Manifesto

by jth

As I have only begun this new writing project of mine, now seems like a fine opportunity to address just what sorts of things I am likely to discuss within this space, and why. Consider it a favor I am doing by telling you now, so that you can decide for yourself whether paying further attention is a worthy use of your time.

Most people think attorneys argue for a living, and any truth that attaches to such a notion depends on how broadly you are willing to define the word argue. We, of course, prefer the term advocacy… and much of that advocacy is done through the written, rather than spoken, word. An attorney who cannot write is, simply put, only half a lawyer. In my admittedly brief experience practicing law, opportunities to make (& win) your case via some grandiose speech before a judge or empaneled jury are few and far between; it is quality of written motions and briefs that carry the load for your client’s cause.

So, a lawyer’s gotta write. To write “good,” you must first write well, and practice is how you get better at writing. My written work improves the more often I write; the more often I see the way I have chosen to structure my thoughts on a page; the more often I review, revise, reconsider, and reword. Thankfully, I also happen to enjoy the process of writing in general. I believe that my professional writing gets better when I try writing about other, non-legal topics. So, this blog provides a space for me to write outside of my work, sort of like an ongoing “free writing” exercise such as you may recall from your days in high school English class.

I actively seek out criticism of my writing. If something I’ve penned makes sense to me, the only way I can be sure it makes sense at all is to put it in front of someone else. I have been told by a few people that I have a unique (peculiar?) writing style, and that’s a badge of honor I happily wear. I think I might describe it as “conversational,” because as you read what I’ve written, my hope is that you actually hear it spoken in my voice as if we were conversing across from one another. That said, a conversation usually has at least two participants. So, after I’ve said my piece, I hope you’ll say something back. Critique, criticize, tell me I’m not making sense — or take what I’ve said and run in a new direction with it. I am writing, in part, for the opportunity to engage in a conversation with you who have taken time to read my words.

And starting a conversation with you is the best part of this type of writing for me. I’m not simply sharing my thoughts and ideas because I necessarily believe they are more correct, or even entirely developed. In my experience, my best ideas have come from long interaction with others, after lengthy exchanges of information and exposure to a variety of points of view. That’s not to say you’ll change my mind on a subject if I’m firmly entrenched within a certain perspective, but I don’t necessarily have an immovable opinion on everything under the sun (perhaps hard to believe for some of you who know me). There are lots of things I just want to “talk out,” and I think that’s something we as people — as a society — don’t do often enough anymore. We pronounce our ideas as judgements of the way things should be, but we avoid talking about why we think about things the way we do, in the very purest sense. Maybe we don’t ask “why do you say that?” often enough out of some fear that we will meet the same fate as Socrates for asking too many questions too often. Politeness precludes our understanding of each other, but it’s certainly possible to ask “why” in ways that are earnest and respectful of the person being asked.

I need to write to get better at writing. I need to talk with you to better understand you; to better understand myself. I intend to write things here that are sometimes challenging for me to say and for you to read. I will probably even talk about a topic or two that is somewhat uncomfortable, though thanks to my Fine American-Southern upbringing, I will endeavor to say it politely. Whatever comes out on these pages, you can be assured it is honest, sincere, and with malice toward none (and you should hold me to task if I fail in that regard).

Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I hope to be able to share mine with you for quite awhile going forward.

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