Updates

update

I managed to get through a challenging semester. I knew I wouldn’t be able to post for a couple of weeks as we wrapped up, but it has been nearly a month! However, I have the next couple of posts already lined up and I wanted to alert faithful readers to a slight change in scheduling.

Sometimes I keep up with the “twice a week” schedule pretty well, and, as you can tell, sometimes I don’t. I’m going to try a different pattern (and you can let me know how you like it or don’t like it). I am aiming for a regular post every week on Tuesday, something more in depth. I may post shorter pieces at other times, but I’ll try to make sure Tuesday brings something of interest to all.

I am also working on a new podcast that will go live by the first week of June. In this podcast I will talk with people I’m calling Switchers right now. (This term could change as it develops.) These are people who have taken a path beyond the usual, or who have later in life switched from a standard career into something that satisfies their souls.

For instance, the first one will feature a young woman who discovered both a passion for photography and for independent business unusual among recent college graduates–a path she had never considered before finding it. When a new podcast episode goes up, I will post that here as well.

Conventional wisdom is that you need to be regular in scheduling, and I certainly aim for that. If you have been with me for awhile, though, you know that I have responsibility for a severely disabled daughter, and my wife is also disabled. They have veto power over my plans. (If you can tell, I’m smiling as I say that.) My choice is to not write this blog at all, or do the best I can with it. I will be posting about this later, in fact, but the short version is: I think you should do the best you can with what you want to do, even if you can’t do it perfectly.

So thank you for sticking with me, and helping me produce something you would be glad to share with friends and colleagues.

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Time to get serious

Serious dog

It is time to get serious.

I have preached before about the need to create regularly, to write regularly, and to do so whether you feel like it or not. On the other hand, I am quite sympathetic when people struggle with this, because of my own circumstances.

I seldom mention it here, because I don’t want to whine. But these are facts: I have a severely disabled daughter who requires around-the-clock nursing, and my wife is partially disabled (in a wheelchair mostly, because of arthritis. I’m also the sole breadwinner in the household. Though we have tried to navigate the swampy morass of disability for both my daughter and my wife, we have been overwhelmed by the bureaucracy. No doubt we could crack through it, but it takes time–and time is my shortest resource.

Despite the importance of writing to me, I often find myself going days at a time without writing, mostly because all my time is taken up with taking care of The Princess (as we call my daughter), The Queen (my wife), or one of my two jobs. Plus, you know, every so often, sleeping. But writing is right up there with sleeping and eating in importance to who I am, so I am slowly starving to death.

Growing up in West Tennessee, in farming country, I learned that if you want a crop in the fall, you have to plant seeds in the spring. I am planting some seeds this month. To help get the time I need to help more people more often with effective writing and speaking, I am now offering a subscription through Patreon.

With enough subscribers, I could quit my second job, which would give more time for writing and speaking–a real win/win situation.

For most of my life, I made part or all of my living through writing–on a newspaper staff, freelancing for magazines or business publications, writing advertising copy, writing academic materials. In the last few years, as most of you know, the economy for writers has changed dramatically. The very Internet that has, to a great degree, killed traditional outlets for writers now makes it possible to connect directly with readers.

If you have never dealt with Patreon before, you may not know that it is not just a subscription model, like a year’s subscription to Time magazine for $40. There are tiers of support, and I can offer various incentives to those different levels of support. Which is what I have done.

I’m happy to share content here on the blog, and I will continue to do so, but I will also be producing content exclusively for Patreon subscribers as a way of saying thank you for the support. Would you consider checking things out and seeing if it would give you satisfaction (and a meaningful reward) to support our efforts?

You can check out the Patreon page here.

TL;DR: I’m setting up a Patreon subscription for those folks who would like to support what we’re doing here. Please consider?

 

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Do you care how you get info from me?

survey-1594962_640

I haven’t written anything here in forever. We’ve talked before about those times when the well runs dry, and you just have nothing to say. That’s not what’s been happening with me the last few months. The fact is, I have been overwhelmed with work. I have thought of dozens of things to talk with you about, and thought, “I’ll develop that later,” and then never got time.

On the other hand, I have recorded several Facebook Live videos for other projects I’m working with. These days, I’m finding it easier to do those than to write something. For people who relate to video, it seems that it is a more engaging medium. On the other hand, it is not as casual as reading (you can read a blog post almost anywhere).

So, to help me know where to focus my efforts, would you give me some feedback? Just respond to the quick survey below to help me help you. I don’t want to spend time and effort on something that won’t be useful to you–and I really want to produce something useful to you.

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One-question survey

Survey

Hi! We haven’t talked in a few days. My daughter (The Princess) has been having some health issues, and coupled with nursing schedule irregularities, I’ve had to put my attention elsewhere.

But I haven’t forgotten about you! I’ve been working on updating the web site also, incorporating what you told me in response to an earlier question. To help that along, would you respond to a one-question survey about what you would most like to know about using effective speaking to advance your job, career, or business? It would really help me help you. Thanks! Just click this link–and I really appreciate it!

Image courtesy of NY Photographic under a CC Share-Alike license

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Changing models

I have been thinking about this for awhile. I’m going to change the publishing schedule a bit, and also the way I’m approaching things.

People of my generation and earlier will recognize the reference to “the Reader’s Digest version.” While the magazine has a U.S. circulation of 4.5 million these days, in the 1970s it reached its peak at 17 million. It was known for, among others things, taking longer magazine articles and longer books and condensing them down into much shorter form.

