The Quotidian Ones

Readying to go


It's been a day and a half of mad, unbridled productivity here at My Country House, a.k.a. The BF's.

You could chalk it up to Spring, only it's always Spring here in Los Angeles, except when it's Summer. (Nothing much of anything gets done here in Summer, or at least the dog days of it, and in that way only are the citizens of Los Angeles much like the citizens of any other hot place in the world.) It's been lighter longer for a few weeks now (and none too soon, for the depressives among us). The work flow has been the same mix of medium-pressing and many-spigotted.

No, I think the reason I've been at my busy best is because I'm heading out of town tomorrow for a goodly stretch, and that's as good a way to see it as any: me, stretching. For as much of a homebody as I am most of the time, there's a part of me that not only loves but needs to get out of Dodge. Pulled away from my routine, I see things differently; surrounded by stuff that I'm not used to seeing, I think of old stuff in new ways.

Plus, there's the grand and glorious freedom of pretending that all you have to worry about is the one, small bag, okay, the two small bags...okay, the two small but incredibly dense and heavy bags are all that's weighing you down in the world. I know from my own experience not to try fleeing trouble: it tracks you down and gives you an extra noogie just for thinking you could outrun it. But it's fun to be free of stuff and bother, even if it's only a pretend free. And who knows? Maybe after enough of these trips, I'll get closer to the vagabond spirit of my friend, Evelyn, who in the four years that I've known her has made an art of wandering and wrought brilliance from the thing most call rootlessness.

For now, I'll use them as an excuse to do what I always do with a bit more diligence. It gets a lot of stuff done.

And it's probably getting me ready for the next thing...


Image by hive via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Crunch time


I'm down to the wire on a few things.

  • Meetup with the Tax Dude tomorrow, and while I love him, really, you couldn't ask for a more delightful and literate Tax Dude, either I'm prepared or both of our time is wasted. Which means that today is all about the prep.
  • SXSW in one week. Speaking of week! How did it happen? I have the last installment in the how-to-prep series going up tomorrow, and still woefully behind on my own prep.
  • Ticking clock on some upstate prep. My hillbilly-Jewish cousin has relocated to NorCal, and, in a sort of mini-reprise of last fall's adventure, is giving me access to the pad while she goes to China to train in some high-level permutation of a martial art I lack a pedestrian grasp of.
  • Another ticking clock on a New York trip. I got asked to visit my alma mater for a shindig, an entrepreneurial weekend that's getting me back to the East Coast for the first time in almost 6 years, and back to my alma mater for the first time in (gulp) 25.

Clocks tick with more urgency than they did in my 20s, 30s and early 40s. I try to relax, knowing I'll never do everything, knowing that it's most important to do the Right Things, the things that feed me, both literally and figuratively (and really, more the latter), but it's hard. I want to wring as much as I can from the life that's left me, and I want to leave behind as much as I can that will be of use to those still here after I've left the planet.

It's a lot, I tell ya.

Earlier this week, I had a renegotiation talk with my own adviser. Our president may not have been in office long enough to have given a State of the Union address (and really, as so many have said, aren't we all acutely aware of its state, anyway?), but I have been at the helm of this particular ship for nigh on 48 years, and I'm here to say that for all my good intentions it would do, that dog won't hunt; I need to rescale, rejigger, realign where I want to go with the realities of where I'm at. The contracts I made with myself in late Q4'08 are going to be reevaluated at the end of Q1'09, and that's all there is to it. Either that, or I will likely end up a sad, small statistic.

Am I being overly brief or under-ly descriptive? Possibly.

But hey, it's crunch time, I need to work with the time I'm given. I gave the best of my love to my newsletter yesterday; if you haven't already, you can sign up here and soak in the insight that luxurious time and daylight provide. Really, it's a good one. You'll enjoy it.

And whether you do or not, any words of encouragement are welcome in this, my darkest hour of making things balance in Quicken.

I'm so not a numbers kinda gal...


Image by laffy4k via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Speaking of shilling...


I spent half of my weekend helping actors understand how getting super-focused with their message would help them.

I spend the other half fiddling around with a testimonial randomizer to display Great Stuff About Me in the Sidebar.

The one is so easy, it's ridiculous. I feel like I was made to talk to people about stuff I've learned along the way that will likely help them along their way. Even when I'm exhausted (and I kinda was, this weekend, since I'd started my week out with this annoying cold), I'm exhilerated.

The other is so hard, it's even more ridiculous. Or maybe it's not. Maybe it makes all the sense in the world. Maybe it's still me, doing penance for all the crap I foisted upon the world in the name of marketing. Or rather, that I wasted my time and talents foisting upon the world in the name of marketing. Because let's be fair: it's never been the ads themselves I was against (or most of them, anyway); it was the ratio of effort to output they required. Endless fucking meetings representing tens of thousands of man-hours, and SMART man-hours, because advertising back then really did draw from the best of the creative brain trust, all to figure out which way the bears should dance around the cereal box.


I've done a lot of penance. And I've come to realize that maybe it's important to figure out a way to promote stuff that should be promoted. And maybe, just maybe, I'm some of that stuff. If what I'm doing can help anyone, I owe it to that person not only to be available to help, but to maybe turn a porch light on so they can find me in the dark.

There are 15 rotating porchlights in my far-right sidebar as of Sunday night. If you usually read this via email, or a feed, I'd greatly appreciate it if you could click on through to the blog, then hit "refresh" a few times (or visit some different pages, to trigger the mechanism), and let me know what you think.

You guys know. You're at least as smart as all those people in advertising, and probably smarter. Definitely nicer.

All my love to you this lovely Monday...


Image by rooneg via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Rejuvenating rendezvous-es

gianttub_gill_rickson It was an amazing weekend of colossal proportions.


THING THE FIRST: I got a metric buttload of work done. My fellow squinty-eyed middle-agers reading the actual page will notice a ton of it straightaway; the rest of you can feel free to see here and, HUZZAH!, here for external examples. Oh, and feel free to tell me what you think via this handy device.)

THING THE SECOND: The BF finished a HUGE job and celebrated by cleaning his entire house. Which, I can say now, was a huge job in and of itself. And no, I didn't help; I volunteered for two stem-to-stern tours of duty in that theater and finally realized that if I did it again, we would not last as a couple through the experience. Because neither one of us could take the stress. (Highly compatible people do not necessarily have highly compatible styles of Getting Things Done.)

THING(S) THE THIRD: Heaping helpings of neighborly love! To wit...

  • a joyous, post-cleaning dinner at one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants (oh, lordy, that SALMON!!!) with The BF and a new-and-great friend, Hippie Jan (so named to help differentiate her from L.A. Jan and Chicago Jan)
  • a joyous, post-wedding gathering for an old, dear actor friend and his new, dear bride
  • a joyous, laugh-laden reunion with my old art director, Kevin, who is out here on a production

If you've been following along for awhile, Kevin is known here as the fellow who put together an extraordinary project to mark his 50th birthday: a compendium of anecdotes on life, love, happiness and other interesting things from 50 people whom he felt shaped his life, the idea being that if a man is known by the company he keeps, what better way to find out what makes us so than to go to the source.

