53 Things I Learned in 2014


An entire year with nary a post save one, at the very end? O, how the bright-eyed girl of 43 who was posting multiple times per day in 2004 would have laughed had you told her this! Without further ado, we continue this new twist on a 10-year-old tradition with 53 things I learned this year—one thing for each year I am old.

What will the new year bring? What won't it, amirite?

  1. Hair we go again.
  2. What I really need is so much better than what I think I do.
  3. They have that 110-lb. Blood-Donor Rule for a reason.
  4. Giving talks is still fun.
  5. But not as much fun as watching people get it.
  6. Dogs will change your life.
  7. And, sometimes, your livelihood.
  8. And always, your capacity to be patient.
  9. Take the f*cking donuts.
  10. Releasing books almost beats reading them.
  11. Helping your friends make jam is the new helping your friends make quilts.
  12. There's a difference between not doing something wrong and seeking to do things right.
  13. It's all the difference.
  14. William Trevor is dark in the good way.
  15. An evening's walk in the desert is as relaxing as a week's stay in many places.
  16. Vegas, however....
  17. You never know where your next pen pal may come from.
  18. Accidents make the best popsicles.
  19. Theater is one of the smartest things I can say "yes" to.
  20. Especially as it yields hidden treasures.
  21. Cleaning ladies earn every cent of their money.
  22. My new-favorite blogs are all newsletters.
  23. I am absolutely, positively not a copywriter.
  24. For hire.
  25. Making art feels like making love—to yourself.
  26. And you don't need a nap afterward.
  27. Although naps are awesome!
  28. Cauliflower is God's gift to the gut-afflicted.
  29. All the juices just wish they were watermelon & lime juice.
  30. I am adjacent to too much love and greatness not to have done something right.
  31. Spas are not actually torture chambers.
  32. Just when you've given up hope, a savior appears.
  33. And I'm not talking about Angelina Jolie.
  34. Although she is awesome!
  35. Just when you thought you knew everything, bacon in the oven!
  36. I finally get that Chinese saying about being responsible for the life you save.
  37. I also finally get why giving is better.
  38. Especially when you don't feel like it.
  39. Nobody wants a bald chick on their jury panel.
  40. Su-u-uddenly, Scanpan.
  41. If Rob Brezsny didn't exist, we'd have to forecast him.
  42. You do not have to have hair like a girl to dress like one.
  43. I do not miss auditioning.
  44. I always miss acting.
  45. It's a good thing zoodles are not on the side of evil.
  46. It may take 43 years, but one can resuscitate a love of dorky holiday traditions.
  47. My sister was raised right.
  48. The first step in getting to the Beverly Center is knowing where you are right now.
  49. The best day to write is everyday.
  50. The best day to start doing it is today.
  51. Or the today that was your 53rd birthday.
  52. Eyeball beans really do make for a better 12 months.
  53. Eventually, even your crickity YouTube video will be legitimized by a #TBT.

Stay tuned for more, if you like. Happy new year, either way!

xxx c











52 Things I Learned in 2013


Did I say that 2012 was a doozy? From that long-ago year's relatively cushy vantage point, I quite literally did not know the half of it. This was the year that the other shoe dropped. I still haven't sorted through 2013's considerable lessons sufficiently to retrieve salient talking points, much less wrangled the time to get them in some kind of order, but trust me when I say that finally, after 52 years, I walk around with the sense that everything is, at its root, just fine. If you were worrying, please stop. And if you weren't worrying, for god's sake, don't start. I mean, I also finally get that what you do is none of my business, but one of this year's lessons was that worry solves exactly nothing. Action, on the other hand....

Alas, 2013 is not the year that sees me returning to the extensive cataloging of yore. On the other hand, I no longer view submitting fewer items than the "full" 100 as some kind of defeat; hell, I barely see it as less-than.

Without further ado, then, here are 52 things that I learned this year—one for each year I am old. A new tradition! For a new year!

  1. Surrender.
  2. No, really: S-U-R-R-E-N-D-E-R.
  3. Crap, like rust, never sleeps.
  4. Crisp sheets are worth the ironing.
  5. This includes pillowcases.
  6. But not, strangely enough, the bottom sheet.
  7. Pink is my favorite color.
  8. I am more surprised by this than anyone else.
  9. Never underestimate the entertainment value of random shit.
  10. Always let your wig do the heavy lifting.
  11. I'm just not that into Twitter.
  12. People are awesome.
  13. Occasionally, this includes elected officials.
  14. No matter how broke you get, you won't regret what you spent on art.
  15. When in doubt, write like you talk.
  16. But above all, write.
  17. If it came from anywhere other than the place where your legs meet, get it in writing.
  18. Especially if "it" has to do with health insurance deductibles.
  19. More often than not, I'm the dumbest person in the room.
  20. More and more, I'm down with that.
  21. When you have to produce the goods, a dress makes you feel like a million bucks.
  22. Alas, the shoes that'll get you there safely make you look like a tiny duck.
  23. Sign heaven exists, and it's just east of the 110.
  24. I'm not done with acting.
  25. Oh, boy, am I not.
  26. Less gossip = mo' better.
  27. The truth shows up when you least expect it.
  28. True miracles help make more miracles.
  29. Whether you know it or not.
  30. And most of the time, you won't.
  31. Jacarandas!
  32. Death by a thousand cuts works the other way, too.
  33. Stories make more sense the more you tell them.
  34. Getting old means everything seems like it happened yesterday.
  35. If it's good and it's loving, it's a "yes".
  36. The journey of 3,798,493 steps starts with a single Fitbit.
  37. A solid deadline beats good intentions every time.
  38. The cure for loneliness is not more "me"-time.
  39. You meet the strangest people opting-out.
  40. Parties aren't the worst way to ring in the new year.
  41. Subscribing to just one magazine is okay if there's just one you want to read.
  42. The undocumented life is well worth living.
  43. It's okay to ask for help.
  44. No, really: IT'S O-K-A-Y.
  45. Heaven on Earth is a voice lifted in song.
  46. This is the last year Facebook puts together a better highlights reel than I do.
  47. Those Buddhists know a thing or two about a thing or two.
  48. Getting fired feels horrible.
  49. Reconciling yourself to it with grace, however, almost compensates.
  50. Almost.
  51. There will never be a "done".
  52. There will never be a day when this doesn't make that a little easier to bear.










51 Things I Learned in 2012


This year has been longest I can recall in the decades since they started flying by. It has challenged me in ways I could not have predicted even twelve months ago, when I foolishly thought I'd mapped the full landscape of challenges. Much of what I've experienced I have not been able to share, partly owing to a lack of adequate processing, partly due to exhaustion, and partly, I'm afraid, because of Facebook. It is perilously easy to let social media drive, and to content oneself with lobbing the occasional comment (or cold French fry) from the backseat.

