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VOL. 35 | NO. 17 | Friday, April 29, 2011

The pleasure of ‘having written’

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Editor’s note: Judge Vic is on vacation this week. This column is from October 2009.

For the past two weeks I’ve quoted from “Real Lawyers Do Change Their Briefs” (1989), a book that’ll be 20 years old in late November.

Those passages from that book generated several calls of commendation, for which I thank the callers. But, as should be self-evident, other writers deserve the praise.

Restated, it was not my talent on display last week or week before, but that of Jimmy Simpson last week and the territorial judge of 19th century Arizona the week before.

Reprinting the work of others is something I do a lot of in what passes as “my” writing.

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2009 is for me a year that marks multiple, divisible-by-five anniversaries.

In May 1969, Greenville, Mississippi’s Delta Democrat Times ran a book review written by a 17 year-old high school senior: his first publication in a “real” periodical.

In the fall of 1984, the Arkansas Lawyer, edited at the time by Ruth Williams, began running a column called “Law, Literature & Laughter” by a young lawyer: his first regular gig outside of school publications.

“LLL” ran for 15 years and led to “I Swear,” which became a weekly column in 1994.

###

Speaking in Little Rock earlier this year, Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg said, “I don’t like writing. I like having written!”

He also said, “Writing is hard. But it’s not as hard as roofing!”

Bragg’s words at once do and don’t express quite how I feel about my writing habit/hobby.

It sums up how I have felt many times when writing specific items: legal briefs, back when I used to write those; the occasional column that is past deadline; a few other things that I have not really wanted to write.

Far more often than not, though, when I dig in to write something that I am not under a deadline to write, I derive enjoyment and satisfaction from the process.

But thank heaven I am not doing it for a living!

And, oh yeah! I wish I were a better typist.

My mom did 90 words per minute, my dad, 60 – both without errors.

For me, errors run rampant. I misspell words that I know how

to spell. I can never type Presbyterian right the first time. The “ian” always comes out “ain.”

More than half the time when I type use, it comes out sue.

Sometimes someone will ask me where I “find the time” to write.

Time does not hide.

And, hey, those of you who’ve asked: Are you paying attention to the quality of my output? It’s quite mediocre. Except when I quote others.

As I’ve already indicated, I get my best feedback when I am using the work of others. (I just typed suing and thers, rather than using and others. That really irks me. I just typed ikrs, rather than irks.)

But I have always, for over 40 years anyway, had this thing for writing. On the side. And I appreciate, sincerely, the compliments that people pay me. But I appreciate even more the things you send me to reprint.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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