We talked a lot about the project, which has been very well received, adored, even, not only by the contributors, but by the people whom they were moved to share the book with. There's been a resounding call on many fronts for Kevin to pitch this as a book-book for wide publication: yes, the stories are specific to him, but they're so specific and so tender and so beautiful, there is something profoundly universal and touching about the whole affair. You cannot read this book and not be moved, seriously.

In honor of these highly moving stories, I'm sharing another of my own submissions, two of seven or so I sent back to him made the final cut. The first was about art and truth and the fire that burns within, but this one...well, this may be my greater contribution, when all is said and done...

xxx c

Image by Gill Rickson via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Story after the jump.

The Request, as it came from Kevin:

Recall some small detail about our halcyon days at Y&R back in the '80s.  It could be a small moment, a particular view, a scent, a color. With any luck it will bring a laugh or at least a smile. Describe it and explain what makes it so memorable and meaningful.

The Answer, as it came from me:

Many, many years ago, when my chief features of youth and vigor were abundant enough to have let me rack up successes without much else going for me, I was graced with a big task: to assist in the launch of what looked to be a rather revolutionary frozen food product.

I couldn't be trusted to do this on my own, of course, so I was partnered with one of my beloved art directors, an equally youthful and vigorous Kevin Houlihan, with whom I had many deep, soulful discussions about the merits of feta cheese omelettes vs. “real” lunch food, and which of us had better hair.

But now, our discussions centered around names. Because this was such a revolutionary frozen food product, as I recall, its Unique Delivery System ensured a fresh taste and crisp texture to the finished product heretofore unavailable in an entrée of its kind, we needed a name that was not only catchy and compelling, but descriptive as well. After all, actual focus groups of civilians had confirmed what we'd all tasted for ourselves in the test kitchen: freshness! Gourmet-quality taste! Beautiful presentation! Complex depth of flavor! These were no mere TV dinners; they were masterpieces of gastronomical proportion!

(You'll pardon the pun, there are far worse to come.)

So we sat in my office, the two of us; he, drinking endless Diet Cokes and alternately pacing or musing from my guest chair, feet on my desk; I, chain-smoking Marlboro Reds, hammering out lists of names on my trusty Selectric™.

Fresh Plates! Fresh Masterpiece! Creative Masterpiece! Fresh-n-Easy Creations! Gourmet Plates! Masterful Creations! Masterful Plates!

And in one moment, we locked eyes, the same genius idea popping into both our youthful, vigorous brains at the same time. I hammered it onto the page, pulled the sheet from the typewriter and we fairly skipped down the hall to our boss' corner office.

"Michael! Michael! Got a minute?"

"Ye-e-e-es?" he drawled, in his inimitable style. (Michael was what you'd call one of your unflappable types.) "We've got it! We've got the name for the frozen food thingy!"

"Mmmm?" he said, leaning back, his face still an imperturbable, pleasant mask. (Michael had been in the business for what I now realize was an eternity by that point.)

Kevin and I looked at each other...and at Michael...and at each other. And finally, in unison, we let it ring out into the room:



Michael looked at us. We looked at him.


He looked at us. We looked at him.


He looked at us and raised a single eyebrow. And, I can't be sure of this, but I'm fairly certain one corner of his mouth turned up ever so slightly, probably at the thought of retelling this over cocktails to various other less youthful, less vigorous parties.

We looked at each other.


There are moments in life that are perfectly Proustian in nature, that send time collapsing in on itself and us back to a moment that, in hindsight, perfectly sums up "happiness" or "love" or "peace".

And then, there are Masterplates


Behind every lofty goal is a bowl of beef stew


It's nothing I'm proud to admit, but the glorious accomplishments of the past fortnight, and if the emails coming in ain't lying, they were pretty danged glorious, were launched with takeout pizza, candy and fumes.

By which I mean in order to get from the past two Sunday nights to the past two Monday nights, I literally ordered multiple large pizzas, chased them with bagsful of Jelly Belly candies, and did more on less sleep than I have since before my Crohn's onset back in 2002.

By which I mean I pushed what luck I was graced with to the limit each Sunday and Monday, and required a good hunk of Tuesday, okay, all of Tuesday and part of Wednesday, to recover. 47-year-old bodies, especially beat-up, immuno-compromised ones, don't roll with it the way 27- or even 37-year-old ones do. And my friends in their 50s are warning me of adrenal burnout and other joys that lay just ahead. Frankly, my insurance just isn't good enough to cover the kinds of problems I'm likely to start having if I don't straighten up and fly right.

I know this, of course. Troll the archives and you'll find me rebooting as often as my gal, Oprah. I can't even be too hard on myself. It's easy to get off track, times are hard, which spurs a lot of us on to work harder, but also, I have BIG things I want to do, and the sense of urgency that comes from...well, from being on the downward side of 47. My legacy is my intellectual capital, and I'm in heavy funding mode right now. But all that has to be fueled by something, and Thin-'n'-Crispy Veggie Lovers' ain't it.

Careful readers will note that I've already implemented a few practices to start turning things around. They range from daily guitar practice (good for the brain and the soul) to Hulu Hoopingâ„¢ (good for the core and, thanks to the addition of seasons 3 and 4 of Dragnet, the soul), but they all have one thing in common: they are incremental. Tiny, ten-minute (at least, to start) changes to build a new, more responsible, healthier kind of life from.

I have some ideas on rejiggering my workload that I think will help, too. It's time for me to finally embrace batching and self-imposed cones of silence and a few other hacks. I may even put myself back on the Covey calendar leash: I loathed having my days mapped out to the minute, scheduling in laundry and reading and playtime, but I have to admit, it produced results and helped keep me sane.

And Sunday morning, on my way back home (to work) from The BF's, I bought all the necessary stuff for SCD-compliant beef stew, along with various and sundry other healthful but boring snacks. The psychological hurdle of walking away from my Very Important Work for the eleventy-seven hours required to actually prepare the beef stew was perilous high, but I scaled it with more Dragnet* and the knowledge that I'd have to report back to you this morning.

Of course, the stew did not take eleventy-seven hours to prepare, and barely that to cook, which it did all by itself. Now I have a big pot of goodness to get my week off to a good start instead of a few large cardboard boxes of badness. I am still a tired, disheveled mess with a long way to go, but I have hearty and delicious beef stew to escort my weak ass through the next incremental steps of my Very Important Work, and that is something more than I had before.

This is how I get back on the horse. This is how a lofty goal becomes a reality. Not by making sweeping, glamorous plans on December 31st, but by chopping some carrots and onions in the middle of a dreary February Sunday.

A bit of a change; a bit of beef stew.

And before the blog post, the dishes. Well, okay, maybe after.

Or...maybe Tuesday...


Image by lc347 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

*Jack Webb: responsible for my being here today; responsible for getting me through to a brighter tomorrow. I really need to write a post on Uncle Jack sometime. I do.

Pin the tale on the communicatrix


I've so enjoyed the participatory nature of some recent posts and, let's be honest, shall we?, I am so frickity-frack-fruckin' tired from blogging almost every day since the beginning of the year that I'm going to get all interactive on your asses.