Academics know about article abstracts, those entries that are only two or three paragraphs at the beginning of a journal article or academic paper that mostly summarizes the entire article. Graduate students quickly learn to focus on the abstract along with the methodology and conclusion section as a survival tool, because no one has the time to read entire articles when you are in grad school.

The internet has spawned its own response and version. Some commenters on long posts began around 2003 using TL;DR to label such as a means of signifying “too long; didn’t read.” Newspaper reporters have long written in inverted pyramid style to address readers’ short attention spans, although magazines (a print form more aimed at leisurely reading) have mostly followed a more traditional introduction/body/conclusion approach. It somehow seems natural with so many people reading online to combine these approaches.

I’ve been noticing lately that you seem to be engaging in longer content, but that doesn’t mean that all of you want to read longer articles. So I’m going to accommodate both approaches. I will finish out this week the way I’ve been going, but starting next week, I’m going to post a longer article on Monday–but it will start with a special segment labeled “TL;DR” for those who want to read shorter.

I’m also going to move away from the once-a-week digest posting to the email list–though again, we will finish out the week the way we’ve been doing it. Starting next week, when an article goes up on the blog, it will also go out on the email list. The subject line will start with [King’s Corner] to make it easy to find later if you want.

So we’ll see how that goes. Please let me know your thoughts about it, though! I want to put out material that is useful to you, and I won’t know unless you tell me. (Remember one of our basic principle: people (including me) are not mind readers.)

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Help me help you, OK?

Lonely bear

I sent out an email to subscribers. I sent it because they used to open my emails a whole lot more. But then my daughter had some issues and I quit writing for awhile.

I have a severely disabled daughter, who went through a long period of rough times. I got so overwhelmed that I stopped writing for a long time, and people got used to not hearing from me.

I started writing again a little over a month ago (April 3), but I’ve noticed that people aren’t opening the emails nearly as much as they used to. I’m trying to figure out why. Continue reading “Help me help you, OK?”

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Has it really been that long?

abandoned house

I didn’t really mean to stop writing. But I haven’t posted anything here since July. I actually wrote quite a bit since then, but nothing that struck me as worth publishing. There are 25 posts sitting in draft mode. In November, I wrote a skeleton of a post that said, “This is probably my last post.” I remember what was happening then. I had just discovered that my aunt had died–a year earlier. And a favorite cousin had also died–two years earlier.

Continue reading “Has it really been that long?”

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Appearances changing

Yes, the old place looks a little different. We became aware that our old theme was not, as they say, responsive. That means it didn’t play well with mobile devices. Not only does my site need to play well with mobile devices just because, but also because at my college I happen to be one of two faculty liaisons for mobile technology. I think it would be a little embarrassing if my own site wasn’t mobile friendly.

But that means I have some rebuilding to do. When I switched over to the new theme, I lost my widgets (those things over on the side that perform special functions). I have some of them restored, but others I have to recreate. So please excuse the wet paint. The smell will dissipate soon.

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We’re going to experiment

lab

I majored in journalism in college for one particular reason: it was the closest I could get to not declaring a major.

See, I was interested in all aspects of human experience. I didn’t want to have to specialize in anything, because I was interested in all of it. But I went to college when the mantra was first started to be repeated that to be successful, you had to specialize (which struck me the same way the famous advice to Benjamin in The Graduate did: “Plastics…. There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it.”). Continue reading “We’re going to experiment”

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There’s always a story between two dates

ceiling

I’m sitting in the Intensive Care Unit of Children’s Hospital in Knoxville with my daughter as she sleeps, finally resting after three or four days of what must have felt like drowning for her. It turns out she has double pneumonia. Under the tender ministrations of the medical staff, she is getting better, and although Hannah has taught us that we never know the future, even two minutes from now, the prognosis is good, and we expect to take her home early next week.

As I look at the ceiling, though, I see graphic reminders that many parents who have waited agonizing hours in this room have not been so fortunate.

Instead of empty industrial ceiling tiles, patients see a colorful collage of artwork done mostly by children who have stayed here, whiling away the time and contributing to later patients by relieving visual monotony. It is a nice touch.

But a few of them come from parents leaving behind a memorial. You can easily spot these tiles; they’re the ones with two dates.

They strike me the same way 19th century cemeteries do. Have you ever strolled through an old graveyard and noticed how many tombstones commemorate a child? Some have only single dates for a child who died the same day he or she was born. Many have tiny statues of lambs on top. In some older cemeteries fully half the graves hold the remains of a child, with dates only a few years or a few months apart.

This is a room of hope, not a cemetery, but it is a room that has witnessed countless dramas and struggles, the stuff of movies and stories. Maybe these stories aren’t spectacular enough for the big screen, but for the real individuals involved they held all the impact that a Gone with the Wind or a Titanic did for those characters.

At this moment, two nurses are working on Hannah, and alarms are going off. I am writing because I can’t really do anything else. I can do little for my daughter right now beyond simply being present, and so I turn to writing, a tool that has always helped me make sense of the world.

I don’t know how much time I will have with Hannah. It may be a day; it may be that she will far outlive me. I hold out hope that gene editing may allow her to escape the chains that bind her in this life. (I’m not delusional. I realize it’s a long shot, but a slim chance is better than none.) But I do know that I don’t want to risk one day looking at a tile with two dates and regret that the space in between was so filled with trying to make a living that there was no room to just hold her hand.

I’ve tried to post at least twice a week, and I’ve kept that up regularly for 19 months, except for two periods when I took a week or two off. But I need to turn my attention to other things. I’m not leaving, but I’m setting the conscious intention of cutting back to posting only two to four times per month for at least awhile. Effective communication is my passion, but only because it connects us to each other, and I have some connecting of my own I need to do.

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