Which is why this year almost became the one in which I did not do a List. How could I, when so many of my lessons have been private? And why bother, when, for the rest of it, I can just direct you to My 20 Biggest Moments (as chosen by Al Gore Ithym)? Sure, it's lazy, ill-managed, and trite, but have you seen Congress lately?

Then it occurred to me: what better way to exercise my new-found and very-hard-won habit of doing things imperfectly than sharing a smaller, less hilarious list? If people unsubscribe in droves, well, less pressure moving forward, amirite?

So here, for the first time ever, a list of the 51 things I learned over the past year. Slightly more than half, far short of "perfection", and a fine symmetry with years lived.

May 2013 be the year of your dreams, whatever those may be.

xxx c

  1. Just when you start to doubt it, the internet reminds you of how hard it rocks.
  2. And by "the internet", I mean "the people on the internet".
  3. And the internet.
  4. "Humbling" does not equal "humiliating".
  5. Traveling for work is the most exhausting perk you'll ever love.
  6. I should have been reading The Sun 20 years ago.
  7. You of the Past will always overestimate the willingness of You of the Future.
  8. There are worse afflictions than terminal earnestness.
  9. No. More. Scarves.
  10. Falling behind has its compensations.
  11. That Joni Mitchell song about taxis and parking lots also applies to gumlines.
  12. And savings accounts.
  13. But, oddly enough, not to hair.
  14. Instagr—wait, I mean Flickr.
  15. The most expedient way to learn about yourself is to have smart people ask you questions.
  16. Shaving your head dramatically reduces your dating opportunities.
  17. But sharply increases photo ops.
  18. A little lighting makes a big difference.
  19. God will wait until you're good and ready.
  20. Or maybe just ready.
  21. Fuck manicures.
  22. New Orleans is a thousand times better than I ever imagined.
  23. Except for Bourbon Street, which is a hundred-million-billion times worse.
  24. Hormones are nature's way of saying "That'll be $80 a month, please."
  25. New York never misses you.
  26. Eventually, you stop caring.
  27. The universal cure for what ails you is a Dole Whip in the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room.
  28. Giving blood feels as restorative as getting blood.
  29. Nothing beats hanging out with old friends.
  30. But stumbling across their new books runs a close second.
  31. A bad video can be too long at a minute.
  32. A great play can be too short at eight hours.
  33. Victory tastes even sweeter when it's Sugar's.
  34. I love playing an asshole.
  35. But I make a much funnier loser.
  36. Gelson's has the best air-conditioning.
  37. Also, the best egg salad.
  38. And, unfortunately, the loudest televisions.
  39. TEDx is the new "done".
  40. A Breville tea kettle will change your life.
  41. Not to mention strip the paint off of your kitchen cabinets.
  42. It's only foreign until you do it once.
  43. Receiving accolades is surprisingly less fun than doing the things that earn them.
  44. A professional knife sharpening is worth its weight in Band-Aids.
  45. Sometimes the best thing you can do is almost nothing at all.
  46. Or at least, what looks like nothing to the outside world.
  47. Besides, I wasn't not blogging; I was helping you maintain your information diet.
  48. Beginnings are always lovely.
  49. Cancer still sucks.
  50. Things change.
  51. But when they don't change fast enough—which is almost always—this helps.

See you next year!









Photo of me and shave artist supreme, Brandon Massengale, by some other person at Bolt Barbers, West Hollywood.

100 Things I Learned in 2011, Part 2 [50-for-50 edition]

You know what you learn when you do a review of the back half of a year in which you did a massive, 50-day-long fundraising thing-a-majiggy? That it takes WAY MORE than the actual 50 days to do it. Seriously. There's a full six months of my life (and counting) that's all 50-for-50! 50-for-50! 50-for-50!

So here's a one-time-only, half-of-100-things list devoted (almost) exclusively to my biggest teacher ever.

In other non-news, good lord—no wonder I need a nap.

  1. "Possible" lives next door to "impossible."
  2. Neither one can be routed on Google Maps.
  3. Goddamn right it takes a goddamn village.
  4. The "O" word isn't as magical as the "S" word.
  5. Or the "P," "A," "G," "M" and "B" words.
  6. Not to mention the "DLP" and "WCWW" words.
  7. But some of the biggest movers live quietly behind the scenes.
  8. Appliances don't give a crap about deadlines.
  9. That goes double for #@$% hackers.
  10. $25 haircut isn't as bad as you'd think.
  11. But it can't touch a $50,000 one.
  12. Swears look better neatly stitched.
  13. Or covering your naughty bits.
  14. The breaks you think you can't take are the most necessary.
  15. Flip-flops and street lamps don't mix.
  16. Neither do shaved heads and anything loose and flowing.
  17. Unless you're aiming for "Buddhist nun."
  18. You really do lose 80% of your heat through your head.
  19. Banjo makes everything better.
  20. Self-deprecating humor doesn't hurt, either.
  21. But I'm pretty sure puppies trump everything.
  22. Make time to shred.
  23. Before you shave, moisturize.
  24. After you shave, moisturize.
  25. Everyone loves a good cry.
  26. And a photobooth.
  27. And flan.
  28. Even the ones who don't think they do.
  29. Recovery takes longer than you think.
  30. Definitely longer than the two weeks you've allotted on your calendar.
  31. Getting back to work doesn't always involve work.
  32. Unless you count "play" as work.
  33. WHICH IT TOTALLY #!$&@ IS.
  34. So are massages.
  35. (I know, I know.)
  36. The first thing that goes is reading.
  37. The next thing is blogging.
  38. And finally, when you think it's all over, newsletter-ing.
  39. Dating feels different on the other side of 50.
  40. And when the only hair color you can check is "None."
  41. And you're in no hurry to check any other box.
  42. We won (one category)We won (one category)!
  43. It feels good to be in GOOD.
  44. I finally know what the Facebook timeline is good for.
  45. Which means they're bound to screw it up before December of 2012.
  46. People love a good story.
  47. With a happy ending.
  48. But watch out for those impromptu pig-whistling lessons.
  49. You can't repay kindness.
  50. Pass it on.

See you next year!









Awesome hat a handmade gift of the awesome Sarah Clinton, community manager for the awesome Richmond Animal League. If you enjoyed this post, go make an end-of-year contribution to them! Or to WriteGirl! And buy yourself something from Amazon while you're at it—that'll help keep the lights on here. And hey, HAPPY NEW YEAR to you!

100 Things I Learned in 2011, Part 1

the author revealing a pit stain while "dancing" I, for one, am flummoxed. Also, baffled, perplexed, confounded, and generally mystified.

No sooner do I finish off my list of 100 things for 2010 than I'm sitting down to do it again. How is this possible? Who is stealing this time? And for the love of all that's holy, PUT IT BACK.

Well, no matter. While some days it seemed like this entire year was one long beg-a-thon, upon closer scrutiny, a few other things did, apparently, happen. Who knew?!