You, yes, you, get to pick next Friday's post! From a host (almost an internal rhyme, there) of choices moldering away in my drafts folder.

This isn't an entirely new game; I did it once before, long ago, when gentle woodland creatures frolicked joyously in fields of green and banks still loaned money rather than borrow it.

But because I like to change it up, I'm adding this twist: one post wins; all the rest, in whatever stages of doneness they are, get deleted. Because we can have a taste of spring cleaning right in the middle of this hellish winter we're all suffering through in Southern California. In the words of one of the great men of our time, yes, we can!

So here they are: my little Frankenstein babies. (I'd say my little Sophie's choices, but that would be incredibly tasteless...right?) YOU are the judge of who lives...and who disappears with one click of the "Bulk Edit" button:

  • Colleen Meets the Cluestick (A Tale in Two Parts)
  • Why size doesn't matter
  • But enough about me, what can you do for me?
  • Keeping your eyes on your own paper
  • Too much of a good thing
  • In between hard rock and A Summer Place
  • law of attraction
  • Nerd Soundtracks

Well, okay, I reserve the right to use the title for something else, if I really like it. But the post itself? OUTTA HERE.

Just like me, on this Friday evening. Have yourself a merry little weekend!


Image by mskogly via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Get your motor runnin', Day 12: Accountability and the motor


12 days into this c#@ksucker and I'm finding as many things derailed as on-track.

As always, there are multiple reasons behind the disconnect between intention and fruition. First, there is the reality that for whatever reason, most of us overestimate what we can get done in a day, and I'm no miraculous exception to that rule. Quite the contrary: I've been tracking my time religiously for over two years now, and while I have a very good idea of how long it takes to craft three versions of a bullet slide template for a PowerPoint presentation, and an extremely good idea of how long it takes to write a 1,000-word column for actors about how to practice sound business principles, try applying this data to configuring a reasonably productive day and my math goes to hell in a bullet-train-powered handbasket.

Second, while I have been very good about setting up accountability for some things, the daily guitar practice, doing my marketing tasks and even writing in this blog (hel-lo, salutes!), I've been less good about other stuff.

Exercise is problematic for me, for example, on days that I don't stay at My Country House (a.k.a. The BF's) because without my four-legged conscience, I'm just as apt to blow off the walk as do it.

I've been rolling around the idea of getting fit in my brain, realizing I have to connect it to something, trying to remember what on earth it was that got me to blow all that money on a personal trainer some 5-odd years ago, when I was (not coincidentally) in the best shape of my life. I vaguely remember the decision to commit being preceded by a kind of defeated disgust over my persistent weakness post-Crohn's onset; the focal point of the disgust became my stick arms, which (again, not coincidentally) turned into mighty guns over the course of four months with Forrest Gump (my Southern-savant exercise bitchmaster).

Today, thankfully, there is no dreadful disease breathing down my neck. If I'm motivated by anything it's a fear that the last two pairs of pants I have that fit won't, and I can't bear the idea of buying new ones. Good news, I suppose, given where I've been, and compelling in a small way, but not enough to self-motivate.

I won't bore you with the grisly details of my myriad plans and the hacks I've been putting in place to make them realities. Not, anyway, until they're proven, and thus useful to someone else.

For now, know that I'm building in check-ups, meet-ups, phone calls and deadlines like mad in an effort to deadline myself into getting these things done. I make everything from trips to Encino to impulse calls from the grocery store in service of this new goddess of accountability.

And you? Well, perhaps you are the decisive sort who can, once decided, just do. I get that; I've done that.

But when the goals are big and multiple, when the path not so clear, when time is of the essence? I say call in reinforcements: running date; writing group; playreading circle. Be shameless. Be humble and shameless.

Whatever it takes. This is a big year for all of us, and most of us need help somewhere. I'm sorting out where I need mine, and will be, I'm guessing, straight on through the end of 2009.

No shame in that. The only shame is in giving up when you haven't yet called for help.

Who can you help? Who can help you?

When, finally, will you ask?


Image by joe m 500 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Get your motor runnin', Day 11: Momentum is everything


That thing about bodies in motion vs bodies at rest (or is it vice versa) is never truer than when you're in the middle of a big push while the days are their shortest and darkest.

Let me put this another way: if I had my druthers, I'd never leave the house. Possibly my bed, if the wifi was just a little more powerful.

Lately though, I've had compelling reasons to leave the house. Most of them have to do with promises of one kind or another, and what makes them compelling is either fear of humiliation (in the case of having sworn out loud to pursue a goal, like the first Virgo project) or fear of destroying the last, tattered remnants of what used to be a pretty good name. What can I say? You move to Los Angeles, they hand you your Flake Card along with your driver's license and a big bag of medicinal marijuana. (Kidding, kidding. It's a SMALL bag.)

Even these, sometimes, are not enough. So I've been playing with various things to motivate my ass out the door.

Tonight, for example, I had committed to attending a reading series put on at a Hollywood club by a friend of a friend, a reading series I would very much like to be asked to participate in one of these months. It's Sunday, the day I least like to go out on of all days (with the possible exception of Monday through Thursday. And I have to leave my house not to go see The BF, not to go snuggle with Arno J., but to drive to Hollywood, where it's so persistently grubby that, even cleaned up and dotted with expensive eateries and hipster clothes stores, there's a stretch of every street that looks like Rape & Murder Central. And that's not even getting into its reputation as one of the most hateful parts of town to park in.

So what I did was tell myself every five feet that I didn't have to go. That I could just turn around and go home if. If traffic was too bad. If I decided I was too tired. If I couldn't find a place to park on a piece of street that didn't look like Rape & Murder Central.

It was amazing what that wee bit of freedom did for my outlook. Knowing I could bail at any time, I kept deciding to push forward, because after all, this wasn't so bad. It wasn't so late. The traffic wasn't that hideous. The line wasn't that long.

And so on, until I found myself at the Hotel Café, wine in one hand, club soda in the other, watching one of the funniest, most compelling storytellers it's been my pleasure to see in, well, hell,  probably since the last time I saw my friend, John Fleck, do a set. This fellow won the Moth Grand Slam with the story he told, and I can see why. (There's an MP3 of the Slam in NYC here; it features both Josh Cereghino and Jim O'Grady, the contestant he was up against in the finals, with Josh's story in the second half.) I was having a grand time. (And truthfully, by the time I found the killer parking spot, pull-in, on a stretch of the Strip so lit up, you could perform surgery, I was already in a decent mood. Hearing Josh's story was just inspirational icing on the motivational cake of me getting my lazy ass out of the house successfully.)

Who knows if it'll work for you? I'm half-crazy, on my mother's and father's side, and have a fierce aversion to feeling fenced in. I'm also ridiculously loyal, ask anyone who's been able to string me along, but man, I need to know that door is wide open and available for me to walk through at all times.

Maybe it's options for you, too. Maybe it's jellybeans. Maybe it's just bragging rights. But if you hate hate hate doing certain things that are good for you to do, it might behoove you to spend a little quality time considering enticements.

