Monday, January 16, 2006

The "Determination Quotient".

Marvin Olansky in a recent issue of World Magazine writes of the importance of one's DQ - the Determination Quotient. He particularly relates this quality of character to the craft of writing. I thought these quotes were right on:

Michael Crichton: "Books aren't written. They are rewritten."

James Michener: "I'm not a very good writer, but an excellent rewriter."

In my law practice, good writing is of crucial importance. I will sometimes spend hours at the computer on a letter, trying to explain how some arcane idea applies to the special situation of my lay client. So many aspects of the practice work against this: the pressure of the "billable hour" regime that infects the profession; the demand of our clients for a quick turn-around on the solution, as if their problems were not years in the making; and our own desire to move onto the next thing, particularly if the matter at hand is less interesting than the next thing on the task list. So, sometimes, I will not spend hours on a letter, to the detriment of the service I extend, but will send an email or dictate a short letter. I liken this to the circus performer who has a bunch of plates spinning at the end of long sticks. His mission is to run around and keep them spinning so they won't fall off. His mission takes him nowhere except, sometimes, to a hilarious disaster as the plates all go crashing down. Nothing is accomplished with this approach; a great deal of risk is assumed.

It is not a great step to make rewriting prose and poetry a metaphor for dealing with relationships. (The law practice, of course, is all about relationships.) The difference is that we never complete the rewiting task with respect to our relationships, especially those we describe as loving. We must keep at each loved one's story, as a writer with his paragraph, the difference being that we do not complete the story of that relationship until one of us is gone. No one, then, is taken for granted. No one is fully known. So we keep at it, and there is great reward and pleasure in that and life is worth living.

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