Of course, I'm not at all sure how much I learned from any of them, but oh, well—tomorrow is another year, right? Hahaha! Also, GET OFF MY LAWN. (If one does not earn the right to say that at 50, I hardly see the point of birthdays.)

Okay, then! Here we go...

  1. There's nothing better than doing work you love.
  2. Except getting paid for it.
  3. And possibly, being able to succinctly describe it.
  4. Pay for the nonstop flight.
  5. You will, anyway.
  6. Comedians make the best philosophers.
  7. But nerds make the funniest ones.
  8. Menopause is Latin for "You're never more than one marshmallow away from your fat pants."
  9. Balance is more of a journey than a destination.
  10. Writing better takes longer.
  11. But writing longer doesn't guarantee "better."
  12. Making it a miracle anything gets written, ever.
  13. Instagram won.
  14. For now.
  15. Fear does not disappear with experience.
  16. It does, however, don a series of increasingly exotic and beguiling outfits with which to confuse and/or bewitch one.
  17. Never underestimate the rejuvenating effect of punctuation.
  18. The shortest route between you and 6-year-old you is the Soap Lady.
  19. I still get distracted incredibly easil—holy crap, is that a new iPhone grocery app?
  20. Goals, like food, work better with portion control.
  21. And on smaller plates.
  22. Stories are my favorite "content".
  23. Times 3, times 365.
  24. The only thing better than going on hiatus may be coming off of it.
  25. That doesn't mean I don't want to do them both again.
  26. Just less far apart.
  27. It doesn't have to be human for you to Facebook-stalk it.
  28. I love weddings.
  29. Especially when they belong to other people.
  30. Or better yet, all the people.
  31. Portland is even better in the summer.
  32. And on foot.
  33. And when you improvise.
  34. Fear is my all-time muse di tutti muses.
  35. But I am envy's bitch.
  36. They should call it "Southwest Fairlines".
  37. "Together/single" is less "better/worse" than it is "apples/oranges".
  38. The quickest route to self-knowledge is a good interviewer.
  39. The only thing more fun than a Justin Tanner play is turning someone on to a Justin Tanner play.
  40. Or turning everyone on to a Justin Tanner aphorism.
  41. You can have too much of a good thing.
  42. Fortunately, someone is always making new good things.
  43. Unfortunately, that doesn't extend to everything.
  44. Roger Ebert's taste in movies extends to music videos.
  45. Thievery rocks.
  46. I have the world's worst gaydar.
  47. I'm not the only one fed up with the constant happy of Facebook.
  48. Not to mention those stupid inspirational quotes.
  49. But fixing the Internet is complicated.
  50. Fortunately, fixing your reactions to it is simple.

Look for Part II later this week! In the meantime, remembrances of years past:








Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #22

An end-of-weekly roundup collecting fffffive of the fffffantabulous things I find stumbling around the web during the week, which I've previously posted on one of the many other Internet outlets I stop by (or tweet at) during my travels. More about the genesis here.

sean bonner with an iphone case that looks like an old-school camera

Bunnies. In cups. Yes, really. [Facebook-ed, via getwelltash]

I'd been thinking about how to describe succinctly the changes in marketing for some time, but Michael Hyatt went ahead and did it in one fell blog post title. The piece isn't bad, either. [delicious-ed]

Dave Pollard makes Eckart Tolle not only understandable, but, dare I say?, compelling. Especially around our inability as a species to learn to be present. [Google Reader-ed]

If you like those OK GO! videos, you'll love this low-budget, real-life "8-bit" by and for indie band Hollerado. [YouTube-d, via Bob Lefsetz]


Image by Joryâ„¢ via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #21

coors park at night

An end-of-weekly roundup collecting fffffive of the fffffantabulous things I find stumbling around the web during the week here, but which I post on one of the many other Internet outlets I stop by (or tweet at) during my travels. More about the genesis here.

By far my favorite find this week, and possibly the find of a lifetime, because it's about what you need to do with your life's time from the people who really know: those who've run out out if. [Facebook-ed, via Patti Digh]

A close second is my friend Alissa's essay on snark, love, and what makes L.A., and everyone, truly awesome.  [delicious-ed]

My friend Pace lays it out for you in Transgender 101. [Google Reader-ed]

Nominally about the tools 37Signals co-founder Jason Fried uses to do his work, this piece is really about the attitude that helps anyone get the work done. [Stumbled]


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

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #20

dog staring at two nicely-composed stacks of rocks

An end-of-weekly roundup collecting fffffive of the fffffantabulous things I find stumbling around the web during the week here, but which I post on one of the many other Internet outlets I stop by (or tweet at) during my travels. More about the genesis here.

This recently uncovered silent-film version of a famous showdown from the Star Wars series made me laugh out loud. [Facebook-ed]

The world of early-20th Century Russia seems shockingly modern via these rare, real, not colorized, full-color photos. [delicious-ed, via kung-fu grippe]

I can't begin to untangle the crazy, reblogged merriment that marked my introduction to Undercover Nun, so I'll just point you to the mini-rant it inspired me to add and let you fall back down the rabbit hole on your own. Or, you know, not. [Tumbld, via tj]

Manifesto disguised as analysis rendered as list. [Stumbled]


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

100 Things I Learned in 2009, Part 2


Wherein I (once again) attempt to show that one is never too old—or middle-aged, anyway—to learn. Or spout off about it. Part 1 here, in case you missed it.

xxx c

  1. Making something short takes a long, long time.
  2. And still provides a disproportionately large ROI.
  3. To love is to serve.
  4. Idiocy can inspire genius.
  5. Podcasting is more fun than I thought it would be.
  6. Screencasts are more fun for everyone than I thought they would be.
  7. Writing for a year seems to take two.
  8. Less is the new more.
  9. If you don't like what's on TV, change it.
  10. Never stop growing.
  11. Especially when you want to.
  12. The world's new-greatest radio station is YouTube.
  13. Time Warner needs a good kick in the 'nads.
  14. You don't have to like your teachers to learn from them.
  15. In fact, you learn more if you don't.
  16. I'm better at wrangling than I thought.
  17. I'm smart enough to acknowledge that and move on.
  18. Well, mostly.
  19. When they say "stop to put on snow chains," they mean it.
  20. If anyone is selling answers, run.
  21. Clicking offline is the payoff for all the click-click-clicking online.
  22. (And I mean click-click-clicking.)
  23. Hilarity is less important than sanity.
  24. Skype will be to Vonage as Vonage was to PacBell.
  25. And it can't be it soon enough.
  26. The best way to write about marketing might just be in verse.
  27. There's a reason Einstein and Uncle Steve wear the same thing every day.
  28. Consumables are the best gifts.
  29. Cash is the best consumable.
  30. With the possible exception of The Pears.
  31. And PIE.
  32. Keep your tools sharp.
  33. The bear gets his days at the table, too.
  34. The impulse to give away is almost never wrong.
  35. The impulse to take on, not so much.
  36. It is not what it cost you, but what it costs you now.
  37. At a certain age, knits should be loose.
  38. Their hatred is never about you.
  39. And vice versa, hot stuff.
  40. You cannot live well in two places.
  41. The road to hell is paved with drive-thru windows.
  42. Wealth really is a state of mind.
  43. Wellness, on the other hand, requires peeling your ass from the couch.
  44. "No, thank you" may be the most delicious phrase in the English language.
  45. Followed by "delete all" and "forward to voice mail."
  46. Silence is platinum.
  47. $10 a month for faxing works out to $60 per fax.
  48. .Me, you're next.
  49. Collaboration is AWESOME.
  50. So is having your 1,000th post land on New Year's Eve Eve.

