Operational Brain tasks vs. Creative Brain tasks

No, this is not the correct vocabulary I’m sure. So you’ve already guessed this won’t be a scientific type discussion.  You’ve probably heard it described more as a Left Brain vs. Right Brain activity right?  Let me see if I can explain myself!  I’ve had two conversations this week regarding the reality though, so I’m going to hope you know what I mean.

By operational brain, I am referring to the task oriented work we do by checking items off of a list, making and using tech options as reminders of our “to-do’s” and working systems in such a way that projects, assignments or businesses make progress ultimately being completed. 

By creative brain, I am referring to the very opposite process of creation.  Allowing time to be an open ended continuum to be able to create art, music, books etc. requires continual immersion in ideas and creative space. 

For a long portion of my life, I engaged my creative side but used it very operationally.  I didn’t allow a lot of time to create, and out of necessity worked very operationally.  First working operationally is quite easy.  Tasks need to be done and you do them.  Generally, you get paid for work you do especially when you accomplish it.  A few years ago, I realized my creative spark was being hindered by the very operational life I had constructed. 

Thankfully, I had a reached a time in my life and we as a family were in a position financially where I could find some wiggle room.  This wiggle room allowed me create again.  Where it was musically oriented before, I know allowed the stories in my brain to come out and began going down a road of writing.

It has been a delightful journey, but a tough one frankly.  I have always believed that if you work hard and produce good work, you will find success.  This is not necessarily the case in the publishing world.  But I am learning, and I am training myself to improve. What’s funny to me though is that the deeper I immerse in what I believed to be a fully creative opportunity – I come full circle back around to the necessity of digging into the operational side again.  Building a platform, connecting with people and networking, creating the sales pitches and proposals all require a certain level of operational brain.  If I’m not careful I can find myself swing so easily back into operational mode again.  Again, tasks get completed, checklists get checked and “to-do’s” get crossed off.  Short term satisfaction though because ultimately I LOVE and CRAVE creative brain.  It’s what I enjoy even if currently I’m still trying to figure out how to earn from it.  I’m working through it and I’m learning I MUST protect my creative time, by compartmentalizing my operational duties into certain time frames, even though my tendency is to deal with things as they occur.  Creative time has to be precious and protected and utilized everyday even if the creative lightning bolt doesn’t strike.  Showing up and working the creative muscle is half the battle, the other is not providing an excuse for avoiding the creative work.

How about you – do you get what I’m saying about operational brain vs. creative brain?  If so, let me know how you work through it!

Podcasts, audio books, traditional print, oh my!

Recently I conducted a highly scientific poll regarding audio books, podcasts, and traditional reading. 

Okay okay. 

It wasn’t highly scientific. 

Nor was it a poll. 

All right!? 

It was a Facebook post asking my limited group of friends what their habits were concerning those three formats

My questions were this: 
1. Are you a podcast listener?
2. Are you an audio book listener?
3. Do you prefer a book or ebook over audio?

Since I am fairly new the podcast scene…I’m a voracious reader of books/ebooks.  I never dreamed people considered themselves readers if they listened to books. I get it now, but I think our definitions have definitely evolved on what “reading” is.  Anyhoo…Since I’m still getting into podcasts I wondered how others view them.  I knew they were gaining popularity especially the last few years because I was hearing more and more people talk about them whether online or in actual real life conversations.  Yes, people still actual have those.

I fully expected that across the board if people agreed that yes they were podcast listeners, they would also be avid audio book listeners.  The answer was yes and no.  What I really didn't understand is the relationship factor of podcasts. I have learned over the last few weeks that a podcast is really more relationship based.  As I listen and understand conversations, interviews, opinions etc., the overwhelming reason a listener tunes into a podcast is to get to know the people doing the podcast and receiving information that is important to them.  The podcast appears to be a unique marketing tool to drive purchasers of audio and ebooks – BECAUSE they got to know the author first.

Through my friends posts, I discovered a variety of new podcasts to listen to myself.  My podcast listening has increased just from being intentional about listening especially when I’m driving.  As a drove two children to a variety of places on Monday, I cleared 5 podcasts.  Also I’m learning to adjust speed and get used to the faster delivery.  It doesn’t take long and hey I don’t get mad while I drive because I’m listening to politics and talk radio.  Probably for the best..

I have enjoyed searching the trends and the data backs up my perceptions – more and more people are tuning in to podcasts and audio books to fill downtime instead of turning on music to chill out.  Think cooking time, working out and doing laundry - more people are listening to podcasts instead of music. Since I’m a music person as well, I’m now going to dig in and see if the music industry is trending down because of the increased consumption of podcasts/audio books.  I’m fascinated as well with the idea of serial broadcasts of books.  I think it’s super fun and will be working that in to my schedule also.

As a visual learner, I am definitely behind the trends here, but I find it fascinating that the advent of technology and evolution of our habits has created new trends that affect all of my favorite things. Of course this week I learned of Book TV with youtube... oh my...I may be lost for a long time now!!  I'll do another post on Book TV soon! 

