Sunday, July 26, 2009

HUMILITY - and justice for all


I used to be a legal secretary and occasionally I fill in as a temp in a couple of the law offices in town. Basically what this means is that I get to spend a day or - God forbid! - a week feeling inept. Since the people in the offices where I work are all basically decent (Don’t tell me any of your sleazy lawyer jokes!), they are kind and forgive my lack of up-to-date office know-how. One secretary tells me she loves it when I come in because she knows she’ll have a good laugh that day. She’s even threatened to write her own book and call it "Sandy Screw Ups." Oh well, they do pay me and it’s always nice to have a little extra mad money.

If I used to work in a law office, how come I’m not more efficient? Have I forgotten that much? Has it been that long? Not really, but in the past few years, the machines used in offices have changed drastically. I’m a writer so I know my way around a computer. But those other machines! One office has a phone system with more buttons than there are squirrels in my backyard birdfeeder. The copy machine does everything but grill sandwiches for our lunch. (Actually, maybe it does and I just haven’t pushed the right combination of buttons yet.) The postage meter is pretty straightforward, but they keep getting a new one, so – you guessed it – I have to be led through the operating process every time.

However, as a writer, an occasional lesson in humility has its upside. The feeling of being slightly off-balance comes in handy when I’m plotting a murder mystery. (Not that I’d ever go that far – unless Diane makes good on her threat and writes that book) It’s not too hard to imagine humility mushrooming into a sense of total inadequacy. In other words, I can empathize with my villain, for I am convinced that a sense of inadequacy is at the heart of most crimes. Think of the usual motives: greed, lust, jealousy, revenge, shame. All have at their core a feeling of being not quite enough – an emotion most of us experience at least occasionally. I certainly do. Fortunately, there are people in my life who are quick to reassure me that my good qualities outweigh my shortcomings. And that is something I acknowledge with grateful humility. People who are willing to grant unconditional acceptance are a wonderful gift - one that I wish I could guarantee to every person on this planet.

11 comments:

Marielena said...

Great post, Sandy! Some of your blog made me smile as I think we all can relate to feeling inadequate and off balance in different areas of our lives. It's a wonderfully human trait that not only keeps us humble, but as you said, is great motivation for characters of all kinds. Give me a character with fumblings and flaws any day! I can relate!!!

Tessa McDermid said...

An interesting way to look at characters, Sandy. Thanks! And I understand your new machine challenges - I live with two teenagers and they're always having fun at my expense! Of course, I still pride myself on being the only one in our group of friends who never has a flashing clock on the microwave or latest recording gadget.

Sandy Cody said...

Thanks, Tessa. It's good to know someone understands.

Loretta C. Rogers said...

Sandy, I think the challenges of writing and submitting are much like learning to operate new-fangled machinery. It certainly does make us feel inadequate and humble. Great post!! And hey, just think of all the new ideas you can get for a novel from working in a lawyer's office.

www.lorettacrogersbooks.com

Kathye Quick said...

Great post Sansy, Made me think.

We have to appreciate our imperfections. They make our characters real becsue we can relate.

Kathye Quick said...

Like my imperfections - TYPOS

Elisabeth Rose said...

And what about the ridiculous glow of pride and satisfaction when you actually put one over the computer/machine and get it to do something perfectly?
The criminal who has committed the perfect crime must feel the same. LOL

Sandy Cody said...

Thanks to everyone who left a comment. I guess the feeling of being not quite "enough" at least once in a while is universal. And you are so right, Lis, about the glow when one does master a machine - or any old demon.

carmenferreiroesteban said...

A copying machine that grills sandwiches? What a great idea. I’m ordering one just now.
Seriously, I agree being a writer is a continuous lesson in humility. Rejection letters and unsympathetic reviewers anyone?
As for someone that appreciates us for who we are, that is the best of gifts.

Sandy Cody said...

Good idea, Carmen. Let me know if it works.

Kay Finch said...

I've worked in a law office for 23 years, and I sure can relate to your post. We now receive each incoming fax and voice mail as an e-mail. Some courts require filing documents online. So we sit and stare at the screen all day long. Then I go home and get back on the computer to write. No wonder I stiffen up so easily. Happily, I'm about to join you as an Avalon author. My agent got the contract last week.