Scott D. Parker
Are you prepared to talk about writing?
I had jury duty this week, and a couple of things struck me. One is that you probably already rolled your eyes. “Jury duty. Ugh.” Believe me, I understand. We all understand. It’s one of those things that we have to endure, right?
But have you ever thought about the alternative? What if we didn’t have to go to jury duty because we didn’t have trial by jury? Not sure I’d want to live in a society like that, would you? So I’ll take the occasional jury duty as the easy payment for the freedoms we have in this country.
Besides, it really isn’t bad as long as you brought a good dose of patience with you to the court house. Oh, and a book. I brought my Chromebook and knocked out a few hundred words on the latest story before we all got called into the courtroom.
Now, as a writer, I’m all for new experiences. When we got into the courtroom—all eighty of us or so—we saw the defendants. Seven of them by my count. Two panels were seated. Yeah, I was selected. Sixteen out of eighteen in panel 1. My group consisted of 8 men and 10 women, all a nice cross-section of citizens in my precinct in Houston, the largest in the state. One by one, the defendants were called to the back room, their cases settled. As the judge told us, often when a person asking for a jury trial actually sees us ready to render judgement, it becomes very real and they settle.
The potential jurors who didn’t get selected were excused. Then panel 2. Lastly we eighteen in panel 1 were released. It was a painless experience. Heck, I even stayed late to chat with the bailiff, the judge, and the clerk. It was very nice.
You know what else was nice? Talking about my writing.
Okay, so I’m a nerd and I pulled out a steno pad and started making observations. When the judge started telling us facts about our precinct, I jotted those notes down as well. As you can imagine, my actions were noticed. The nice lady sitting next to me and I started talking. Turns out she’s a medical professional. She mentioned she enjoys spy novels and name-dropped Daniel Silva and Vince Flynn among others. Right as she was leaving, she asked for my name and a recommendation of one of my books. To date, my favorite book remains ULTERIOR OBJECTIVES. When I mentioned it was a World War II thriller, she got excited. Based on my Amazon sales report, a copy of that book was sold on 20 February, jury duty day.
Can I be sure it was she who purchased the book? No, but there is strong circumstantial evidence. I didn’t catch her name, but I thank her, no matter if she bought the book or not.
But you know what made the entire event not 100% professional? I didn’t have any business cards on me. I had to write my name on a piece of paper.
Sigh. I now have extra cards in my wallet.
If you are a pro writer, always carry business cards.
DEVOTIONALS CAN BE DIFFICULT
Chalk writing a Lenten devotional as something more difficult that you'd imagine.
I was assigned a passage from Mark by one of the pastors at my church. By way of guidelines, she told us contributors to aim for a word count from 250 to 350.
Listen: I can bust out a consistent 1200-1300 words per hour when I'm firing on all cylinders writing a novel. Initially, I thought it would be easy to get up to 350 words.
Five drafts later, I managed 366. Hopefully they'll make the cut--or my pastor will edit it down or ask for a re-write--but those were some difficult words. Go figure.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
The more I write and the more I study the habits of writers, the more I realize writing is really a blue-collar job. Sure, we're not digging ditches or laying brick, but the process of writing has little magic to it. Other than the imagination, you sit in a chair or stand at a counter and pound your fingers on a keyboard. There really is no other alternative to getting a story out of your head and onto paper or a screen.
Which brings me to the words of Daniel Roebuck. He was the guest interview subject on The Ralph Report by Ralph Garman. On Monday, when the first part of the interview dropped, I was like "Who's this Roebuck guy?" Only when I pulled up his photo on Google did I realize "Oh, he's that guy. Wow. He's been in a lot of things." Yeah. Thirty-five years worth of consistent acting jobs. Quite the successful tenure. And he's got a great quote on his Twitter page.
How, might you ask, did a boy from Pennsylvania who drove out to Los Angeles with no connections become have the career he's had? By a simple realization.
"I knew I'd be a supporting guy. I'll be the James Whitmore or the William Windom and I set my sights on just being someone who worked. And so I'm completely satisfied." "I never had a false sense of my destiny. My destiny was never standing on stage giving a speech, getting an award. My destiny was being turned into a [movie] monster. That, in itself, makes me happy." "I never take a moment of it [acting work] for granted. I still audition…I go in there and try to win. Every day I wake up, bring it on, man. Give it to me. Give me a chance to do what I do."
When I heard those words, I knew I’d found a guy with a philosophy I could understand and admire. Because I try to be the writer version of Roebuck every day. I sit at my Chromebook twice a day (4:45am and 12:00pm) and write new words. I craft stories as best as I can. The yarns entertain me. I hope they entertain others. For me, the large majority of the joy I get from writing is that part, the part I can control. Control the Controlables. In the professional writing world, there are few things better than those hours spent writing.
BTW, if you read yesterday’s column by founding member Jay Stringer, you’ll remember he said much the same thing.
How about y'all? How'd your week go?
I've always wanted to be on a jury. It's great to hear your experience. And bravo for taking out your notepad!
My wife wanted to be on jury, too. Until last year when she got picked for a murder trial. Now, she's fine never being picked again.
Speaking of notepad, I always take a notepad when I go somewhere new. Always good to have pen and paper to write down experiences.
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