Just enough to get you going...


Image by dustinj via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Get your motor runnin', Day 10: The power of 10


10 days into the new year, I can't tell you if I'll accomplish everything I've set out to do in 2009. I can't even promise I'll finish out the month with my goals intact.

But I can tell you this, and with some astonishment on my part: in 10 days, I just realized, I have probably played my guitar more than I did all of last year.

It's probably a no-brainer for a lot of people, but for those of us with perfectionism issues, this 10-minutes-per-day thing is positively magical. I release myself of any enormous expectations: how much, after all, can I be expected to do in 10 minutes? How much better can I get? How fast can my fingers reasonably be expected to move? How thick can my callouses grow?

In 10 minutes? Not a helluva lot. In 100 minutes? You'd be amazed.

I'm amazed, anyway, and that's what matters. I find myself resisting the notion of sitting down to do the practicing far less. Some days I actually look forward to it. But even if I'm just checking it off a list some days, just going through the motions, I'm putting in time doing something that makes me better at it as I put in time. And, as Leo says, I get in the habit.

Something tells me that the other real bigness to this idea is that habits breed habits, and accomplishments spur on additional efforts. I'm sticking to my Best Year Yet goals, but I'm going to look hard at how I can implement a 10-minute-per-day habit each month for each one.

I will not be doing my rendition of "Dueling Banjos" for you, or anyone else, anytime soon. At 10 minutes per day, it may take me 10 years to get through the first 10 bars.

But the power that I get from the doing of this every day will, I have a feeling, seep into everything else I do.

Which reminds me: time to do the next thing...


Image by yellowblade67 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Get your motor runnin', Day 8: Give it away, now


The official end-of-year decluttering is past and the breath of fresh air that is spring cleaning is yet to come, so most of us, I'm guessing, are in hunkered-down mode now.

I mean, why not? That's the point of all this get-your-motor-runnin', pushing-the-#@$*!)-boulder-up-the-#!&(@%)-hill crap is, right? To do it?

I, for one, am all for doing it, and am, in fact, doing it right now.

But what I've also been doing is hanging onto the "let it go" vibe even now, in January. After letting go of three gigantic cartons of books for a spectacular $80 in credit at my favorite used bookstore in the world, I was left with precisely four: an ancient copy of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, a Bertolt Brecht drama based on two even older plays (and the source of yet another play that yours truly was in some 20-odd years later), heavily underlined and bearing the DYMO-embossed name of yours truly, from an old high school production; an even more ancient copy (my grandfather's) of The Berlin Stories, Christopher Isherwood's masterwork that served as source material for I Am a Camera, and later, Cabaret; a fairly recent copy of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a favorite of The Youngster, whom I believe is the provenance of this particular tome; and an even more recent copy of Scary Suze Orman's book about women and money. (Yeah, I know, which one of her books isn't about women and money?)

I'd been driving around with them in my trunk since Saturday, which is fine, except if you know me, you know that they could rattle around in my trunk for a thousand Saturdays before I did anything about them. Maybe it was a sign to keep them! Maybe this is the Universe telling me to get back into Theater of the Metaphorical, and balance my checkbook while I'm at it.

As I walked down to my car this morning, I spied a friend across the street, out for a walk with his dog, an old friend from my theater days here in town, who is still very much in the theater, and very fine at the playwriting he does. (God willin' and the creek don't rise, this will be the year that brings him wider fame and fortune, or at least enough to upgrade from dial-up to high-speed. I mean, come on, how much should artists be expected to starve?)

On impulse, I popped open the trunk, grabbed the gigantic carton and ran across the street. After a quick hug (and howdy to the dog), I thrust Jekyll in his face: "Do you need this?" I asked. He took it with a funny smile, saying that in fact, he'd been obsessed with the story lately and wanting to read it.

And the Isherwood? Had he read it? Would he like that? (Oh, how Gramps would have loved knowing it was getting passed along into the hands that were ruled by this slightly twisted, oh-so-talented brain.) Yes. Yes, he would take that, too.

I looked down into the bin at Scary's book and the falling-apart schoolgirl copy of Brecht and snapped the lid shut. Quit while you're ahead.

There are other books of mine wending their way via cheap-ass Media Mail and the USPS to their next owners, as well. Getting rid of things lightens your load, sure, but getting rid of things in a very specific way, thoughtfully, passing them along to the next person who might need them, is almost a selfish act, it makes one feel so good and gets one's motor running so.

My friend and sometime collaboratrix, Dyana Valentine, is doing a 40-before-40 giveaway in the days leading up to her 40th birthday. A fine, creative way to say goodbye to one decade and welcome the next.

If you have been scrupulous in your end-of-year overhaul, and if you have, bully for you, think of what resides within you that you can give away, pass along, share with others. We've got a monster of a mountain to move starting now, and our brilliant, beloved President-Elect has already said that he cannot do it alone. Who's to say what could happen, but I'll bet that a whole army of us thinking about a whole lifetime of know-how we could share with the right person(s) might get some mountains a-movin'.

If nothing else, the trying feels fantastic...


Image by DLade via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Get your motor runnin', Day 4: Ready, set, sleep...


It's D-Day tomorrow, as most people count the new year.

Personally, I come from the Chris Guillebeau School of Time and Goal Management: I like to get a jump on the new year as far as possible in advance of the Actual New Year.

This time around, I kind of astounded myself by how frickety-freak-frack* organized I was about the whole affair. I started my annual Best Year Yet review a full month early, before Thanksgiving, and did. I dug into my contacts weeks ago to start the clean-and-sort process, which is great, because otherwise, I'd be starting off behind with the Virgo Guide project. And I'm under the gun enough as it is, even with the head start.

PLEASE NOTE: I am doing all of this incredibly imperfectly, and plan on continuing in that fashion. Perfection is a sucker's game.

The thing is, I could have started in January of last year and still not have been ready to hit the ground running. There's always more to do, and one thing I learned last year (although I don't think it made either list) is that the old saw about overestimating what you can get done in a day is too, too true. Especially if you suffer from acute Eyes Bigger Than Stomach Syndrome, which I do, and how.

I'm trying to become more aware of what I can get done in a day, so I can reduce the self-flagellation when I inevitably don't. For a while, I tried a system that Mark LeRoy, a smart friend of mine who runs a very successful design business, has been using for years. It involved one of those gigundous Franklin-Covey calendars and scheduling in every fifteen-minute pod of the day. It worked every bit as well as it was supposed to and I hated it even more than I expected I would. I got everything on the list done and felt like I was breathing down my own neck the whole time.

There is something to be said for planning things out and having things captured. Surprises are going to happen anyway; if you're fairly organized to start with, but not too tightly scheduled, there's some wiggle room. And wiggling is fun. Just ask a baby, they're constantly with the wiggling.

So I've done the grownup equivalent of laying out my school clothes and packing my lunch for tomorrow: I made a list. It is a list with one or two fixed givens, as my old acting teacher used to call them, and a few items I hope to accomplish. I put the estimated times next to the hopeful-item checkboxes; we shall see what we shall see.

