As much as we don’t like to admit it, law students screw up a lot of things. Most of the time, the things we screw up are unimportant, like our personal or romantic lives. (Let’s just be honest here. If you’re in law school, the safe money is on your prioritization of law school above your personal and romantic lives.) Sometimes though we screw up things that are at least quasi-important, like a side of job writing columns for an Internet blog. Now, I wouldn’t be the type to be in law school if I weren’t already in the habit of accumulating screw-ups of the former types, but right now what I’m going to explain how to screw up a law blog column, much as I did two weeks ago.
1 Wait until the deadline to start writing.Fairly obviously, this one precipitates all the others. The mad rush to make the deadline (unlike the last couple of times where you may have fudged a little) tends to make bad ideas seem good. Even if you manage to avoid truly bad ideas, the focus on time can take a good idea (say, a column about the slow slide into the law-school-buy-in and how you’ve gradually come to realize that you’re now selling the same BS that someone else sold you three years ago when you first sent in your application) and turn it into crap, i.e., a column where you come off like a total douche.
2 Stray from your original idea. If you’re lucky enough that you’re not stuck trying to make a bad idea look a little less like crap, then for the love of God don’t get sidetracked along the way to your word limit. If you’re trying to show how the way you’ve found to deal with law school is effectively a variant of Stockholm syndrome that has pulled you further and further into parroting the law school lines, then stick to that. Merely focusing on all the ways you’ve actually parroted the “official” lines just makes you look like a jackass.
3 Assume that your readers know you. Readers aren’t your friends. They don’t know your background and it’s not obvious when you’re exaggerating for effect and when you’re being sincere. If you say you’re doing things because you’re a vindictive bastard, they’re going to assume you’re a vindictive bastard. If you make a joke about having a bad day and coming home to kick the schnauzer across the living room with your friends, they know you’re not being serious (partially because you’re just not that guy, and mostly because they know you don’t even have a schnauzer). When you make the same joke in your column, you’re a knob.
4 Don’t re-read the post before submitting it. This is the most critical flaw, even if it’s not the root cause. Sometimes all you need to do is stop, read the column through, and realize, “Hey, I sound like a dick.” Then again, sometimes that deadline is really damn close. Besides, it’s not like people don’t already expect law students to be self-important wankers.
Editor’s Note: This post was submitted on time. It is unclear whether the author re-read it before submitting it for publication, although it appears he did. Maybe.
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