New here? Or just uninspired to check the back catalog until now? I live to serve!







100 Things I Learned in 2009, Part 1

colleenamplified_technotheory How about we start off this year's list with a riddle:

Q: What's harder than writing your annual 100 Things list?

A: Writing it after a year of blogging every day, plus once weekly somewhere else, plus writing a monthly column, plus writing another monthly newsletter, plus tweeting, plus Facebooking, plus whatever other goddamned writing-type stuff that I do in the course of my non-writing work.

You'd think all of that writing would prime me for some kickass listmaking: all that material! All spelled out, organized and time-stamped! Because hey! I'm a Virgo, right? But you'd be wrong. Hours and hours' worth of 100% wrong.

Still, this is one of those exercises I derive a great deal of value from that other people seem to enjoy as well. Your win-win, if you will. So without further ado, here you goo.

Go. I meant "go."

Oy, has this been a long year...

xxx c

  1. You're never too old to be a nimrod.
  2. Or less of one.
  3. Or, thanks to Mike Monteiro, out yourself as one.
  4. Malcolm Gladwell is even hotter in person.
  5. Kermit didn't know how right he was.
  6. Beginnings are lovely.
  7. But endings have a kind of mature élan.
  8. Boulders suck infinitely less c*ck when you mock them.
  9. Especially when you do it in 2/4 time.
  10. But I still wish I could see the top of this motherf*cking hill.
  11. The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single purse-cleaning.
  12. Even a comments thread can be a collaborative work of genius.
  13. If you think your period is annoying, wait until you slide into a full stop.
  14. For that matter, wait until I do.
  15. My estimator is still bigger than my actualizer.
  16. Blogs are going the way of the buggy whip.
  17. So stick a sarsaparilla in my arthritic claw and call me "Granny."
  18. I love Hulu, but I will pay for Netflix.
  19. When the going gets tough, refer your ass off.
  20. SXSW doesn't get older: it gets better.
  21. Okay, it gets older and better.
  22. But mostly better.
  23. A second screen is worth its weight in third computers.
  24. Burning out on words is where poetry begins.
  25. Everyone has her price.
  26. Mine, apparently, is a whopping 4%.
  27. I will never become my best until I stop trying to be the biggest.
  28. It really is nicer to give than to receive.
  29. Making things is great.
  30. Making things because you must is sublime.
  31. Most of my favorite places are islands of awesome in a sea of shit.
  32. Nei kung puts the "whee!" in chi.
  33. "Meat salad" is not an oxymoron.
  34. Or a euphemism.
  35. (Outside the pokey, anyway.)
  36. Anything can be art.
  37. You can learn at least as much about yourself from the lists you don't write as the ones you do.
  38. There's nothing better than reading a great book.
  39. Except for reading a great book by someone you know.
  40. Commitment is still the sound of prison doors slamming shut.
  41. I'll run out of money before I run out of money for art.
  42. Tina Fey is every bit as good as they said she was.
  43. No, better.
  44. It is much harder to figure out how to get somewhere when you don't know what "there" looks like.
  45. That goddamn Yehuda Berg is a smart dude.
  46. Goddamn him.
  47. The best way to save time is to buy more of it.
  48. Dollar for entertainment dollar, you cannot beat what came out of Judy Garland's twat.
  49. Just don't bring it up over Christmas dinner.
  50. Sometimes, the good guys win.

Next installment: Wednesday, December 30th! Can't wait? Luckily for you, I've been doing this crazy sh*t for five years!







Image by Jared Goralnick (@technotheory) via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

List Wednesday: Great fiction for readers, writers and other story-curious folk


This blog isn't the only work of...well, something that had an anniversary lately.

Back in 2006, I started writing a column for professional and aspiring-professional actors about the non-acting aspects of the business. Over time, it's morphed into more of a marketing column, but I still try to slip in little bits of helpful info I feel they might not be getting from other sources. Because for some reason, and this is a sad thing that makes me a little bit crazy, most actors will not consume anything unless it specifically states "MADE FOR ACTORS." Such a shame, because not only are there so many other equally, if not more wonderful sections of the bookstore to learn from (and I'm using "bookstore" literally and metaphorically), we often learn more and better lessons about our areas of interest from sources outside of them: less at stake means less noise means more room for the stuff to sneak its way in.

A few months ago, I wrote a piece about the five non-acting books every actor should read. In it, I tossed off a remark about how smart actors (the ones I really write the columm for) can learn about how characters are drawn and their place in shaping story by reading great fiction. One smart actor wrote to me (see? it works!) and asked for a list, as long as I could muster, but at least 10. How could I not oblige?

Here's what I shared with him:

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  2. Diary of a Mad Housewife, by Sue Kaufman (the movie is also good)
  3. Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates
  4. Easter Parade, by Richard Yates
  5. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  6. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon
  7. Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh
  8. The Long Secret, by Louise Fitzhugh
  9. A Handful of Dust, by Evelyn Waugh
  10. Sophie's Choice, by William Styron
  11. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
  12. Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis
  13. Factotum, by Charles Bukowski

As a bonus-extra, I threw in some collections of short stories I particularly like for this exercise (and also because they kick ass):

This is by no means a list of all-time best fiction, although any of these could live there happily. This is a character-driven list, where characters are there not only as agents to move the story forward (magical realism, I'm looking at you!) but to illuminate certain aspects of the human condition that other tools of fiction might not. They're characters I find especially compelling and well-drawn, even though, or maybe especially because, in some cases, they reveal their clock springs slowly.

I figured that since it's NaNoWriMo, it might be a fun list to float out there. As Merlin says in his own pep talk from the sidelines, the important thing is not to let reading get in the way of your writing time. But to stay inspired? Hell, yeah, you should read!

Any other great characters out there that should be on the list (where the books themselves are also extraordinary)? Add 'em in the comments, and let's all commence to readin'!


Image by Tom@HK via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Goodie Bag: The Mind Jog List


So far, 2009 has been Year of Busting Hump: all very well and good, but even the hump-bustingest of hump-busters has to have some kind of steam valve with which to ventilate every once in awhile.