But the biggest part of my Start the New Year Right plan is to shut down the computer now, at 6:50 Pacific. I have some personal obligations to tend to, then a little light reading, then bed. EARLY bed. For EARLY rising. And dog walking, and bed-making, and the whole day-to-day, wax-on/wax-off that makes things happen.

I'm pretty ding-dang-dong** excited about 2009, aren't you?


*I did a lot of swearing earlier today, and will be doing a lot more tomorrow, so I figured I'd balance it out by getting all Church Lady on you in between.

**Ibid. Or whatever the hell the Latin is for "same as above."

Image by star27 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Get your motor runnin': A 21-Day Saluteâ„¢


The blah-o-sphere is rife with earnest, can-do, decisive (if mildly hungover) good will and wishfulness today, and probably will be until at least tomorrow.

Here's the thing: If you really want to change a habit, you know what's involved. It's no mystery, and you're certainly not going to find the miracle solution in any book, blog post or bag the Wizard has handy.

To change a habit, you...

  • do it in tiny pieces
  • do it for the right (i.e. values-aligned) reasons
  • do it with the aid of external accountability of some kind

Like I said, you doubtless know this already. But if you don't, if you're 12 or have been living under a rock through the Age of Self-Help or are just plain obtuse, please, trust the lady with 747 blog posts, 28 acting columns and a 1500-word monthly newsletter she's been publishing since May of 2007. It's not magic; it's one stupid goddamned motherfucking foot in front of the other. Period.

I have big, big plans for 2009. Crazy-big. I'm going to be a writing, speaking, teaching, consulting, marketing sumbitch over the next 12 months, and that's on top of the design work I'll probably be doing at least through the end of summer to keep the money flowing in sufficient amounts. (And yes, there will be more amusing songs. Yes, soon. No, you won't be able to share this one with your children, either, although thankfully, there's no butter involved like there was in the filthy, filthy previous one.)

Hence, the Salute. I've been doing these little (HA!) 21-Day Salutesâ„¢ since May of 2006, when The BF, generally the most patient and tolerant soul in my immediate sphere, told me I might want to consider cheering the hell up. I thought it over; I decided I did, in fact, want to Cheer the Hell Up, and that part of the reason I hadn't been cheery recently was because I'd plain and simply gotten out of the habit.

There are various schools of thought on how long it takes to change a habit. Their estimates range from 21 to 30 to 90 days, depending on personality type and exactly how bad that heroin habit of yours is, missy. I'm an optimist, also, wildly impatient, so I went with the low number. You could do the same and renegotiate at 21, if you trust yourself to do that.

This particular exercise is to get me in the habit of writing daily. I only committed to 5x/week on the blog, but I know myself: if I don't seed the habit with a kickstart, it's going to be really rough come Monday.

Another little hack I'm using to get a jump on my year-long resolutions is joining Leo Babauta's 10-minutes/30-days Power of Less project. You sign up, commit to whatever it is you're going to do for 10 minutes each day for 30 days. There are some nifty freebie support documents, if you like that sort of thing, and a big, fat forum (probably literally, in parts, given it's the start of a new year) to keep you honest, or at least to offer you the opportunity. I'm using it to stay on track with my 10 minutes per day of guitar playing. God help you all. And my neighbors.

So join me there! I'm "communicatrix", like I am pretty much everywhere these days.

There are also some non-sucky posts I've found that cover looking backward and forward (the only way to goal-set, believe me):

  • Jared Goralnick, overachieving punk that he is, has an excellent one that points to some goodies, too
  • I loved my other new-in-'08 friend Chris Guillebeau's post, too; it's thorough, with a very good how-to plan
  • Not strictly a look back, but a great 2009 thoughtstarter for business blogger types is Mark Hayward's inaugural post on his new blog
  • New-year-hater Seth Godin has a typically interesting take on things, too, of course
  • And just because he's hilarious, a brilliant writer you should all be reading (check out his Amazon MP3 Advent Calendar series if you don't believe me) and, well, also because I love technology doo-dads that actually live up to their promises of making the world a happier, better place, I'm throwing in Andy Ihnatko's "Best of Tech" column from the Sun-Times

Now, SPILL IT, kids! What's your 2009 plan? How are you sticking to it? If you've made it public, say so and put in a link. If you haven't, consider it.

I'm not fool enough to expect everyone to play along with a Saluteâ„¢. But an effort...right?

Happy brand spankin' new 2009, everyone!


Egg, meet face (or, "What the hell happened to my November and where the hell we're going in 2009")

This is the part where I look like an asshole.

That novel? Didn't happen. Not over Thanksgiving, not in 30 days, not not not. I don't see it happening in the near future, either, and not because it's hard to see what's coming down the pike through all this egg on my face.

I had a long talk about the novel during my last Seattle trip with my Hillbilly-Jewish Cousin. We talked about fear (did I have any around writing this book) and love (did I love the idea of writing this book).

Fear? No.

I'm not afraid of writing a book, and I'm certainly not afraid about being upfront with the gnarly details of living with Crohn's disease. I love the idea of a book that potentially adds to the greater good (and is hilarious) rather than a book (even if it is hilarious) that adds to the coffers of me and some publishing house and, down the road, if we're lucky, and the stars align, a movie studio.

Not that I have anything against money! (More, much, much more, on that later this month.) Money is awesome! It lets you do stuff. It gives you choices. At its best, it's magical, time-shifted energy: an ingenious, asynchronous exchange of me for you. And you know what? After many years of misanthropy and almost as many of self-loathing, I really like both of us: we're awesome, just like money! In fact, we are money, as the man said when he was still young, slim and unafflicted by the burden of too much energy-as-money and no good way to channel it into something meaningful.

But love? Ah. Love is a different story.

I have love in my heart for this fictional girl and her story, and for all real girls still in the process of writing their own real stories. Last week, I spent some more time with a group of women who totally get that: Keren Taylor and the amazing volunteers and mentors at WriteGirl, who work with girls from at-risk situations and turn them into fire-breathing powerhouses of take-no-prisoners fabulosity.

Well, actually, they use writing as a way to help the girls strengthen their voices and understand what it's like to feel empowered, as well as doing tangible stuff like getting them into print and into college. If you're looking for a great place to dump some of your extra time or money, you could do a lot worse than forking it over to Keren and WriteGirl. More on that and other great places to rid yourself of that pesky extra money (Vince Vaughan, are you listening?) later this month, as well.

What the hell was I doing, then, in this month off from writing publicly? A whole lot of thinking. And hashing out. And bouncing stuff off of various trusted resources. I laid out my fears and hopes and baby dreams, my ideas and tentative to-do list, my wildly burdensome sackful of unfulfilled obligations and bad karmic debts.

Here's what I found: I am only interested in what I am interested in. And I cannot be interested in spending one second of the 40-some-odd years I have left (if I'm lucky) doing something that compromises my own voice.

I get that for as many champions as I had at the publishing house for those first few sample chapters filled with poop and laughs, I had an equal amount of detractors, and I get why: it was filled with at least as much poop as it was laughs, and that is starkly terrifying for some people. The truth, and certainly my truth (which, in fairness to me, is what I'd been asked to share), but no less terrifying for being so.