Did you miss out on the original conversation - answer those questions and leave them as a comment now :)

Here are some more links with more on podcasts and audio books if you are interested as well!

https://publishingperspectives.com/2017/06/audiobook-sales-growth-us-2016-report/

https://qz.com/924075/audiobook-readers-obsessed-with-multitasking-are-driving-americas-biggest-new-reading-trend/

http://goodereader.com/blog/digital-publishing/audiobook-trends-and-statistics-for-2017

http://goodereader.com/blog/audiobooks/audiobook-companies-are-betting-that-podcasts-are-a-gateway-to-audiobook-consumption

Memorial Day Remembrance

In memory of the ultimate sacrifice of my dad's two friends, Artie Comstock Jr, and Vic Mika.

This memorial story details just one day, of one tour of duty, of one in the Vietnam War. This particular story is my dad's.  He is 1st Lieutenant Glen Bradley Weeks, Army Ranger and Vietnam Veteran, honorably discharged in 1969.

He came home, but so many others didn't.  Over 58,000 men didn't return, and this short account is an effort to honor their sacrifice.  If you have never been able to see the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in person, thanks to the internet you can see the virtual wall.  It is a very sobering project. You can click here to view it.

Screaming missiles with white hot trails flew through the sky. One landed in the helicopter with us before exploding.  No time to think or understand.  No yell of “Incoming” - just the impact itself.

The concussive blast knocked out my hearing, mercifully perhaps, because my friends and brothers in arms were screaming in pain all around me.  The bird to my left took a rocket hit and crashed and exploded in the earth below us.  The air smelled of fire, seared flesh, and fear.

It was a horrible nightmare come to life in the steamy, pre-dawn, April morning as we arrived that day at Dinh Tuong Province otherwise known as “Fish Hook.”  My heart pounded hard in my chest, in tune with the whirring chopper blades.  The adrenaline surged from knowing that we were now landing in enemy territory. What had started as a routine mission, was quickly becoming anything but that.

The reality, though, of the Vietnam War, was that danger lurked everywhere, and we were trained to be ready to face it no matter what.  The enemy could be directly in front of us, or they had just left after hiding the mines that blew up our friends.

No one could be trusted, not even the women or children.  Too many times, other soldiers had made that mistake believing an innocent just needed help only to be blown up with them.  It was an extreme sort of torture for the soul to view everyone with suspicion.

1st and 2nd platoon of Charlie Company came in with about 60 men that morning.   Ambushed as we were landing, some birds were being brought down from the sky having taken on heavy machine gun fire, and being hit by rockets. Those birds not hit by artillery fire dropped soldiers and got out as fast as possible.

Our routine mission had just landed me regretfully in charge.  My Commanding Officer was wounded and needed pickup by the MedEvac personnel, otherwise known as the Dustoff, and the 1st platoon leader, Vic Mika, from Fords, New Jersey, only a couple weeks shy of his 24th birthday was now dead beside me.  Time slowed for just an instant, and I had a chance to think about how I had gotten to this place.

Having joined the Army after failing out of my college classes at the ripe old age of 18,  I headed off to Fort Bragg, North Carolina for basic training.  Soon I advanced to Fort Dix in New Jersey where I specialized in advanced Infantry training.

I relished the physical labor and the discovery of what I could push my body to do. I had finally found a place to excel.  Officer Candidate School was the next logical move, and so off to Ft. Benning, Georgia I went.  After graduating as a 2nd Lieutenant, I headed to Ranger School.  Rangers were the elite, and I knew I had what it took.  Just reading the Ranger Creed inspired me.

RANGER CREED

Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of my Ranger regiment.

Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite soldier, who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger, my country expects me to move further, faster, and fight harder than any other soldier.

Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight, and I will shoulder more than my share of the task, whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.

Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress, and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.

Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor.

RANGERS LEAD THE WAY!”

(source www.goarmy.com - read more about the elite force Rangers here also)

After completing my training, I headed home to visit my family.  When my parents came to pick me up at the airport, though, I could tell they had been crying.  They said we had to wait for my best friend, Artie.  But that couldn’t be right I told them since Artie had joined the Marines before I did and he had already beaten me over to the war zone.  Unfortunately, Artie was coming home - in a box.  Much to my great sorrow his flag-draped coffin arrived that night, and the next day I saw my best friend buried. That was September of 1966.

Shortly after this I was ordered to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky to train the new recruits. It would not be long after until it was my turn to be called up for my tour of duty on the front lines.  I left for Vietnam in February of 1968.  I was a 1st Lieutenant with the Army Ranger force, and I was just 20 years old. I left full well knowing that I might not return.

My focus came back to the chaos unfolding around me. The rest of that day was a blur of gunfights, and battling for protection on the ground from a daunting enemy.    We had many wounded, myself included.  I was knocked down but not out, yet.  There was still life left in me and a battle to be fought - and won.  The men that were left alive dug in and returned fire for the most of the day.

