The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Monday, February 29, 2016

Public Speaking: Taking Risks, Dealing with Difficult Material

If we want to have a real impact as public speakers, we have to be willing to take risks. We have to be willing to stand up and deal with the difficult issues that make us sweat. We have to face the challenge that comes from finding a way to bring up a painful topic, or a topic that has been so weighed down with baggage over the years it has to be purposefully excavated and redefined to be seen in a better light.

Still, nothing is to be gained by avoiding the challenging topic if you truly have something important to say, something useful, something meaningful and helpful to others. If you spend all your time avoiding the issues that send a chill up your spine or raise your blood pressure, you will never be able to make a difference.

The most rewarding experiences I've had came from tackling some charged and challenging issue, even a cultural "hot button" issue. It takes tact to do it right, finesse, and a willingness to pursue the issue honestly from all angles. In the end, however, you as a speaker must be willing to say where you stand. You must be willing to open yourself up to the people you are speaking to. It is not safe. It is not comfortable. But, it can and does change lives. It does lead to the moments when someone comes to you with tears in their eyes and tells you how much what you said meant to them.

It leads to other moments when someone takes you aside and tells you exactly why you are wrong. Listen to those people with an open mind and heart. You may find that experience changes YOU as well. It's risky, but in the end it is worthwhile.

Again, find a way to be thoughtful and sensitive to others in your approach. Do not be like the politician, pundit or propagandist who stomps all over people who see things differently with no compassion and no desire other than to win an argument by force of will and rough language. Take the high road instead, but take that road and take that stand. It's hard, but worth the effort.

Here's someone speaking out in just this way (although as a blog post rather than a public address): http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/03/violence-applauded-in-todays-politics.html

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Journaling to Capture and Recapture

Memory is a tricky thing. All too often we remember the worst experiences vividly while the positive drifts away into the haze over time. Precious moments escape us. Positive experiences flee our thoughts. Then, when truly difficult times come we are totally disarmed with no reserves to fall back upon.

For this reason, I'm going to begin journaling for myself. This is not material I will share, but strength I will keep in the background against the dark days ahead, or the dark nights of the soul. I wish to retain some of the shining moments as they occur. I wish to store away the gratitude I feel daily for the uplifting experiences. I hope to keep the hard won experiences on paper if not in mind, so that I might reach back to them in times of need.

A professional storyteller gave me another reason for keeping a journal, and this I will pass along to you. He tells wonderful stories of his childhood. He states that keeping a journal of his early life, working on it regularly, coaxes details out of memory that he thought were long gone. He stated one should start with a person or a place of meaning to you and begin to describe that person or place. Begin to fill in the details of what it felt like to be with that person or in that place. Over time, lots of little details will begin to emerge and stories will come forth, stories worth recapturing and relating.

For these reasons, I intend to start journaling. I hope you will give it some thought too. Not for future publication, not for any other purpose than to capture the moments for yourself and/or to bring back the better aspects of the life you've lived. I believe it will be rewarding if persistently pursued. It'll be work, but I believe it will lead to joy. Care to join me in this experiment and see where it leads? 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Don't Be Your Own Editor

You know the one about the person who is his own lawyer is a fool. The same applies to editors. You really can't edit yourself with any success. You can't be objective. You are only partially aware of your own limitations and faults in logic.

It's dangerous business. I often look back on some blog post written late or in a hurry and find the most ridiculous mistakes. I mutter under by breath, fix what I find, and wonder what I have let slip by in other posts.

In this age of self publishing, which is all the rage, don't self edit. You'll regret it.

You will miss certain misspellings because your mind will rearrange the letter into the proper order, whether they appear that way on the page or not. That's why you so often see "form" where "from" was intended. You may type "our" when you meant "are."

Then there are the mangled sentences. You were in a hurry. One sentence sucks, but the first half says something valuable. You cut away the worst and apply the second half of the next sentence to it. You move on, missing the fact you've left two verbs side by side. That's only one example of a cut and paste sort of error.

Then you write late at night. Some sentence goes by and it makes no sense whatsoever. If you don't have an editor to ask you what the heck you meant by that, it goes out into the world. Suddenly your readership wonders if you aren't off your meds.

Let's face it. We all make decisions about other people by the way the write. Without an editor, readers may unfairly view you in some negative way that would never have happened if you'd had an experienced person lending you a helping hand.

