Category Archives: Writing

Reminder – Please Follow Me on


Good morning!

I wanted to remind all of my readers that I am now blogging on

Hope to see and hear from everyone there!

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What is My Intent?

It must be about a decade now since I gave myself the mantra, maybe tenet is better, in the title.  It has been highly useful and I have shared both the tenet and my thoughts behind it with many along the way.  The question, posed to myself, helps to formulate my communication methods in a way that should diffuse any P.C. traps.


Most of us live and work in communities that are no longer composed largely of like-background and like-thinking individuals, hence the birth of political correctness.  Because when there are too many sensitivities, and they are often in conflict with each other and potential objectives, they can easily get trampled on the way to something else.  And the idea of political correctness is honorable, meaning to offer equal respect for the make-up of all the individuals in any particular group at any particular time.  But, whew, P.C. can act as a wall which prevents that group or community from ever actually resolving the real issue.  (Talks between countries that never happen because the preliminary how-the-meeting-will-go-down discussions break down over the shape and size of the table and the placement of the attendees.)

public domain drawing

public domain drawing


Back to my question.  If we each look into ourselves and determine the answer to our intent – resolve an issue, say how best to configure new office space – then we can better craft our method of resolution, down to approach, consideration of any objections or risks and how we will address them before we even gather.  Deciding that our intent is to work together to create a pleasant and productive office space, thinking about what we know about potential pit falls and how we can handle them reasonably would go a long way toward mutual benefit – a place that doesn’t need P.C. to be effective.


Now this question works best when all involved are asking the same question of themselves, but it is still effective when used by one individual, me.  Because I also turn the question and ask myself what the intent of the other individuals might be, how it might differ from mine, how it might affect the encounter or project.  Then I can be prepared with persuasions to keep things on track toward plan, and away from anything that could lead to non-P.C. territory.


I won’t claim that this is easy, or that I am always successful; but I have gotten a lot of mileage from this one simple question.  I invite you to try it out.  Let me know how it works.


(This post is written in response to Daily Prompt: P.C.)


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Fishing for Post Ideas

Happy Summer, Readers,

I have several posts in process, but thought that I’d throw out a request for ideas.  What would you like to see here?

Beth as Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Insulated from the Rain

Have you ever noticed that fluorescent lighting, which is normally so harsh takes on a softer glow when contrasted with gathering storm clouds?  I can remember back to an early age in school, deep in whatever task, coming out of it to look around as my eyes sent me messages that the quality of the lighting had changed, a storm was approaching.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether I am in a mid-century school building, an older school or an office building, the change in sunlight affects the quality of the artificial lighting indoors.  Differently than the transition to evening.  Though newer lighting tends to have more of a spotlight effect.

stormyWhen the clouds gather, sometimes slowly stacking, sometimes madly swirling, my instinct is to get a good seat, a book and to watch the clouds until the storm bursts – interspersing storm watching with reading.  Of course, at work or at school I must deny this instinct.  Somehow though, the threatening weather seems to draw everyone closer together, a primitive impulse that there is strength in numbers.

It does depend on the season though, doesn’t it?  In fall and winter, rain makes our thoughts turn to being cozy, to soup and sandwiches and fireside chats.  In the spring and summer, we have an urge to go out and be in the rain, to let it wash freshness over us – to watch later how it brings out new plants, encourages buds on established plants.

Heading home, hearing the swish of the windshield wipers and watching headlights arc through the brooding gloom and tires splashing in the water slicing across streets we aren’t ever very fond of rain at these moments.

Later when we stand in grass that is almost neon green and under trees that shake rain droplets from their leaves with every breeze, we see the benefit of the rain storm.

This post is written in response to the daily prompt:

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Writing as a Means to an End

Defining something clearly for yourself helps you to own it – now you finally know why you had to write your vocabulary words in a sentence every week back in elementary school.  When you own something, then you can repurpose it in whatever manner suits your current needs.  A kitchen towel is meant to dry dishes (for the few of us who still do dishes by hand) or your hands but it can be used as a hot pad to set down a dish, an oven mitt in a pinch, a cover for bread when it is still new and pretty, or for a child it can be a superhero cape.


The ability to write clearly and convey your message in a manner suitable for your intended readers is a versatile tool.  And a skill which can be developed, as long as you see the validity of writing’s importance in your work life.


We seem to have somehow convinced ourselves that writing is a talent that we either have or do not have – and there are certainly those for whom writing is a wonderful talent, writing is a skill and therefore learnable by anyone with an interest.