It is scary to sign on for the truth; it can be imprudent. Risk is always, um, risky. That's why it's called "risk," right? Risk can seem especially risky in uncertain economic times. Unfortunately, there is no real living without risk. No growth, no change and certainly, no love.

So for now, I am going to be That Asshole who is not following up on the incredibly unusual, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to float a novel out there at the request of an Actual Publisher. I have a plan, though, for a lot of other cool, growth-oriented, change-promoting, fabulosity-increasing stuff. A BIG plan, which will start to unfold in posts on this very site over the course of December and through the next year.

  • I'm going to start sharing more excellent resources here, like I do in my beloved (by me and a growing number of readers) newsletters.
  • I'm going to lighten the fuck up a little, like I used to do, because sweet baby jesus on a bouncing kangaroo, if ever we needed more lightness, we need it now.
  • I'm going to post more plain, old useful tutorials here, about communications tools and how to feel the opposite of useless and maybe even ways of attracting a little more plain, old-fashioned love into your life. Because the more of us who are making meaningful contact and changing the world with our unique gifts and yes, goddammit, getting laid, the better off we're going to be.

I'm also going to be dramatically shifting the direction of my work-for-hire life. And making it public, and maybe even soliciting your help in getting the word out. Because (say it with me) MONEY IS AWESOME! and while my now almost-year-long almost-sabbatical has been awesome in its own way, it's time to get down with the facts that: (a) I can't do everything for free forever; and (b) if I can support myself in a modest way that also allows for the flexibility of a great deal more travel, I can get out there in the real world like I did in October and November, and meet more of you in person, Southwest be damned!

In the meantime, since you're a loyal reader of the blog (or one of the few lost souls who has found his way here looking for something of an entirely different nature, and so you know, that last link is 100% not safe for work), I'm going to share with you a work-in-progress preview of my formal "Hire Colleen!" page:

Colleen's Super-Secret, Hire-the-Communicatrix Page

I will still be available for design work in 2009, but only for a select few projects and only after we've gone through an initial consulting thingamajiggy. I'm a fair-to-middling designer, good, even, when inspired. Thing is, I've been inspired less and less to use my design skills and more and more to do what I truly love: to help provide marketing focus to overwhelmed, go-getting, world-changing rockstars, particularly by showing you how to manage the increasingly complex (but brilliantly cheap and flexible) social media space.

Again, as with so much of this, more on that later. But really, for the first time in well over a year, I'm really clear on what I want to be doing, and thus really, REALLY excited about doing it.

With a vengeance.

With bells on.

With all the excitement and fervor and, let's face it, sense of urgency that starting a major phase of work life at age 47 entails.

I thank you for the amazing support I've received so far. I hope to take it less for granted moving forward, and to do more stuff that is more fun and more useful for you and the rest of the world (a.k.a. those people who don't know about us yet).

Finally, if you have any thoughts, ideas or questions, tutorials you'd like me to write, issues you'd like me to address, please do leave them in the comments, or if they're of a very personal nature, you can email them to me via the gmail.

I cannot WAIT for all of this to start. And fortunately, I don't have to. Because it just did...


Image by Carolyn Coles via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Winning by adding vs. winning by taking away

Click on the image to vote for Colleen!

As alluded to previously, I decided to enter a contest.

One where I actually had to make something, and a not-unsubtantial something (because for better or for worse, I am no good at half-assing things).

Now, I'm no Orson Welles, hell, in my best ad ho daze, I was no Hal Riney or Mark Fenske, if you want to get technical, but after 20 years making a living in the business, I know how to write a reasonably on-target and entertaining commercial, and how to act in and edit one as well. This video I made? It may not be worthy of being voted up, but it's hard to see what about it makes it worthy of being voted down.

Only it's not. Because I know what the voting down is about; it's about winning by making someone else a loser. That's the nature of hating. And, as my pal, Pamela Slim said in a very nice email to me about the subject, "Haters really suck, there's no way around it."

The reason I know this is because (gulp) I used to be a hater. Or, if not a hater, one of those people who believed there was a finite amount of x to go around, where x = love, happiness, good fortune or anything else.

Honestly? I have no idea who or what to blame for this burned-in rationale. The drill in our house was that you had to earn everything, every compliment, every bit of praise, and yeah, you kind of started from zero each time. I'm sure there was a lot of sound, bootstrap/depend-on-no-one/Depression-era rationale behind this, but damn, it sucked to be me for a long time. Because when you really want to be happy winning second or third place? You really don't want to be reminded that it could have been first, if someone else hadn't won it. If you had just worked a little harder, like we know you can.

What's sad is that I will always have to override that green monster trigger with every instance of someone else's success. Or maybe it's not sad; maybe it's good to have a reminder that a lot of people are still grappling with it, and that the world is still fueled too much by fear and anger (and I'd argue that a lot of anger is just fear in a different Members Only jacket.)

Whatevs, as the kids after me but still long ago used to say. I hope you will go watch the video and vote me up (or at the very least, not vote me down).

Even more, I hope you enjoy my little video, and the effort and goodness of people it represents. All those people in the video who helped me. A whole lot more who either sent stuff I couldn't fit in (there was a :60 limit, which I went over a little anyway with that fade to black) or had freak A/V problems or just other stuff in their lives that needed tending to.

The good people will win, even if my video doesn't.

But vote it up anyway, okay?


9/22/08 - UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who supported me, but it just wasn't good enough. Well, not really; I made it to the final 10, thanks to you, and then nowhere, as the rest of it was on them. Which is neither particularly surprising nor disappointing. Although I still hate losing. Regardless, please do not hold my losing against what appears to be a perfectly good airline. You are now free to move about the cabin, or show them the LUV, or whatever it is that floats your boat. Er...pilots your craft.

Vote here. Thanks!

and now...

VIDEO CREDITS!! (or, "It Takes a Village" Dept.)

In my haste to get out the video, I screwed up URLs, misspelled names and generally screwed up all manner of pertinent info. And the first two people in the vid, Jack & Chris, don't have titles over their names b/c I am a goddamned artist, goddammit, and I felt like having titles too early would give away the joke. Forgive me; I fully recognize what a colossal pain in the ass I can be about stuff like that.

In order of appearance:

Jack Lyons (@sidereal_)
Chris Ereneta (@cjereneta)
Angie Tapia & Company
David Eckoff (@davideckoff)
Scot Duke (@MrBusinessGolf)
Jon Deal (@zuhl)
Pamela Slim (@pamslim) (and vote for her SXSW panel here)
Mignon Fogarty (@GrammarGirl)
Peter Shankman (@skydiver)
Havi Brooks (@havi)
Karen Putz (@deafmom)
Laura Moncur (@LauraMoncur)
Mary McCauley-Stiff's Coffee Mug

And of course, HUGE shout to The BF for purchasing and learning to play ukulele in 12 hours, as well as for sound massaging (mm...massaging...) and remaining on an even keel while I spun like a (bitchy) top.

There are other people who VERY KINDLY sent video, stills and offers of help, but for time and space reasons, could not be in it or, sadly, credited. (Drumroll, please!)