Additionally, there are a whole lot of rules you know nothing about. Rules of punctuation and sentence construction that change with remarkable and irritating frequency. Worse, there are a great many rules concerning copyright law that an experienced editor will know (not to mention libel law ... brrr) that you simply don't. Not knowing that sort of thing gets expensive.

Final word: if you are getting professionally published and you have an editor from the publishing house DO NOT turn the edited manuscript from that professional over to some editor on the side you used before you turned in the manuscript to the publisher. Most likely, that side editor will be using a different style manual from that of the publisher, AND will get defensive about the number of changes the pro made after the side editor finished ... and that always ends in bad language and tears. Don't do it.

Best of luck with your writing. 

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: How Do You Know When the Blog Is Over?

Sometimes you just reach a point where you have to ask yourself when a project has reached its end. It's been fun. It's been a great creative outlet. It's broken lots of blogging rules ... because that's what I wanted to do. But, when is it done? When is J.S. Brooks Presents over?

Since coming into an all-consuming new career, the number of posts has dropped markedly in the last two years. My interests and concentration has been elsewhere.

The numbers have never been high ... or anywhere near average, not really.

Am I a zombie blogger? Brains!
I discovered today the platform I'm using is considered all but dead in the business world (is this a zombie blog?).

The blog's original purpose is passed. It's new purpose has moved on with limited success.

So, do I stay or do I go?

If I go, where? To just stop altogether seems dangerous. That would be letting my current career eat up another portion of my life, some time away from work that I need to respect and protect. To blog again, focus and a new platform will be required. Some research will be needed.

Additionally, it'll be more work. With focus on one topic of interest (to others more than myself alone), lots or research will be required. Do I have the time? I don't know. I have the skills. Research is what I do. Writing is a big part of my life.

If I blog again what will be the main focus? Or will it have to be several blogs with several specific topics to cover my range of interests? If one focus, how to choose that one? Do I go with my passion or make a business choice? Are they really two different decisions?

If I blog again, do I pull the material related to that topic from this blog and use that material as seed text for the new blog? If so, how do I make it clear it is me again and not someone stealing my J.S. Brooks Presents material? Would anyone know, recognize the material, or care?

I guess I'll start by rereading some of those articles I posted on the top blogs of 2015, seeking inspiration and guidance. Who know what I'll find?

Perhaps it's time to hang up the blog and get back to writing articles and books for the professional market? Perhaps this blog is just a big distraction from that aspect of my life? Or, maybe, just maybe, it's a lifeline in the midst of all the stress of the new career. This morning I've passed a couple of really enjoyable hours writing articles here. Can I give that up? Should I? If so, what do you do with a finished blog???

Decisions, decisions. It's hard to walk away from something you've spent a few years building. But maybe it's truly time? Lots of questions and no answers right now.

Dare I ask you readers out there? No, that just sounds pitiful. I'll let you know when I know. Blogging has been fun. I'll have to see if it still has a place in my life. Is blogging over? Is J.S. Brooks Presents done? Stay tuned.

Addendum: Just stumbled across my ranking from URL METRICS: http://urlm.co/www.jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com Phew! Then again, this is no business proposition, really. Still, makes me think.

Twelve Top Blog Site Lists of 2015

Here we go again.

1. Well, the first article is discouraging for the likes of me. It wrote the obituary for both Blogger and Google+. Hmmm. I have some thinking to do. For the best platforms to begin a blog (or begin again), see: http://thenextweb.com/businessapps/2015/05/11/the-18-best-blogging-and-publishing-platforms-on-the-internet-today/#gref

2. For the 100 best blogs and websites, see that article by Dailytekk: http://dailytekk.com/2015/01/01/the-100-best-most-interesting-blogs-and-websites-of-2015/?reading=continue You can pick up on 2016s early successes as well.

3. The Webby Awards winners are ...: http://webbyawards.com/winners/2015/websites/general-website/personal-blogwebsite/

4. eBizMBA has their own ideas: http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/blogs

5. For personal development, try the State of Happiness's list: http://www.startofhappiness.com/personal-development-blogs/

6. Try Fathom's list for travel blogs: http://fathomaway.com/postcards/quirk/best-travel-blogs-and-websites/

7. Look to Social Media Examiner's list for the top social media blog sites: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/top-10-social-media-blogs-2015-winners/

8. 50 Leading Leadership Blog Sites (count 'em, 50) from Ready to Manage: http://blog.readytomanage.com/best-50-leadership-blog-sites-in-2015/

9. If food, fitness, and happiness are your things, try Greatist's list: http://greatist.com/health/must-read-health-fitness-blogs

10. Refinery will give you their ideas on the best beauty blogs: http://www.refinery29.com/beauty-blogs

Now for the bonus round, two more:

11. For nerds, seek out the Computer World article: http://www.computerworld.com/article/2545070/data-center/top-15-geek-blog-sites.html

12. Games Radar will give you many great blogs for movie lovers: http://www.gamesradar.com/100-awesome-tumblr-movie-blogs/

There you have it. The best blogs of 2015 in many categories.