Job Search Writing

You can hire someone to write your resume and cover letter for you in the hope that these professionally written documents will give you an edge.  But in the spirit of teaching a man to fish over giving him a fish, you will do yourself a greater favor if you tackle this task for yourself and show that you have written communication skills which are sought after in many businesses.


While your goal is a new job, it is very important to pay close attention each step in the process – difficulties at any step can end your path to the goal of that particular position.  Sometimes job seekers focus too much on that prize and miss the pitfalls in the many steps between themselves and that job.  Refocusing on the steps and tools in between will help to ensure success.


Fair or not, the personnel responsible for filling the position are looking for reasons to eliminate a candidate.  While you have the job description from the ad, there are many components which are unspoken and possibly not clearly defined on their part.  Telling yourself you will reach the goal of the job when there are these nebulous components between you and this goal makes this achievement more difficult.  Focusing your attention on doing your best with each known component gives you more power to be ultimately successful.


RESUME:  Your resume is a document that is meant to show your past achievements and career progression.  Similar to any financial prospectus that you may have read, it has a disclaimer that all HR and hiring personnel see – past performance does not necessarily indicate future performance.

  • Your resume is not intended to get you the job; it is one tool which is meant to get you the interview.

Your resume has just a few seconds to catch their attention and get you in the yes or maybe piles, so less information – which is tailored to the needs that they expressed in the ad – is more.  If they have to sift through what is to them extraneous information that alone is a reason to put you in the no pile.


COVER LETTER:  Your cover letter is a document that is meant to start the discussion for how you can marry your past performance to the future needs of this particular company.

  • Your cover letter is not intended to get you the job; it is one tool which is meant to get you the interview.

This document is your first opportunity to underline your strengths and to downplay any requirements which could disqualify you.  As an example, I do not have a degree so I highlight points that show that I am a life-long learner.


THANK YOU LETTER:  Your thank you letter is a document that will be the last impression the interviewer has of you while they consider who to call back for the next round or who is the successful candidate.  You want a strong showing.

  • Your thank you letter might not get you the job, but poorly executed, it could be the last straw to eliminate you from the running.  Properly executed it leaves a strong last impression.

Express your sincere appreciation for their time and consideration.  If something came up in the interview that you can expand on, do it here.


It seems as if we are all looking for definitive rules for these documents, as if by following the rules to the letter will be a magic talisman to achieve our goal.  It turns out that it just isn’t that simple, but like Dorothy we have had the solution with us all along.  We learn our power when we are ready.


[A little self-promotion: I am setting myself up as a Business Writing Coach for individuals & companies –]


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Thought Blizzard

In my part of the country there is much talk about our lack of snow.  Each new day breaks the record that the previous day broke, and so on.  Well, if my thoughts were only snowflakes, the children of the region would be building snow monuments to me (and cursing me in the summer when they are still doing make up days for the snow days).


Anyway, I have been subject to frustration for the past couple of days due to a mental tangle.  Try as I might to follow one thread to release the snarl, I have been thwarted similar to a mom trying to get gum out of a child’s hair without creating a bald spot. Each potential means to unlock the mess must be rejected after time spent carefully following the lead.


I woke up yesterday with two great thoughts – one for a new page and one for a post.  By the time that I had completed the ablutions that I must before sitting to write, the page idea was sitting alone in my head, the blog post dissipated – perhaps lost in the cat food container, or poured out with my orange juice – but gone from my head, leaving only the reminder that it was an excellent idea.  Drat.


I’ve been through this before, I told myself.  I will survive; perhaps revive this idea at a later point if I just leave it alone.  I got ready for a workshop on career planning and at the workshop, other ideas for posts popped and snapped as the presenter engaged each of us and drew us into his story. I was glad at this point that I didn’t sit at home pouting about my lost great idea.


Instead as the day progressed, the lost idea became a storm cloud, gathering in the other ideas, passing unrelated thoughts and miscellaneous brain flotsam to break out into a full-fledged mental white out of a snow storm.


By late afternoon, my White Rabbit self was in a tizzy – we’re late with plans, things are backing up!  Must resolve now, must resolve NOW!  (My logical self trying to remind me not to heed the rabbit, he never does any good.)


I admit to giving in to the frustration.  Maybe giving it its due, like an offering, would clear the storm.  But I had nothing in waking this morning.  And then I remembered that sometimes the best thing for a frenzied mind is nothing.  The simplicity of repetitive tasks.  So I picked up a broom, and I did the dishes and some minor clerical tasks – and was rewarded with this post on my thought blizzard.