Since much of my hump-busting time is spent in front of a computer monitor on my, um, hump, I try my best to take actual physical breaks where possible. Rolling around with Arno J. for a few minutes is always a good way to shake things off, but when you've been sitting awhile, even cleaning off a sink top or throwing a load of laundry in the washer can feel good. Unlike a lot of the big, fat, hairy projects I work on, a small physical action both gets me up and gets something actually completed (praise the Lord and pass the lemonade) in a short period of time.

Sometimes, however, like all nerds, I just want to veg for a few moments in front of my beloved, shiny iMac screen. Because that big, shiny screen should not be solely associated with work: it should, sometimes, scream, "FUN." I've been sharing the best of these must-see sites in my monthly newsletter for...well, as long as I've been putting out the newsletter.

But long, long ago, before I ever knew I'd have a newsletter, much less some kind of business to write about, I created a little folder on my browser toolbar called "mind jog" (which, come to think about it, I wrote about in a newsletter. Cue Twilight Zone theme.) I got a little stuck in my seat over the weekend, so I thought I'd go through it and pull out the best of what's there both to share some cool stuff and to maybe give you ideas about what you might go about collecting to amuse yourself in your minute slices of spare time.

And YES, I know that now there's Twitter and Facebook and a million other social web outlets in which to fritter away your time. I also know that sometimes, you don't want to go where everyone knows your name, you just want to chill with some cool stuff and me me me time. So without further ado...

Selected Contents from Colleen's Mind-Jog Folder on her Browser Toolbar

  • Michael Vance's Book Notes God, I love this guy. He summarizes all of the books he reads into concise, mainly bulleted notes, and shares them. I guess they're up there for him to remember, but what a service to the world! Lots of business-y stuff, but also stuff on communication, writing and the enemy category of GTD, "Miscellaneous"
  • Why They Hate Us Just hilarious, horrible pictures. Like a miniature StumbleUpon where the category is "American excess."
  • Top 10 Creativity Boosters A lot of these you probably know, but still, sometimes nothing can get you out of a creative rut faster than stuff specifically designed to get you out of a creative rut. Dave Jeffreys pulled the original site down, but it's still there thanks to the magic of the Wayback Machine.
  • Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools Sure, you can subscribe to this via RSS. But really, do you need to be kept up to date on EVERY cool thing to buy? I like dipping in here and there with Kevin's site; maybe you have a similar kind of site you can move from your RSS feed (where, let's face it, you're in danger of getting sucked down the rabbit hole) to your local mind jog folder.
  • Susan Miller's Astrology Zone Ridiculously long and detailed monthly entries on your sign's forecast. Personally, even though I have fun with the whole Virgo thing in my tagline, I'm really not a huge one for astrology. But every once in a while, as a lark? Sure! Fun! (Note to Virgos: it might not be so fun to read your forecast right now. September is gonna suck eggs, so much so that she warns us repeatedly in August. Just sayin'.
  • iSerenity wind chimes I've pimped this site before in my newsletter, and I really like to work with the library sound. But the wind chimes out of nowhere are like a big breath of "Aaaaahhh...", so I think they deserve their own mention here.
  • Singles Home Exchange International Kind of my version of real estate or vacation pr0n, I like browsing this occasionally to see what's out there. Not that many people would want to trade my tiny crib for their gorgeous condo by the whatever, but it's fun. And free.
  • "Music Only" for your iTunes playlist One other excellent, hyper-productive kind of mind jog can be taking a break from a big, gnarly project of one type, writing, say, or coding, or designing, and doing a fun-extra bit of "work." I save stuff like this with various tags in delicious (my snarl of bookmark tags is a mind jog project in and of itself) but I'm thinking of moving them over to the browser. Or maybe I'll just bring the ones I have locally, like this one for organizing your iTunes for better efficiency, over to delicious. Decisions, decisions...
  • Dog Licking Screen Because sometimes, you just need a smile, goddammit. (I keep YouTube folders called "Funny" and "Cute as a Basket of Kittens" for when I get bummed, too.)

Of course, another mind jog is just pruning one's toolbar. So to speak. Because like anything else, it can get musty and outdated, too. And nothing is more of a buzzkill than reaching into your mind jog folder and pulling out a big can of 404 page. Bleh.

Okay, now it's payback time: what are your favorite mind jog sites? Summaries and links in the comments section, puh-leeze!


Image by Pink Sherbet Photography via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Get your motor runnin', Day 6: Make 10 minutes make a difference

eggtimer If you're old enough, you've heard the joke already, and if you're not (or you just haven't), it's high time:

Man in NYC #1: Excuse me--how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Man in NYC #2: Practice. You %$#@*!

Note to young people: in the joke as it was told to me, the second guy--clearly a native New Yorker--did not curse. As a former New Yorker, I can assure you the cursing version is more accurate; New York moves fast, brother, and has no time for fake politeness*.

At any rate of speed, New Yorkers are a great lot for getting things done, because they have to be ingenious about it, the non-wealthy ones, anyway. Time and space are at a premium, so you both learn to make the most of what you've got and to appreciate the hell out of it. Many of the good habits I've learned, writing fast, cleaning up as I cook, how to eat while walking, when necessary, I picked up during my three years living in New York as a rich-in-opportunity, poor-in-money intern at Ye Olde Madison Avenue Sweatshop.

If email response is any indication, I recently wrote my most popular column ever for The Networker, the monthly newsletter that goes out to LA (and SF and NY) Casting members. The subject? 10 things you can do in 30 minutes each to improve your career. (Well, to market yourself, but that falls under the rubric of improvement, I'd say. I guess it's human nature to feel overwhelmed by the big, perhaps because when we compare ourselves to the infinite, we see how small we are.

So while I generally eschew all these "100 ways you can skin a cat" posts, I'm relenting this once, because it is, after all something new for me to try, which should help get my own motor running. And because we're all looking for ways to do more with less time, they're short, 10 minutes or less each. (And NOT ONE OF THEM is about taking a walk, doing jumping jacks or meditating. So there!)

Basically, these are ideas to break down huge, colossal projects like:

  • find new job
  • get a life
  • find a romantic partner
  • start a blog/learn what this #@%* social media thing is all about
  • etcetera

into manageable chunks. Most of them (surprise, surprise) will work to make you a better communicator, which is a skill that cuts across all kinds of desired goals. It's one of those fundamental, don't-skip steps that some of us step-skippers (cough-cough) try to skip anyway.

Here, then, are my...

