but I don't feel like I've ever been good at conveying normal ideas in a vivid, interesting manner. That's not to say that I never find things I've written interesting -- I've been known to reread old journal entries for hours, after all -- but it's the subject matter, rather than the writing itself, that draws my attention. After all, it's hard to go wrong when you're writing about, say, the time you were car-shopping and drove the car into the wall at the dealership when you returned from your test drive.

Actually, on second thought, I take that back. I once had a roommate who could have made any story boring. She could have been telling you about how she walked on the moon, and you'd have been bored.

. . . So then we got onto the spaceship. It was a big spaceship. You might have seen the pictures of it. I said to John -- he was one of the astronauts, you know -- well, I said to him, "John, don't you think this is a big spaceship? I think it's a big spaceship." And he said, "You're right. It is a big spaceship. In fact, that's just what my wife told me when she dropped me off at the spaceship this morning. She said, 'John, this is a big spaceship.' And I agreed with her." Then I said to John, "Your wife is smart and observant. I'm so glad you married someone smart. Oh, weren't you telling me the other day that she was an accountant?" John said that she was, but she was between jobs at the moment. You know how the economy is these days. But she had had a good interview recently, and John really hopes she'll be getting that job. It would be so great for their family if she could. You don't know John, do you? Well, I guess you don't need to hear all the details of that, then. So, like I was saying, the spaceship was big. At least from the outside. When we got inside, we saw that it was smaller than it looked from the outside. I mentioned that to John, and he said, "I don't know about that. I think you just thought it was bigger than it was." And I said, "No John, you agreed that it was big. It looked bigger from the outside than it does on the inside. I don't know why you want to argue with me about this." You know, John is a nice enough fellow, bless his heart, but sometimes he doesn't observe things as well as he should. So anyway, the floors of the spaceship were gray. Not a really light gray though. It was sort of like a gray cellphone color, if that makes any sense. Not the color of your cellphone, though, so I guess that's not an accurate description. It was gray like the color of the TV, except maybe a little darker, so maybe it was closer to . . . ."

I'm not sure that I ever heard this roommate complete a story. I would make up an excuse to leave or tune her out long before she got to the part where anything started happening, if she ever did tell a story in which something happened.

So, I concede that my writing isn't as boring as it could be. However, I generally find it to be far from scintillating. For the most part, I don't get too hung up on this. Although a major portion of my job involves writing, it's much more important for this writing to be legally and analytically sound than for it to be interesting. I do sometimes think that my writing could stand a bit more color, but I usually decide that I'd rather just finish the work than try to make it all interesting and fancy-like. When I go to write on my blog, however, I really wish I could come up with something interesting to say, and an interesting way to say it. And that is why I have not updated my blog in some time. (Well, that and extreme laziness.)

"[J]udges are not like pigs, hunting for truffles buried in briefs." Gross v. Burgraff Constr. Co., 53 F.3d 1531, 1546 (10th Cir. 1995). Bloggers, however, are quite often like pigs hunting for the interesting tidbits buried in the woods of mundane every-day life. Whether they succeed, however, is left to the reader to decide.


Rosie said...

I've always loved your writing style. It is not perhaps as colorful or vivid as those examples, but vividness is not the only virtue in writing. And differences in style are part of what make different authors interesting. Mark Twain and Jane Austen are both fabulous, but very different from each other.

Cindy said...

Thanks, Squoze. Honestly, I don't usually mind my writing style myself. I guess I was just having a bad day then. But I'm glad I've got you as a fan.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan, too.