The great idea is still lost to me, for now.  Perhaps it will again come sneaking up to visit as I sleep one night.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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January 21, 2013 · 9:21 am

Twas the Week Before Christmas

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the work-place,

Creatures were hurrying, scurrying and running the rat race.

“I have to get done, have vacation to take –

Off to Grandma’s, the in-laws or maybe the lake!”

Now I was just watching quietly from my cube

Hoping to get out at lunch at take my car for a lube

Christmas carol melodies floating through my head

While on my computer, emails I read, read, read

When out on the floor there arose such a clatter,

I looked over the wall to see what was the matter –

A vision of senior management all dressed like St Nick

Ho Ho’ing and marching down the aisle right quick!

A parade of employees trailing in their wake,

Everyone heading to the boardroom, a feast to partake

Deciding my car would have to take care of itself,

I jumped up and followed the nearest old elf!

(With thanks and apologies to Clement Moore)


© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Why I Write

I will at some point soon write a blog about why writing is important for everyone.  First, I thought I would share an essay that I wrote a couple of years ago.

What, exactly, is it that I think I am doing when I string words on these empty pages to make sentences and paragraphs?  What makes me think that I can use the word “writer” to define myself?  I have an urge to commit thoughts and ideas to paper. For much of my life, after accumulating an early and ego bruising small mound of rejection letters, I have done this only for my own fulfillment and didn’t attempt to gain any audience other than pride in crafting real snail mail letters to family, friends and carefully crafted business correspondence.  I feared censure, rejection and needed no audience to savor the way that words collected to create some meaning on the pages.


Am I a writer only when I have published my work and gained a broader audience?  Do I have to have readers to be a true writer?  Or is it enough that this word, Writer, is a prominent part of my self- definition?  At any rate, I am again attempting to reach out to the larger world and share my writing.


There are certain themes that resonate for me, that flow through my mind and ask to be explored.  My essays are the result of some internal debate, an attempt to give wandering thoughts clarity.  I want to present a concise and compelling argument for my position.  Although the word argument, certainly the idea of conflict that it conjures, is too overused in these “Reality TV” times.  Reason, then is a strong alternate word.


Themes that repeat through my life are the importance of having a personal code (taking responsibility for your words and actions), the search for clarity, and the need for community (both personal and in a broader sense).  When questioning my own thoughts and actions, it is my intent that I must be able to express clearly.  (This is also true when I question others – I ask them to define their intent, since this intent should guide the content of their discussion or argument, as it should mine.)


Serenity, a state of calm reflection, is my goal.  In this complex and fast paced world, it is a Holy Grail – highly worthy, but ultimately unattainable?  Herman Melville, I learned through Sara Paretsky, talked about the “silent grass growing mood” necessary for writers to be able to ply their craft.  A writer must be able to sift through all the components of a story to access the central theme, to develop it and carry it through to a logical conclusion.  The writer must also weave in compatible or sometimes conflicting themes in order to give the story resonance.  This is a truth for fiction or non-fiction writing.  And all this must be communicated to the reader, or the whole point is lost.  Or perhaps it’s not lost if in writing I achieved a greater understanding that I can build on the next time to create something compelling.


Harmony, with others and with my surroundings, is another goal.  In bringing discordant sounds together the plan is to make something better than the parts.  I like to read my own writing out loud when I edit, to let the words roll around my head and out of my mouth to bounce off the walls.  Sometimes they fall flat and then I know that I must make adjustments.



Curiosity is a driving force, a constantly renewing energy in a world of limited resources.  My writing is the best way to process the behavior and events that I observe.  The way that things often go awry due to things not said or not done.  I must unravel the aspects of the story to be able to convey them clearly on the page.


All of these preceding ideas lead us to communication.  A word endlessly tossed around until it almost has no meaning, and yet has such import.  To communicate well is to create mutual understanding.  There is some concern on my part that I will not be able to adequately communicate my intent.  Once a piece is completed and published, the writer must be prepared for misunderstanding or even misappropriation of the work.  It is fascinating to find out the reader’s interpretation, sometimes quite alien to the writer’s meaning.  Perhaps the writer must be clearer or perhaps not.


When I was a younger writer, editing and expanding on ideas or themes was not possible.  Once I completed a thought, I was essentially done with it.  If my writing is now more sustainable, then I must strive to be open to all interpretations or to express my own vision most carefully.


As a writer, first I am an observer.  I have my own perspective, but I must be prepared to set that aside to get to the real center of the story.  I can’t make the story; I have to let the story tell itself even if it feels as if I am headed in the wrong direction.  Sometimes we learn more when we think that we are lost.  We have to pay closer attention to everything around us to get our equilibrium back.


© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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