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Patterns: they rule us, and we rule by them

Reincarnation gone horribly wrong

I’m sure at some point you have looked at a cloud in the sky and said, “That one looks like Mickey Mouse.” You have seen a picture of a famous person on a piece of toast. You have thought the car in front of you looked as if it had a face, and it was smiling at you.

Human beings seek patterns. It’s how we recognize faces, but it’s also how we see faces where there really are none. Continue reading

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Developing the wisdom to know the difference

Serenity prayer

Most people know the Serenity Prayer, at least in its abbreviated form. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” It seems custom-made for printing on 1970s plaster gift plaques and graphics suitable today for Facebook. (This is only the first part, worded slightly differently, of the original version.)

In its simplicity, though, it has a lot of wisdom, not least being the recognition that there is a difference, and also recognizing that, like all wisdom, it’s not immediately obvious. Continue reading

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Stories: the low-tech mind meld

robinson

If you think about your own experience, I think you can see how a good story deserves the metaphorical label of “mind meld.” I remember being enthralled as I listened to Appalachian storytellers at the Museum of Appalachia’s Fall Homecoming, as I read my first novel that a teacher didn’t assign (it was Have Space Suit – Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein), and as I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. You know that power on the receiving end, and (I hope) have experienced it on the other end.

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Floss one tooth bird by bird

Bird with teeth

There is a much-beloved-among-writers book by Anne Lamott called Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. It covers many of the challenges writers (and speakers) face, but the title is one of the most important parts to me. It reminds me of how to manage huge projects, like a novel. Continue reading

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Plan for improv in your communication

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler

I just stumbled across an article with three solid, specific bits of advice to make conversation easier. This may sound strange coming from a speaker, but honestly, conversation is tougher for me than is speaking on stage. What I do in front of an audience, I’ve a chance to think about and plan for it, rehearse it, and smooth out. I’m in control.

Conversations, on the other hand, are unpredictable. Continue reading

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Empathy and Easter: The power of story

mater-dolorosaThis is not a religious blog, and that’s not about to change. But religion and spirituality are a big part of life, even for those not conventionally religious, and it is certainly an area where communication skills matter on a lot of levels. What I have in mind here, though, has bearing on any communicator, religious or not.

As I write this, it is Saturday before Easter. Because of the events commemorated around this time of the year, a lot of attention falls on Good Friday, and of course tremendous attention on Easter Sunday. (Yes, I know about all the interrelationship of Easter bunnies and pagan celebrations. It’s beside the point for this post.) Some groups have traditions around Holy Saturday as well, the day Jesus “rested” in the tomb, and also the time of the Harrowing of Hades. It is also sometimes called Black Saturday, a day of mourning.

For some reason, it has really struck me this year because of those first mourners. Obviously, Jesus suffered the most, but those who loved Him on earth suffered also. Friday was the worst; Sunday, everything changed. But Saturday? Saturday was the Sabbath, supposed to be a day of rest. How restful could it have been for the apostles? For His friends? For His mother? Continue reading

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I hardly have energy to write this

sunrise_blog

I posted to my friends a little earlier today on Facebook something like this: ‘Feeling very sad today, for no particular reason. Breathing is such an effort.” When I’m like that, it is the hardest for me to write anything. That’s usually when I most need to.

I don’t usually write about depression when I’m depressed, but I’ve learned that I need to take some kind of action, and for me that action often involves writing. About anything. Maybe for the very reason that it is hard for me to write when I’m depressed.

Chances are, many of you deal with depression on some level. We’re not talking about the times of sadness we all go through. We’re especially not talking about the entirely appropriate reactions we all have to sad circumstances–grief, losses, stress, etc. Rather, we’re talking about the kind of depression seems to come for no reason, and when it relents, relents for no reason either.

And I’m trying to do a little something about it. Read on. Continue reading

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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

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A cornerstone of communication: what’s important to you?

Driving to church this morning, I noticed there seemed to be no oncoming traffic on the Interstate spur. I topped a hill and saw six police cars and two ambulances across the median, surrounding a pickup truck on its side, a truck that looked like a broken light bulb.

I spent a few years as a newspaper reporter and photographer, so it immediately clicked with me that the ambulance and police workers weren’t moving very fast. They were not working a rescue; they were working a recovery.

Someone had very different plans for the morning. That all changed in an instant. Continue reading

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New ebooks on Amazon

ebook covers

Two new ebooks from Yours Truly.

We’ve recently posted a couple of ebooks that, for the time being, are free on Amazon. They will revert to regular price in a few days, though. Grab them while you can, and tell interested friends! Continue reading

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