Archive for January, 2011

UPDATE 1/22/11

I had a coworker once  who grew a beard and then shaved it off.  We asked him why.  He said, I didn’t look as good with the beard.  He wouldn’t admit that he didn’t look good with the beard (he didn’t), just not as good.   I have not been as good about posting here, so here’s a couple of items:

1. We are not moving to Boston. I applied for a transfer through an apply-for-a-transfer program offered by my job.  I didn’t get it.  Most people who applied didn’t get it.  I was told informally that the Boston office already has too many people and not enough office space, and they weren’t going to add anyone there.   Even though I didn’t get what I applied for, I’m relieved just to know, so that I know whether I actually have to do the work that’s been assigned to me, etc.  (Answer: I do.)   We are not moving to Boston, and probably won’t with my current company.

2. I have not sent out the rest of my queries about A Perfect Wife (my completed novel, for you n00bs).  Last year I made a list of about fifteen places, and I have sent out perhaps nine of the queries.  One of the remaining asks for all this strange stuff, so I may not send there, but I’ve added another name to the list.  I had eight rejections and one good response followed by a rejection, and since then I have been discouraged/distracted.  I don’t honestly expect to get much out of these queries, but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t do them. I resolve to do them.

3.  I am working on The Burning House (sequel to A Perfect Wife, n00bs).  I haven’t usually kept track of my progress in any but the grossest of ways in the past (i.e., it took me about two years to write A Perfect Wife, which is a fairly short novel).  I am at around ninety pages with The Burning House and hoping to hit a hundred pages this month.  One hundred pages has no significance, especially since it’s Word pages, which can be anything, but it’s a hundred.  I’m probably a bit more than a third of a way through a draft, and I’m at the point where my known plot points are very widely spaced, like watering holes in the desert.  So what happens next?  I’m very excited to find out.

4.  The first person narrator of the theme song from New York, New York is someone who has not yet ever been to New York.  He is going there, and sure that it will be great.  Will it be great?  Who knows?  Songs about Heaven are the same.

That’s all.  How are y’all doing?


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The world at large has discovered that law school may not be the solution to every young person’s career problems after all.  As a lawyer, there’s an unwritten rule that I’m supposed to tell every saucer-eyed college senior with an LSAT prep book under her arm to turn back, to step away from the edge.  Or maybe encourage the little dear.  But nobody ever asks me, and so I never get to give my wonderful advice.  Until now.  (None of this is particularly original to me, by the way, but it should be said over and over again.)

You can go to law school, somewhere.  If you are smart enough to read this blog, you have the mental wattage to be admitted to one of the hundreds of law schools in this country.  It will be glad to cash your checks!  Law schools are profit centers for universities — no labs required, a few professors for very large lecture classes, etc.  Most of your tuition is pure profit for the university it’s attached to.  And the people who sell textbooks. And the bar review people.

Speaking of checks, law school can be expensive.  It will take you three years, during which time you are not supposed to have much of any kind of other job.  Tuition and other fees vary, but my alma mater, Boston University School of Law, projects a student budget of $58,500 for the 2010-2011 academic year. (That’s up quite a bit from when I graduated in 2001.)  Say you go to BUSL for three years and borrow it all.  (You’ll fit in just fine!)  Cost: $175,500 plus three times whatever you might have made working at a crappy entry-level job right out of college.  Let’s call it $35,000 per year.  That’s $280,000 on the front end. If you made the big $180,000 salary that everyone fixates on (and few get), that’s a year and a half of your gross salary.  How long does it take to pay off a year and a half worth of your salary? That depends on how much you like canned soup.

Question: If someone were to write you a check right now for $280,000 NOT to go to law school, would you still go?

It’s not whether you can go, but whether you should.  Prospective law students can have some funny ideas.  Law school isn’t about:

  1. Helping people
  2. Becoming  a better person
  3. Learning how to argue
  4. Learning to write
  5. General training that will be useful in other fields (i.e., business)
  6. “Loving the law” (whatever that means)

You may want to do one or more of those things, but that’s not what deciding to go to law school is about.  Here’s what it is about:

  1. Becoming a lawyer

Here’s the only right reason to go to law school: to become a lawyer, because you like what lawyers do and want to do it yourself.

Questions: Do you know what lawyers do? Do you know any practicing lawyers?  Have you worked in a law firm?  Have you looked over any legal documents?  No?  Then how do you know what you think you know?  (If your answer is “talking to law students,” you are really not preparing yourself.)

So here’s the deal: you can go to law school somewhere.  It may cost you a lot.  And chances are, you don’t really know what you are getting when you sign on the dotted line.  You may hate it — many people do.  Even some people who like being lawyers kind of hate it.