For the best blogs of 2014, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2015/01/top-12-blog-sites-of-2014.html

Taking Notice of Beauty Where We Find It


I can't say why it is happening. But the play of light and shadow, the beauty of the world around us, the stars at night, all of them are calling to me. Sights, sounds, smells, touch, taste ... it's all beckoning to me in the quiet moments. I don't know exactly what it is. But there is just something about a dogwood tree covered in snow. 

Rediscovering Bowling


Bowling, that age old game with alleys that seem to be a holdover from the 1950s, has magic to it. I used to play as a kid, and as a young adult. I have a ball, shoes, and a wrist support. All of this gear has been languishing in a closet for years as I took care of family business and a career change. The other day, I dusted off the old gear and decided to see if I still liked bowling. I did not expect what happened.

I got to the local bowling palace, walking in the door and was hit by sensory nostalgia. The look of the place, the colors, the lights, were not what caught my attention first. It was the sound and the smell of the place. I can't describe the smell. It just is. Go and see for yourself. But the sound, heavy balls on wooden floors, the clatter of pins struck and pins reset, the laughter of bowlers enjoying themselves. How had I forgotten about all that. It was a kind of magic.

I bowled two games. I intend to bowl a great many more. It doesn't cost much. I love the computers that keep score for you now. No calculations, no remembering what rule applies, just pure pleasure of aiming for and (hopefully) knocking down pins.

Give it a shot, or go soak up the nostalgia from your own childhood. It's great.

Anxiety Leads to Danger

Anxiety, defined as emotional pain, can be a good thing. It can act as a natural wake up call, yelling at us to move ahead, to change, to innovate. However, if it reaches a fever pitch, as it has now in many parts of the world, it moves beyond the wake up call. Instead it devolves humanity, reducing us to our base instincts, creating in us an angry, reflex instead of an innovative response. Even worse, once we reach that fever pitch, anxiety becomes a way of life. Creativity goes out the window. The ability to innovate and move ahead together is lost. It becomes an everyone for himself/herself world.

Highly anxious people respond to situations with yes/no, either/or, black and white thinking. Discernment is lost. It becomes an us vs. them world. Violence (physical or psychological) will arise as a result. Blame and criticism bloom, often falsely, toward both leaders and the weak, especially the weak. Different people become persecuted people. People die.

To end this vicious cycle, people must realize it is happening. Folks, it is happening all over the world. It is easily seen in the presidential debates. When it happens, the ability to change is lost. As long as it is boiling ahead at a fever pitch, nothing can be "made great." A great deal can, however, be lost.

To free yourself from this anxiety disease at its highest, define yourself (state for others who you are and where you stand). Do not be easily rattled by others negative reactions towards you. Stand firm in your beliefs. Take care of yourself, be resourceful, think creatively, look for imaginative solutions to problems, by thoughtful instead of reactive, see the world in all its complexity and all the shades of gray, refuse to stoop to us vs. them thinking, think things through, be deliberate, be responsible for your own actions (don't blame others), relax, collaborate with others (no matter how smart alone, we are better together), remain objective, have purpose in your work, be open to options as they arise and work with others toward a common goal. Do not try to please everyone. You can't, particularly not in this climate.

Good luck.

Based on the writings of Peter L. Steinke

Monday, February 1, 2016

Snow Removal 2016

When you have a whole season's worth of snow in one blizzard, it takes some heavy duty equipment to removed the piles left behind by the snow plows that did the original heavy lifting. So, they brought in a dump truck and a really serious piece of heavy lifting equipment. Thanks to all the dedicated men and women who worked so hard at the post blizzard recovery process. Your help is well and truly appreciated.

For more on the blizzard, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/01/living-with-january-2016-blizzard-jonas.html, http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/01/question-about-walls-arose-during.html and http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/01/why-kids-dont-shovel-walks-modest.html