30 Ways to Start Initiating Big Change in 10 Minutes (or Less)

  1. Park your ass in the chair, pull out your resume, rewrite the Objective or Summary so it's interesting. (Think movie synopsis, story for a SMART 8-year-old, catching up an old friend on what you've been doing, etc.)
  2. Re-record your voice mail message so that it is shorter, friendlier and more charming. (Smile while doing it; it really does help.)
  3. The Improve My Relationships Hack. Call a friend you haven't spoken to in a few weeks, but not someone you haven't spoken to in a few months. Tell them at the outset of the call that you can only talk for 10 minutes, but you want to spend it telling them how much you like them, and why. Or tell them you'd thought of calling them when you saw x the other day, but you forgot, and now you are. But do the 10 minutes thing up front. (You can schedule another time to talk later if you want.)
  4. The Be Here Now Hack. Set a timer, then go play with the dog for 10 minutes. You're setting the timer because chances are you will not want to stop after 10 minutes (I never do, unless I'm winded), and your dog certainly won't. Only your dog will be fine with this; they're great at living in the moment, are dogs.
  5. Go to your hard drive. Find your pictures folder. Create a subfolder called "Happy". Pull out as many photos from your main folder that make you smile as you can in 10 minutes. Put them in the folder named "Happy" and save that folder as your screensaver. You can do this in 10-minute chunks if you're slow or an overthinker, like me. (Cursed Virgo tendencies, they give, and they take away.) Again, set a timer. Big rabbit hole potential with this one.
  6. Pull out your favorite book, open at random and read one page.
  7. Pull out ANY piece of hard-copy reading material and read it one paragraph out loud. Now read it out loud as if you were telling someone a secret. Now read it out loud as if you were furious at someone.
  8. Put on a favorite song, one you know most of the words to. Sing out loud with it. Twice, once, just full out, to yourself, and once as though you're singing it to someone you love. (They don't have to be there. Or use the dog.)
  9. Take a piece of paper and draw yourself. Even if it sucks. Try repeating this every day.
  10. Write an email to someone you admire telling them why. You don't have to send it, although you certainly can. Later. Not these 10 minutes.
  11. Take three deep breaths. (Okay, this is CLOSE to meditating, I'll admit. But it takes way less time and is also very effective and awesome.)
  12. Ladies! Clean out your purses! (Mens! Clean out your man purse or wallet!)
  13. Go through a magazine you've been meaning to read, rip out the articles you actually think you might read, and throw the rest in the recycle bin. (Alternatively, go around your workspace or home collecting stray magazines and corral them in one place. Do the 10-minute scan later.)
  14. Clean out old files, paper or electronic, for 10 minutes. (Timer thing.)
  15. If you're a GTD-er, spend 10 minutes with your Someday-Maybe list. Pick one thing you want to still do and figure out how you could move toward that thing in 10 minutes. (Hint: think practice if it's something you want to get better at, or research if it's something you know nothing about.)
  16. Go leave a comment on someone else's blog. A good one, that adds something, not a "Great post!", dig-me kinda comment.
  17. If you haven't the night before, write out the list of things you need to do today with the time estimated for each. Check your real time against your estimated time and revise accordingly, moving forward. (I am so still working on this one.)
  18. Clean your computer monitor or your eyeglasses.
  19. Go pee. (Okay, this one won't make sense to some of you, but for others, you're going to be all "WOW. I feel SO much better!")
  20. Write out, by hand, your favorite quotation. (If you don't have one, and you should have many, I think, Google "quotations + happiness" for starters.) Do this every day for a month. I still have a journal of these I started way, way back in college. It's hilarious in some ways, but kind of inspiring in others; we really are what we spend our time thinking about and doing.
  21. Think of an object. Write a haiku about it.
  22. Think of a country. Write a limerick about it.
  23. Select a book you've been meaning to read but have been blowing off. Preferably of a helpful, edifying nature but not TOO smartypants. Preferably one you don't mind getting a little messed up. Put a bookmark in the front of it. Bring it to your bathroom. Leave it there, and remove any magazines on your way out (or ones that belong to you, if you're sharing.) From now until it's done or you've decided that it actually sucks and you're not going to read it and you're ready to pass it on to the used bookstore (or Goodwill, depending on how beat to sh*t it is), that's what you're reading in the bathroom.
  24. Repeat #22, only make sure this book is inspiring. Put it next to your bed. That's what you're reading before bed until it's done or you're done with it.
  25. Make a folder in your bookmarks toolbar called "daily." In it, put all your time-wasters: email, Facebook, Twitter; you know your poison. Pick a time once or twice per day. That's when you go to that folder, period.
  26. Make a list of your favorite books as a kid. (I hope to god you have something on this list. If not, feel free to use mine, Bread and Jam for Frances, or any of the Frances books.) The next time you are at the bookstore, buy one of these books. (Or if you're broke, the next time you're at the used bookstore or the library.) When you start beating yourself up, pull out the book and read for 10 minutes.
  27. If you don't already, get and install the StumbleUpon toolbar for your Firefox browser. NOT SO THAT YOU CAN SURF. You will use this to "thumbs up" great things you read. NOT CAT VIDEOS OR MEAN GOSSIP. (Well, okay, some cat videos.) And guess what: each thing you "thumbs up" or Stumble, I want you to write a brief review of why people should read this. If the little box doesn't pop up automatically, go into your toolbar and click on the speech bubble thingy. Do not be a lazy-ass surfer: add to the greater good; make yourself smarter in the process.
  28. If you have never heard of StumbleUpon, take 10 minutes and read this, or Google it.
  29. If you're still using Internet Explorer, take 10 minutes and read about what Firefox is. Then take another 10 sometime and install it. Seriously. You're going to be left behind if you don't.
  30. Leave a comment on this post. You don't have to take 10 minutes; in fact, I'd rather you just write. It can be some great tip; it can be something you've tried implementing before that sucks. It can be some fear about starting that you're releasing. Be imperfect. Share yourself. Use your words.

Ready? Go...

xxx c

*On the other hand, New Yorkers are some of the most genuinely kind people I've met, not to mention generous, tolerant and open-minded. City people get a bad rap, but I've found most of them to be pretty creamy in the middle, once you scratch the hard-candy shell.

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

100 Things I Learned in 2008, Part II

homesick_merlinmann I know! I know! You've been on pins and needles, those of you not on tenterhooks. (Go on, click. I didn't know what they were, either.)

Here's the second half of my Sweetly Grouchy Look Back at 2008. Which, to wrap it up in a sentence, wasn't bad, exactly, but felt an awful lot like having a baby elephant: a long time in coming, and at the end of it, you end up with...another elephant*. (Although, hey, I guess if you're the Mother Elephant, that's a good thing.)

All right! Enough of this jibber-jabber! Let's get on with the main event.

