The “Write” to Judge

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It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a person in possession of a jury summons must be in want of a way to get out of it.

Even though I’m busy working, moving, and my coworker had a doctor appointment, I could not get out of the interview. After three or more hours of selection, It turns out, even though they never got around to interviewing me, I would not have been a desirable juror for this particular trial because I am an insurance agent. Ideally, I’d make a great juror because of the same qualities that make me a good editor and writer. Jurors and editors both get paid to judge ($15 to breath courtroom air and keep the seat warm. Should I quit my job now or give them two weeks?). They both have to think critically, be detail-oriented, and objective. To be honest, being an agent would not have been a conflict of interest for me. If anything, I may have been able to provide an informed perspective.

I still don’t think I had the right to judge, however, because I couldn’t keep attention during the jury selection. How was I going to pay attention for the duration of a two-day trial. What was distracting me: my work? my move? my endless list of things to get done?. No, it was my writing. While others nodded off or read, or (more power to them) gave their full attention to the questioning lawyers, I imagined scenes in my head and fantasized about my characters. Had I been selected, there was no way I could have paid attention. How can I decide the fate of a real person when I’m so obsessed with the fates of my characters?

I’ve always been a heavy day-dreamer. When I was in first grade, I spaced out for an hour. When I returned to the real world, we had moved on from spelling to math. Needless to say, I was in big trouble. I also daydreamed during car rides when I was a kid, which might explain why I never know where I’m going now as an adult.

To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of the jury system. I don’t believe that people who frequent Wal-mart  or McDonalds have the qualifications or the schooling (dare I say intelligence) to make a good decision. Listening to the interview responses from my fellow citizens only solidified that I never want to commit a crime. One man actually said that no one should be able to sue for physical injury resulting from an auto accident because it is an accident, not an intentional act. To think that a bunch of toothless rednecks would have control over my fate is enough to keep me in line.

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Maya Angelou Dead at 86

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I wanted to share this with my followers. I was introduced to Maya Angelou’s writing during college, and have loved her work ever since. I’m so heart-struck to hear that she is gone.

TIME

Maya Angelou, the acclaimed poet, author and civil rights icon who wrote lyrically of her childhood in the Jim Crow south, died Wednesday morning. She was 86, and her death was confirmed by a family representative and by officials at the Winston-Salem mayor’s office in North Carolina, where she had been living.

Angelou had been honored with more than 50 awards, including the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for her collected works of poetry, fiction and nonfiction, most notably her groundbreaking memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which made history as one of the first nonfiction best-sellers by an African-American woman.

“Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension,” a family representative posted on her Facebook page. “She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a…

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Beware Bad Covers

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We’re taught at a young age not to judge a person based on their appearance or a book by its cover. I hate to admit, when it comes to men and books, I prefer the ones with good faces. It’s not that I wouldn’t date an ugly man or read an ugly book, but I’m more drawn to the ones that are appealing. Before you judge me or worse, unfollow me, ask yourself, have you ever judged a book because of an ugly cover? What about a reader or an author? Do you think that people who read ugly books have bad taste, or that authors who write books with bad covers are bad writers?

Look, I’m sure the ugly books are full of personality, but I just don’t notice them because of their competition. I’ll admit I’ve picked up some books based on cover alone: “The Prince of Thorns” series, for example.

Are we too quick to defend ugly books? Is a bad book cover ever indicative of a bad book. The long and short of it is YES. A bad cover could be the result of an author cutting cost. If they cut corners on the cover, they most likely cut corners on rewrites and editing as well. In that case, what you see is what you get. Not to say there aren’t writers who cut corners on everything BUT the cover, thus tricking you into buying their book only to discover that it has all the quality of a cheap chocolate bar: pretty foil wrapping on the outside, waxy plastic-tasting chocolate on the inside.

Before you brand me as a book bigot, I’ve read some ugly books. In middleschool I read “Kris’s War” which was about a resistance group in Denmark during the second World War. It was a great book, but the cover was hideous. When I read it, I held it low so people would not see because it looked like a cheezy sci fi from the 70’s. Anyone who saw it made a face or a comment. They asked “What are you reading?” in the same tone one might say “Dear God, what is that thing!”

Just to prove I’m not biased, I’m currently reading another book with a bad cover (bad is a generous word). Terry Pratchett’s books don’t typically have great covers to start with; however, “Guards, Guards” has got to be the worst. It’s too colorful and confusing, and the characters look terrible (I don’t even know which characters they are supposed to be).

While we’re on the topic of bad covers, don’t underestimate the power of a bad title. For example, what automatically comes to mind when you read “Cooking with Pooh.” I hope it was the Disney character.

What’s the worst cover you’ve ever seen? Hopefully it’s not the cover of your own book. Here are a few I found on the web or (for shame) on my bookshelf.

Every book in the “Wheel of Time” series. Sorry, Robert Jordan.

This is why I hid this book from the light of day: I hate covers with floating heads.

time-ninja-cover1 paperbackyes paperback10 paperback07 hwn_merlinsr guards-guards-2 dsc03783 glad be      bad-book-cover-design-example

 

 

 

Forming the “Write” Habit

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I’ve heard it said that for every break you take from writing, it takes ten days to get back into the habit.

Ten days seems to be a popular truism. Everywhere advertisements promise you can lose weight or quit smoking in just ten days. Maybe there is some truth to the ten-day rule–or maybe it just looks good in print. After ten days of not running you lose muscle. I guarantee if you don’t go to work in that time span you won’t have a job.

There is a fallacy to the ten-day rule. Ten days is hardly enough time to form a habit. If forming habits could be done in a snap, we’d all eat well, exercise, show up to work on time, take our vitamins, and we’d never lose our keys. Another popular truism is the twenty-day rule, which my boss is a firm believer. Instead of ten days, this rule promises you can form a habit in twenty days.

It’s more beneficial to know how to make and keep a habit than to know how long it takes. For starters, you must first have a goal. This is the big picture you want to achieve. Without a goal, you won’t have the motivation to keep going. Do you want to publish, write a trilogy, become a best-selling author?

Second, you must complete smaller task that will help you achieve the major goal. With writing, it’s simple: WRITE. Set a quota. It can be pages, wordcount, or time limits. Let me just start by saying, you don’t need to write for hours, or give up an entire day (As much as we’d like to have an entire day to write). Even ten minutes a day counts. If time is the real issue (not browsing the internet, checking Facebook, and posting on Twitter) start by writing ten minutes every day. If you have more time, write for 20-30 minutes. I always shoot for no less than an hour. In that hour, I may only write a paragraph (or a sentence on really bad days), but it all adds up.

Taking a day off here and there isn’t that detrimental, but significant lapses will set you back. Real life example/cautionary tale: I haven’t written since April 28th. If I do my math (let me just take off my shoes), I’ve taken roughly two weeks off. When I opened my word document I had to go back and read a few pages to find where I left off. Not only that, but it took me forever to start writing and what I did write is cringe-worthy. The process of getting back into the flow looked something like this.

Ready to write after two weeks: full of optimism

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Reading what I wrote: realizing it’s crap

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Giving up: napping is easier

Let’s face it, your writing will suck after a break. It’s like when you return to work from vacation and it takes a day just to get back in the flow.

So let’s say you’ve missed a day, a week, a month, or a year (it happens), it’s never too late to start writing again. So whether it takes ten or twenty days to get back into the flow, it all begins with day one.