We had no idea how many NVA enemies we were up against, and we had no reinforcements for most of the day.  Mercifully the 3rd platoon was airlifted in with artillery bombardment, and 30 more men for reinforcements, by late afternoon.  Later we learned that radar detected the mass retreat of at least 5,000 enemy troops.  60 men had held off 5,000 - what are the odds?

The war raged on, and there were many more stories and firefights the rest of that year.  I finished up my tour and was sent back home to New York shortly after being honorably discharged. I was awarded three purple hearts and a Bronze Star medal for valor.  In trying to get these men in my charge to safety that day, I had to stop and retrieve a wounded soldier and pull him along with me while still under fire.

As we celebrate this Memorial Day, I remember the men that didn’t come home.  They gave their lives in service to our country, and while the rest of us returned, we are forever-changed men.  Physical and emotional wounds that will live on for the rest of our lives remain with us.  We will never forget the smells, sights, and sounds from those terrible days in the bush, nor will we ever forget the loss of life of our friends and brothers.

Coming home from Vietnam was gut-wrenching since it was not a war with a definitive win, and since our nation was at such odds over being involved in the conflict, there was no celebration to be made.

War is an ugly business.  Many devoted men have sacrificed their lives in war. Maybe even in wars that you don’t agree with having been waged.  Regardless of which side of the controversy you claimed for Vietnam, the men who gave all they had should be remembered and celebrated.  They died in noble and brave service for our great nation.  This Memorial Day perhaps you don’t personally know the name of anyone who has died in war - if not remember the name of my best friend, Artie Comstock Jr., and my buddy Vic Mika with me today.

 

(if you also have a story to share, it would be an honor for me to read it in the comments below.)

This is a short story written this weekend, compiled from notes my mom had, the rare stories my dad has shared, and research accomplished online.

memorialday.jpg
Source: attributed to Horst Faas/AP

The Writing Life

The writing life - conferences, groups, chats, etc.

I went to my first writer’s conference a little over a year ago. It was local and for only one day, so it felt doable.  I was so incredibly intimidated, but I was determined to see if I could learn anything about this new thing I wanted to start doing. It was a great experience.  From there I launched into a much larger writer’s conference, that required travel and several days away from home. To say I was intimidated for this conference is a major understatement.  I was overwhelmed with all I didn’t know.  The thing is I usually try to put myself in situations where I have an understanding or knowledge of what I’m doing.  It’s a blessing and a curse really.  I will kill myself with research before I will actually go try to do something.  I’m working on it.

All that to say this – the writer’s conference experience has so far been encouraging.  While I didn’t meet my goals at the large conference and actually returned home feeling discouraged, several things happened after conference that have become so important for my journey.

  • I got my first Work for Hire job because I was at the conference and heard an announcement. 
  • I met new friends, also writers, who continue to encourage and assist me with their expertise.
  • I've had opportunity to review books, write blog posts for others, and pray for new friends who needed me to hold them up.

Without these contacts and networking I would have likely given up long ago and gone back to where I was safe, and had already put in many years of work building my expertise. I’m thankful that I haven’t allowed myself to let go yet.  The camaraderie of the writing community has been wonderful as well. 

Not only are there individuals that I rely on now, but also the groups.  We have a great group of friends who meet weekly to talk about all the different facets of writing – it’s called Writer’s Chat and technology is great because we use zoom from many different states to meet each week. (If you are a writer and would like to join us - just join the Facebook group here - https://www.facebook.com/groups/writerschat/   

I also joined the Word Weavers Community (check it out here) While there are many local community groups that meet, there wasn't a group close by so I joined an online one. ur online group meets once a month and we review each other’s work reading aloud - a 1000 word chunk of something we are writing, and then giving honest feedback to each other.  I value the input I receive in these meetings.  Both groups give me encouragement and help me learn while I am doing.  Not sure what I would do without either group – they both give me the push I need to work on these things that are difficult but enjoyable as well!  The really great thing is that they have both encouraged me that my writing is worthwhile and interesting.  That makes all the work worth it.

Lastly, I have learned that I need to align myself with people who are farther into the journey than I am. This means signing up for online classes and webinars about marketing and writing.  Or learning more about social media and email lists or in my case all of the above – I signed up for 12 online courses in January – I am a bit ambitious.  This also means submitting my work for critique or sitting in brainstorming sessions with those folks as well.  A lot of these things are not free, but it is a wise investment in my future work. Paying for expertise, even from my friends, lets them know I value their expertise, and helps me to take what we do seriously.  The accountability is motivating among these friendships.  Paying for services that friends offer also benefits their businesses - which in the writing life is huge.  I believe that the Bible teaches us that the worker is worthy of his wages I Tim. 5:18. If you are trying to find tools and resources to help you organize, plan, or move forward with queries and proposals etc. you can't go wrong with my friend Bethany Jett's services at Jettsetter Ink. Start with her blog - here and then be sure to check out resources, and planners, and training she offers.

Surround yourself with an encouraging community and see what you will accomplish.  The tips and experience is so beneficial.  Before long, you will that you can provide some of your own tips and experience to someone new that's just starting the journey you've already been on.  You'll be able to give back to someone else very soon.