And hey, if I don't see you before then? Have yourself a merry little new year!

xxx c

  1. Never schedule a haircut while your stylist is going through a divorce.
  2. The new stuff of today is the #@%*! crap of tomorrow.
  3. There's no place like home.
  4. Especially when I'm the only one in it.
  5. Although visitors of both the two- and four-legged variety are welcome.
  6. Money is AWESOME.
  7. When the action is "networking," the equal and opposite reaction is "cave time."
  8. A multitude of puzzlements are made clear after spending a little quality time meditating on the size of the left half of the IQ curve.
  9. Backup.
  10. Backup.
  11. Backup.
  12. Just because something is the opportunity of a lifetime doesn't mean it's the opportunity for you.
  13. Blogging is nice, but it's good to be in print.
  14. Doing stuff is a lot harder than naming stuff.
  15. Root canals are every bit as horrifying as you've been led to believe.
  16. And twice as expensive.
  17. And my previous dentist? IS AN ASSHOLE.
  18. Consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, but without it, your filing system might as well be on Jell-O.
  19. White people love their fifteen minutes.
  20. Having principles can be costly.
  21. Because, like the old saw about divorce, they're worth it.
  22. Once you let your freak flag fly, it's hard to put it back in mothballs.
  23. Never underestimate the power of a good subject line.
  24. If I'd gotten what I wanted at 22, I'd be dead by now.
  25. Ditto 25, 28, 31, 35 and 40.
  26. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure I'm ready today.
  27. In order to get anything meaningful out of your life, you have to be ruthless about what you let into it.
  28. Don't try to manage anyone else's expectations until you've got a firm grip on your own.
  29. Bread is the devil.
  30. The lovely, lovely devil in white vinyl hot pants and a push-up bra.
  31. There are two things you can never have too much of, and one of them is music.
  32. Random acts of kindness happen far more often than you have your eyes open to see them.
  33. Underwear stretches.
  34. A lot.
  35. Denuding your toiletries of their signage is a subversive delight.
  36. Surprisingly, it also makes performing your ablutions more enjoyable.
  37. Provided you have a good memory.
  38. There are many reasons to own Photoshop, but making people laugh is numero uno.
  39. When in doubt, engage in a little manual labor.
  40. Preferably the kind that makes the world a better place.
  41. "The world" being anything from your sock drawer to...well, the world.
  42. I'm going to make a fantastic old lady.
  43. Buy art.
  44. Even if you're broke.
  45. Especially if you're broke.
  46. If you don't hang out with your betters, you'll get worse.
  47. Fortunately, the opposite also holds true.
  48. If you really figure out where you're really supposed to be, that you found it out late won't mean a damn.
  49. For better or worse, 2009 can't possibly be anything but incredible.
  50. I'm not nothing without you, but I'm sure as hell glad you're here!

Next 100 Things: December 2009! In the meantime, you can still enjoy the even more distant past:






*None of which has to do with the fine photo illustrating this post, which is most clearly not of an elephant but rather that pachyderm beloved of French and non-French Absurdists alike, the rhinoceros. And because you may not click through (hey! you're busy!), I'll give you the title of the photo right here:

"Homesick," by Merlin Mann via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Someday, I really need to do a post on the use of illustrations in text. Or at least, of the way I use illustrations in text. It might be illuminating. Just like illustrations are supposed to be...

100 Things I Learned in 2008, Part I

I love lists.

Making them is soothing, stimulating and illuminating all at once. (Also, a hands-on lesson in the old saw that making something look easy is hard work.)

I'm not sure how good this year's list is; honestly, I think that having so much social media in my life has acted as kind of a steam valve for my one-offs, instead of serving as a record of the past year's minor frustrations, accomplishments and general oddities. But I gave it a go because dammit, that's the kind of gal I am.

So without further ado, I give you my year in a list, Part the First. Enjoy!

xxx c

  1. When in doubt, throw shit out.
  2. Always be reading.
  3. It takes a (global, electronic) village to make a video.
  4. The iPhone is like a unicorn that actually exists.
  5. With magic ruby peonies woven into its mane.
  6. And a double ice cream rainbow in the background lighting the way.
  7. Facebook is still the AOL of social media platforms.
  8. Sometime in the middle of this year, that became a good thing.
  9. The shortest distance between you and regular exercise is a youngish dog.
  10. She who makes fun of LOST is doomed to become addicted to it.
  11. It sucks that making the logical, mature decision is considered a miracle.
  12. But that does not diminish the awesomeness of it happening.
  13. Working is easy; focusing is hard.
  14. A good bra is like money in the bank.
  15. Only it's not, because good bras are REALLY expensive.
  16. And banks are, like, not so good with the money, as it turns out.
  17. Have a plan, but make it a loose one.
  18. Learn to say "no" or die buried under your crushing pile of well-intentioned "yes"-es.
  19. The Wire may be the most clearheaded depiction of America since The Godfather.
  20. When in doubt, just add water.
  21. And coffee.
  22. Lots and lots of coffee.
  23. Change takes longer than you think it will, but is generally worth the wait.
  24. The Change takes even longer and had goddamn well better be.
  25. If you think COBRA is bad, wait until it runs out.
  26. And you are over 40.
  27. With a pre-existing condition.
  28. Networking does not, in fact, have to suck.
  29. Everybody farts.
  30. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who think Wiis are stupid, and those who have played them.
  31. I miss performing (NSFW).
  32. And, apparently, starring in commercials.
  33. And, finally, at long last and without reservations, my dad.
  34. Setting a goal to have more sex is a great idea.
  35. Telling the person you're going to be having the sex with about the goal to have more sex is not.
  36. Life becomes exponentially more awesome for each person you add to your life who is cooler than you.
  37. And a better citizen.
  38. And more talented.
  39. Astrology may be bullshit, but I'll be damned if I buy another piece of electronic equipment when Mercury is retrograde.
  40. I am a starter, not a finisher.
  41. I don't hate TV; I hate paying for it.
  42. Also, sometime while I was watching Hulu, Bravo devolved into the Schadenfreude Channel.
  43. If you want a real-time demonstration of the journey being the point, get yourself to Inbox Zero.
  44. The world won't end if you hide your light under a bushel, but someone is sure to trip in the dark.
  45. Legs' status as The Last Things to Go notwithstanding, there is an age after which one should not wear a miniskirt.
  46. At least, in public.
  47. Don't bother using Firefox with less than 4 gigs of RAM at your disposal.
  48. A made bed and a clean sink won't solve everything, but they make it easier to deal with almost anything.
  49. I would rather win one fan for life by telling the truth than a thousand for five minutes by fudging it.
  50. (Did I mention that's a really great outfit you're wearing?)

Can't wait until the next installment? Why not learn from the past while you wait?





100 Things I Learned in 2007, Part II

still the best dog Wrapping up this fine and crazy year in 50 short-to-medium numbered items. If you have OCD or something like that, you might want to read the first 50 short-to-medium numbered items first.

