Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Good Day at Work

I may have mentioned that I'm good at my job.  I like my job, and I do take pride in being good at it.  Still, it's not all happy fun time.  Sometimes, I'm reading something boring, or writing something that just freakin' won't write, and it drives me up the wall, and I'll want to do anything but what I have to do.  And then, other times, you'll get a day like today, where I was actually eager to get to the office and, after having the thoughts about what I was going to write percolating around my brain over the three-day weekend, about twenty pages of well-reasoned legal argument just poured forth.  I was, as they say, on a roll.  Hardly even noticed that the clock was hitting 6:30 and everyone else had left.

Man, I love days like today.  I don't even mind staying late.  (I'd have set an alarm if I had someplace to be.)  But just being able write something that I know is pretty darned good -- I dig that.

I used to get the same feeling in school, when I'd look at the question on a final exam and realize "I so know this," and then I would genuinely have fun writing my essay.  I knew the material, and the professor would soon know that I knew the material ... so I might as well have a good time conveying that fact to the professor.  I loved that.

You couldn't get that playfulness with Math.  And in case you hadn't noticed, I love Math.  I majored in it.  Largely because I could get A's in it.  Math is predicatable.  Numbers do what they're supposed to do.  (And if they don't, you're doing it wrong -- so you can go back and figure out where the mistake was.)  I preferred Math exams to essay exams because there was nothing subjective involved in grading a Math test.  You can't really argue that you deserved an A rather than a B on an essay -- but if you got the right answer in Math, you win.  (I did argue a Math grade once.  The T.A. was pretty ticked that there was a whole line of students outside his office complaining about their grades on the exam.  I waited my turn and when he, somewhat annoyed, asked me what my problem was -- expecting me to try to argue for partial credit on something I got wrong, I politely pointed out that he'd added my score wrong.)  The point, though:  there's no real arguing in Math -- it is what it is.

The downside, though, is that there isn't a ton of creativity to it, either.  Don't get me wrong, I used to love finding a particularly elegant proof for something -- but it wasn't like I created that proof.  Tons of mathematicians were ahead of me on that.  I'd enjoyed repeating their discovery (and discovering for myself that it worked), but there wasn't a whole lot of making shit up in Math.

But writing -- yeah, writing can be new, and phrasing can be elegant.  And legal writing is about being persuasive.  Sure, I craft an argument solidly based on precedent, but the fun comes in picking just the right words to express it.  If it do it right, I have the reader on my side with the first sentence; if I do it wrong, the reader fights me all the way and, at best, reluctantly accepts my conclusion.  So I've got to pick the right words.  I know the argument I'm making.  I know where I'm going to start and where I'm going to end up.  But how to make it so that the reader thinks, "Well, of course that's true" -- that's where it's fun.  And when I'm doing it, that's when I love my job.

1 comment:

Wil said...

I remember days like that. Twenty pages - damn good. You have every right to be proud and satisfied. Sadly, the majority of J.Q. Taxpayers out there haven't a clue how much what you did today is really worth.