@SeoulBrother (OMG, you guys, I SO WISH I could've fit that one in)
Joe Hage ( much good stuff that didn't, I know, I should shut up, already)
John Dickerson (@JohnDickerson)
Dawud Miracle (@DawudMiracle)
Mary Sheely
Elisa Camahort (@ElisaC)
Rebecca Morgan
Evelyn Rodriguez (@eve11)
Susan Bratton (@SusanBratton)
Stephen Hopson
Scott Simpson (@scottsimpson)
Jay Hathaway (@strutting)
Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan)
Postmodern Sass

Dorn Martell
Dani Nordin (@danigrrl)
Dave Hardwick

...and anyone else who, in my haste, I may have forgotten. But this is the Internet, TELL ME, and I'll add you.

"Art, 100; commerce, 0" (or, "There's Always Time for What Moves You")

"the only rule is work" While I have been noticably AWOL here of late, I've been off-the-charts generative in other parts of my life.

Even reductive, as necessary.

Writing. Designing. Cleaning. Writing.

Creating presentations for me to speechify. (Yes, multiple: when it rains, it pours, baby.) Writing off-color songs and performing them before a live audience (use caution with that last link).

And, most exciting of all, clearing the decks for what looks to be the adventure of my middle-aged life, later this fall.

On top of all that, I got a crazy-ass bee in my bonnet to submit an entry to this little contest Southwest Airlines is running. Not because I have a great love of air travel (really, they're gonna have to turn me around on that one), but because some real-life connecting over the weekend in the form of an impulse trip to Albuquerque reminded me of how awesomely stupendous it is to see people in person. And something about the crazy vortex of creative energy that's currently experiencing me (no pun intended, and yes, that grammatical construction was correct) inspired an idea.

Did I say "inspired"? More like "leapt out of my head, grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me...HARD!" Because that's how it is with creativity and ideas and The Juice: once you open yourself up to it, and kinda-sorta let it be known that you will be a responsible conduit craaaaazy things happen.

There are some things you have to do to make this great state of creativity happen. Merlin has been posting a lot of good stuff about it lately. In fact, he's been so on fire, I'm guessing he's practicing a lot of what he's preaching.

And more's the better for all: us, because we get his best, and a goodly dose of inspiration, to boot; him, because I can almost guarantee you he feels better these days when his head hits the pillow.

You can't always be in productive mode, of course. Fields lie fallow once yearly for resting/recuperative purposes, and probably, so should we. (Well, not for a season, necessarily, but you know.) I'm guessing that even high-percentile-prolific people like Seth, Chris, Walt, my friend, Tim, and anyone else who makes a metric crapload of cool stuff on on a regular basis takes a break sometimes. (Brogan, you officially need to take one more often!)

But at some point, you put your ass in the seat, hunker down and do the deed. And you say "yes" to all the good stuff that comes along that really lights your fire, regardless of how busy you are. Because, trust me, you will always find time for the good stuff. And the stuff that grabs YOU? And won't let you go? That's the superfine, añejo stuff. That stuff, you clear your calendar for.

I am hunkered; I have swept away all non-essential items. But I am going to come back from this crazy jolt of creativity with new vigor and a plan, so look out!

In the meantime, if you feel like helping me out on my crazy little project for Southwest, and you live in or near one of the cities listed here, email me. The address is all over this site, but you can also just send to communicatrix at the gmail. Easy-peasy.

Thanks for playing. Now...go make stuff!

xxx c

Image by litherland via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Stop! Sucking! Day 7: Just...stop it

It's 7:55 as I write this.

I got some work done today; not enough. (Never, or rarely, enough.)

Anxiety kept stalking me like the then-state-of-the-art creeping VFX death that passed over the Jews in The Ten Commandments. I guess I have the lamb's blood on my door; things got chilly and a little dark, but I'm still here.

At one point during the day, I told The BF I absolutely was staying here tonight. Absolutely. I have my 8am coaching call tomorrow morning, a shrink appointment just after, and that Never Ending Tower of Work to attack blindfolded and barefoot with my blunt & rusty pickaxe.

And then, slightly later in the day, something snapped. I called him back: on the landline, and then the cell. Had he made other plans yet? (He had not, if you don't count taking the trash cans to the curb.) Would he like for me to come over still? (He would; we could watch TV-on-DVD in bed, he said.)

Or we could talk. Or we could just hang out.

I would be over at 8, I said.

It's 8:02 now, and it will be more like 8:20 by the time I pack it up. But pack, I will, so I'll keep it short. (Like you don't have enough other stuff of mine to read?)

Do me a favor, okay? Whatever you're doing right now, just stop. For a second. And ask yourself if it's the thing you want-with-a-capital-"W" to be doing, or just something you said you'd do. Promised you'd do. Are doing to avoid something else more meaningful you could be doing.

I know it's silly of me to even suggest that you, spending this time at your computer or staring at your iPhone or your crackberry, might not be making the best, most you-ful use of your time. And hell, maybe reading this post, and whatever you're going to do just after, are the exact perfect things you should be doing.

I'm just checking. We've got to stop and look out for each other, you and I...

xxx c

Image by Hot Tuna via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

communicatrix & SXSW 2.0!!!

I headed over to the Hilton last night, figuring I'd find me some geeks at the bar and kick off my SXSW with bourbon and fellowship. Three hours later, I left having met a bunch of guys here for a Whole Foods conference, an Iron Chef contestant, and a medical sales rep from Dallas with whom I had a lengthy discussion about theism (he's pro, I'm not), socialism (I'm pro, he's not) and marriage (on this, we were of the same opinion, mixed.)

One never knows, do one?

It is from that profound place of not-knowing that I...proudly? sheepishly? tentatively? announce the redesign of communicatrix-dot-com. To coincide with this greatest of all nerd festivals, the place where, as a guy in line with me to pick up badges put it, "I come to have my head expanded without LSD." Because, like the doing of SXSW, the making of a website is an imperfect thing. (Especially when your coding skillz are minimal.)

Links are probably broken. Archives, for now, are non-existent (although individual entries are finally tagged.) For now, you'll need to search for the things you want, and leave yourself open to serendipitous stumbling. Kind of like me, here, bumbling around at the mother of all conferences.

And now, time to pack up my stuff and get out and meet the people! For my 20, follow me on Twitter.

Just don't forget to look up and say "hi!" And, maybe, "Hey! That looks just like your card!"

xxx c

Non-existent accompanying image due to technology choosing this precise moment to go haywire...of course.

Why and how I'm going to SXSW

SXSW podcast pickle I'm not a developer. (Oh, boy, am I not, more on that later.)

I'm not a gamer, animator, early adopter, Mac fanboy, social network guru, internet celebrity or famous author/change agent/superstah with a new book to shill.

But here's the dirty little secret of the South by Southwest Interactive Festival: you don't have to be a Real Geek to love it.

I didn't know what to expect at my first SXSW, two years ago. And, outside of creating some schmancy new blog cards (upon which I neglected to place my phone number, on purpose!), I didn't do much in the way of preparation. I went with an open mind, the better for the cosmos to stick a wedge in there and crack it the fuck open.