Question: Is it worth it?  Educate yourself, or you may find that you’ve mortgaged the rest of your life in pursuit of something that  you wouldn’t have taken even if it were free.   If you had only known . . .

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Motivational types will tell you that, if you want to accomplish a goal, one of the best motivators is to tell people about it.  The theory behind this is, presumably, that the telling amps up the prospect of abject humiliation when you fail at your goals, so you try not to fail. When your  coworkers see you stuffing your face after you’ve vowed to lose thirty pounds, they of course call you a fat shit and post about it on Facebook and the whole world laughs at you.

For whatever reason, this seems to have the opposite effect on me.  Several years ago, I was a member of a gym and went regularly for months and months — until I signed up for a 5K race through the office, at which time I stopped going altogether in the six weeks leading up to it. (That day, when it finally came, was not a good day.)  I’ve gained weight after telling everyone of my intentions to lose.  And since posting the other day about my sacred vow to finish a draft of this book this year, I haven’t written a word.

My current hypothesis is that I’m just wired differently than other people as far a goals are concerned. Most people are “eyes on the prize” — working towards the desired result that will provide the gratification when it’s accomplished (running the race, looking in the mirror, etc.)  Based on my history, I think that my brain mistakes the telling for accomplishing the goal itself — I get the gratification at the front end, and then have no motivation to finish the task.  I perform better when I keep my goals to myself — and best of all when I keep the fact of my interest in a topic a secret from most.  At work on Monday, there’s always the general questions about “what’s you do this weekend?”  I spent the weekend writing and exercising and playing the ukulele and reading a Russian novel, but I’ll reply, nothing.

So maybe that’s why I’m such a secretive shit?  Who knows.

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Shit, huh?

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You are supposed to seek out mentors over the course of your life, older men or women who take you under a wing, teach you the ropes.  Have I ever had a mentor?  It doesn’t seem like it.

I’ve had teachers, sure — and teachers have always seemed to like and appreciate me as a student. I can think of one teacher who liked me a bit too much (no names, please, my one reader who knows who  I am talking about).  I learned a lot from my teachers.  But a MENTOR?

Part of my problem was a disdain for anyone who seemed to like me.  Any teacher who praised me was clearly trying too hard, and I became suspicious.  I ran from those teachers.  And I had/have an aversion to asking for help — instead, foolishly trying to figure things out on my own.  I taught myself to type, and I do it very badly.  I got into grad school at Indiana University, served two years and decided to quit without ever having met with a professor privately to talk about what I might do.  That was pretty dumb, in retrospect.

I know people who have had good relationships with teachers, bosses, older people.  I envy that.  I know at least one person who seems eager to subordinate himself to a mentor, to pick someone and uncritically lap up whatever  wisdom he (always a man) hands down.  Something about that makes me a bit queasy.

Still, a little guidance would have been welcome.  It might still  be welcome, in fact.


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In 2009, I finished what I think of as a final draft of a decent novel, which I call A Perfect Wife. in 2010, I set out to follow some advice I read in Betsy Lerner’s book:  you are better off if you have a new project under way when the rejection letters start rolling in.  After experimenting with a couple of things that didn’t quite gel together, I started a new project — but the new one was really a continuation of the old one.

A (perhaps former?) friend of mine who read the manuscript of A Perfect Wife told me that she didn’t think it was finished, that she wanted to know more about what happened after the last scene that I had written.  Pharisee that I am, I took her to mean that the book was too short, and I’m afraid I reacted rather badly.  It’s possible that she was right however — I mean in what she really meant to say and not what I took her to mean, that is  — it’s quite possible that the story wasn’t finished.  That might explain why the only project that really got any traction for me was a continuation of the first one, a novel with the working title of The Burning House.  It’s the same characters, same place, just a year and a half later.

I’m grinding away at The Burning House, probably about a third of the way into the rough draft.  It’s slow going,but there have been times when I’ve thought to myself  yes, this is really it. But that’s passed.  I’ve  shopped  A Perfect Wife around a bit and haven’t gotten much interest.  I’m going to continue doing so, but it seems possible that there will be none.  If that’s the case, I am writing a sequel to a novel that no one wanted to read in the first place.

I’ve considered abandoning The Burning House.  But I’m too far in to quit — it would eat at me and I’m pretty sure I would finally pick it back up again down the road after it had gone stale.  It’s important to me to finish things, which means dedicating a steady amount of time and attention to them.  So, I’m going to finish.

I have other resolutions, mostly the same as everyone else (pay off the cards, don’t be such a lazy shit), but here’s the only one that’s really important: I’m going to write a draft of The Burning House. I have most of twelve months left, I have some idea of how the plot will play out, and I have the ever-diminishing sum of the days of my life.






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No posts in a while. I’ll try to fix that soon.

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