It turned out to be a very good plan, the not-planning. In fact, it worked out so well, I'm doing it again, with a few minor adjustments:

1. This time, I'm going solo.

No BF, no SXSW Gold Pass. It's interactive only, and one big, fat, glorious, piggy king-sized bed.

Don't get me wrong, I love traveling with The BF, and by "traveling," I mean exploring the turf, sharing experiences and having sex in motel rooms.

But I will be forced to get out there more and mingle. Having the Gold Pass (i.e., access to all the offerings of the SXSW Film Fest) and having a movie-freak companion meant I missed out on a lot of the schmoozing and boozing I hear tell happens outside the panels themselves.

Plus, communicatrix was pretty new to the internets a couple of years ago, and social media hadn't really taken off yet. I knew one or two people going in, and met one or two more. This time, I'm excited to meet up with a whole slew (for me) of people, including Chris, Michael, Becky, Adam, Merlin, Alissa, Eric, Sean, Scott (who took this most excellent shot of the terrifying Podcast Pickle) and (your name here*).

2. I'm also planning...a little.

My natural tendency is to schedule myself down to the pee break, so I like to use vacation, which I characterize as me not doing my normal routine at home, not me sitting on a beach with a fruity drink, to mix things up.

I've made some oh-so tentative plans with a few people, and put their mobile numbers in my phone. I am also planning to be a total weinerdoodle and hole up in my hotel room alone with the cable TV on Thursday night. Because I know how tiring SXSW can be, and I want to experience as much as I can.

But other than that, the planning, as such, includes only one other thing:

3. An exciting and long-delayed image overhaul.

Watch this space, is all I'm saying...

xxx c

*I'm serious, people, if you read this, and you're going, for chrissakes, contact me! Who knows when we'll get this chance again?

Image of the Famed Podcast Pickle by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Help is a yellow Volkswagen

yellow VW beetle I'll admit it flat-out: I'm a bit chagrined by last year's goal-post title.

To be fair, it wasn't a total wash. Out of ten goals I set for myself last January, I fulfilled seven. Fairly good, percentage-wise. Especially since much of the year, I wasn't consciously trying. Such is the truly awesome power of just writing things down (not to mention making them public!).

Still, there's no question that one of last year's gifts was in leaving room for improvement this year. I do like the Best Year Yet method, since it walks me through all the steps I might otherwise skip in my fresh-year enthusiasm. A fair amount of time gets devoted just to examining where the previous year went well and where it went off the rails, the idea being you'll get the best sense of what lessons will prove most useful to you by examining where the hell you went so very, very wrong.

I'm happy to say that mine boiled down to two things:

  1. an unrealistic sense of what I can reasonably (or even unreasonably) expect to accomplish in a given chunk of time
  2. an almost pathological inability to ask for help.

Why happy? Because if I'm honest with myself, these twin terrors have probably kept me from more successes than any other things. "Inability to face up to stuff," for example, is not on the list. Took a few years to get it off, but it is gonzo, brother. So is "depressed," "unmotivated," "refusal to look on the bright side," and a host of other ills. As demons go, these two ain't bad.

To help with my time issues, this year is going to be a lot about scheduling. Yes, I've scheduled in the scheduling.

I'm also putting a heavy emphasis on Asking For Help. My mantra for 2008 is "Help Is Everywhere," both because I'm starting to see that it really and truly is everywhere, and because once you get it in your head to see yellow Volkswagens, that's pretty much what you're going to see.

2008? It's the Year of The Yellow Volkswagen.

xxx c

Image by slimmer jimmer via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

What can you give me for Christmas?

bonanza gift Having worked my way through various careers (i.e., advertising copywriting, TV writing, acting, graphic design), it's become clear to me what I am not (copywriter, screen/TV writer, actor, designer).

And, having spent a fair amount of time now writing (on this here bloggity-blog, among other places) and speaking (at my Toastmasters club, although I'm happy to come and talk to your group, if you like), it's also become pretty damned clear to me what I should be doing next.

There's just one problem. For someone who's spent her entire adult life in one form of communications or another, I have a surprising inability to articulate what the hell it is I have to say and what the hell use it is to other people.

Okay, see? That's two problems. Start talking about myself, and I get all bollixed up.

I realize this is my issue to grapple with, and grapple, I do. I have also enlisted grappling assistance from my marketing coach and my shrink, who, upon hearing my egregious ineptitude at self-summary, immediately volunteered herself for grappling duty.

But I would like to enlist your help as well, dear reader. After all, you, those of you who actually come back here and read these little stories and essays and illuminata on nerdery, most likely have a better handle on why you return than I.

Also, I have found that the odd email that comes in over the transom or the random comment left on a particular post is often more illuminating than hours of cogitation or reflection or self-help exercises. Really. You guys are beyond awesome as a mirror. And the answers that have started coming in since I started focusing on this and asking out loud for help have, well, already been helpful. It's just time to ratchet things up a notch, I think.

I don't expect a fully articulated brand statement; I don't really have any expectations, other than this might be an interesting experiment. But, because 'tis the season and because you are doing me a solid and also probably because, as my exasperated shrink says, I have the LOWEST sense of entitlement of anyone she's ever treated, I will do this: for every helpful comment (or email, if you'd prefer not to be public) that I receive by this December 25th, I will donate $1 US to Habitat for Humanity, up to a total of $1,000. I don't really expect 1,000 comments and/or emails, although that would be great, but hey, it's a great organization and if I'm getting huge blessings, I'd like to pay it forward in an immediately tangible way.

Of course, I hope you know that my ultimate goal is to take the information and help make the world a better place. It's dorky, I know, but my mission statement (this, I have) is to be a joyful conduit of truth, beauty and love. I'll keep doing it at ground level, no matter what; I've just had a nagging (and growing) feeling these past few years that I should be doing a better job of putting myself out there.

If you're a genius whiz-bang marketing type and you can sum me up in a genius-whiz-bang mission statement, that's awesome. If you just tell me why you like reading the blog, or the newsletter, or the acting column, or the design column, or my emails, or any other of my writing, that's awesome, too. You can also...

  • tell me what your favorite post is (and hopefully, why)
  • tell me how you describe this blog to other people (if, if fact, you do this)
  • tell me when you think I'm "on" and/or when you think I'm "off"
  • tell me which posts best sum up "communicatrix"
  • tell me what the hell a communicatrix is
  • tell me (your idea here)

And if I get no comments or emails, well, that's fine, too. This is a process, and an evolving one, and what's supposed to happen will, in its own time. Hell, I'll probably give a bunch of money to Habitat anyway because I really dig them and Jimmy Carter is one of my personal heroes.

But I just thought I'd ask. Again. Out loud.

If nothing else, it's one step out of the hole of anti-entitlement.

xxx c

UPDATE (1/1/08): Another 8 or 10 replies came in via email since the last comment, bringing the tally up to $45. I'm rounding up to $50, and heading over to H4H right now. Thank you, everyone, for playing! And if you've come to this late, but still want to contribute, email me: I'll keep the offer open up to $500 in calendar year 2008!

Image by wallyg via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.