  1. I may not be a dog person, but I'm definitely an Arnie person.
  2. In every possible figurative sense, my eyes will probably always be bigger than my stomach.
  3. Television? What television?
  4. The shortest distance between two points is often a half-bottle of chianti.
  5. Time crawls when you commit to doing something every day for 30 days.
  6. The strongest proof of global warming may just be a visit to my apartment in September.
  7. Life is better with regularly scheduled Ladies' Nights.
  8. And TextExpander.
  9. Just because you have seen someone over and over on the internet does not mean they are ready to embrace you as an old friend when you finally greet them during a surprise run-in at the coffee shop.
  10. Especially when they are four.
  11. And you are interfering with their immediate receipt of hot chocolate.
  12. Lead by example.
  13. Podcasts are easier heard than made.
  14. Bank accounts are easier closed than opened.
  15. The price of grinding your teeth at night has more than doubled since 1998.
  16. There may be a wearout number of viewings for Play Misty for Me, but at 50, I've yet to hit it.
  17. No matter how evolved I get, from time to time, I will be That Asshole.
  18. Designing album covers is every bit as cool as you thought it would be when you were 10.
  19. Even if the albums are now only 5"x5".
  20. And will mostly be downloaded anyway.
  21. Despite optometrists' exhortations to the contrary, you do not actually need to buy a new pair of glasses every year.
  22. If you want something done, schedule it.
  23. You never know where your next job will come from.
  24. That goes double if you have a blog.
  25. Those classes at the Learning Annex are as educational as you'd expect them to be.
  26. That doesn't mean you won't learn from them.
  27. The Central Coast is even better when seen from the picture window of your own, private rental home.
  28. Never say "never."
  29. On the other hand, "no" is a really good thing to say from time to time.
  30. If Malcolm Gladwell does not want to be my next boyfriend, Jonathan Coulton will do just fine.
  31. Or Bob McBarton, if I can convince him to leave his adorable wife and daughter.
  32. Or Dan Savage, if he'd be into batting for the other team.
  33. The point where dreams get truly difficult is when they start coming true.
  34. You can't quit (or start) until you're ready.
  35. When it comes to letting my hair go, I'm still a total scrotum.
  36. The best birthday presents are the ones that cost nothing and show up unexpectedly.
  37. It is way more fun to marry other people than to marry, period.
  38. Trying to compose 100-things lists in the WP text editor is like trying to make a pie wearing mittens.
  39. She who doth not invoice, doth not get paid.
  40. Let it go.
  41. Really, just let it go.
  42. I'm serious...let it the fuck go, already!!!
  43. Boobage is a pain in the ass.
  44. People are amazingly good at providing help.
  45. Especially when you ask.
  46. Sadly, nothing much has changed from a management perspective since Upton Sinclair's time.
  47. Happily, much has changed regarding access to the means of production.
  48. The less you make of the holidays, the more fun they are.
  49. Even if you own, you're only renting.
  50. When in doubt, put on Django Reinhardt...

Happy new year, one and all!

xxx c

It may be a while before I post another one of these, so...





100 Things I Learned in 2007, Part I

mardi gras Hard to believe this is the fourth installment of listy, round-up goodness. However, time cares not what we believe, continuing to march the hell on, regardless.

And so, without further ado...

  1. Money might spend itself, but it does not reconcile itself in the QuickBooks.
  2. Goals, on the other hand, neither make nor complete themselves.
  3. No matter how public you go with them.
  4. There is life after land lines.
  5. CFLs do not suck nearly as hard as they did five years ago.
  6. But they still kinda-sorta suck.
  7. Bread + beer - activity = belly.
  8. Fortunately, underwear stretches.
  9. For someone who claims an ambivalence towards blood relatives, I feel awfully proud that five of my boy-cousins made hanging out with me a priority.
  10. There is still no family like family of choice.
  11. Even if they happen to be related by blood.
  12. Nerds rule.
  13. No, seriously, they rule.
  14. Whoever said "Life sucks and then you die" was only half-right.
  15. Thank christ.
  16. Or whomever.
  17. Information designers are hot.
  18. Portland kicks L.A.'s ass.
  19. Seattle doesn't, but Seattle coffee kicks all coffee's ass.
  20. The real cost of acquiring stuff is the time spent divesting oneself of it.
  21. That thing I tell myself, about being able to go back to copywriting? Total lie.
  22. When in doubt, do a salute.
  23. Or rearrange the furniture.
  24. Cheese can tell you a lot about a person.
  25. Telling stories is my favorite thing.
  26. Helping other people tell stories runs a close second.
  27. There is no such thing as too much music.
  28. Or books.
  29. Facebook is the AOL of social media.
  30. Twitter, on the other hand, is the tits.
  31. Perimenopause is a lot like having PMS 365 days a year.
  32. Atheism makes an excellent hillbilly repellent in a pinch.
  33. This design business thing isn't for everyone.
  34. And by "everyone," I mean me.
  35. The Wall Street Journal publishes an entire newspaper every day.
  36. And by "every day," I mean every fucking day.
  37. I miss SxSW when I don't go.
  38. Mid-century L.A. apartments were not built for global warming.
  39. Neither were mid-century women.
  40. The Marines are the second-toughest job you'll ever love.
  41. President of your Toastmasters club being first.
  42. We all have a type.
  43. Rick's hamburgers are as good as they say.
  44. If you build it, they will come.
  45. Dental insurance in 2007 is but a walking shadow.
  46. Not to mention a walking shadow, a poor player strutting & fretting and a tale told by an idjit.
  47. There really and truly are no shortcuts.
  48. There is nothing like fan mail.
  49. I can live without everything but truth.
  50. Even the lamb sandwich at Cafe du Village.

Can't wait for Part II? Have I got your number, brother:




If you can't develop yourself via at least one of these sites, there's no hope for you

grow Thank you, Priscilla, for starting it. Thank you, Adam, for adding me.

This is already such a comprehensive list, it's tough coming up with more names. But I'll throw in...

...and after the kisses, the list!

xxx c

Image by pbo31 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Aaron Potts at Today is That Day

Adam Alexander at Adam’s Peace

Adam Kayce at Monk at Work

Adam Khoo at Adam Khoo’s Philosophies and Investing Insights

AgentSully at Life Learning Today

April Groves at Making Life Work For You

Argancel at C’eclair (for those who speak french)

Ash aka Mr. Biggs at One Powerful Word

Al at

Alan Torres at Made to Be Great

Alex Shalman at

Alexander Kjerulf at The Chief Happiness Officer

Alexys Fairfield at Unraveling The Spiritual Mystique

Albert Foong at

Alvaro at Sharp Brains Blog

Amber at Random Mangus

Amie Ragan at Psychology of Clutter

Amy Hedin at There is no Maximum to Human Potential

Andrea Learned at Learned on Women

Andrea J. Lee at Money, Meaning, and Beyond

Andy Wibbels at

Anita Pathik Law at Power of four Way

Anmol Mehta at

Anna Farmery at The Engaging Brand

Antonio Thornton at

Ariane Benefit at Neat & Simple Living

Ask Lucid at Ask Lucid Spiritual Development

Barb Melloh at The Law of Attraction Info

Barbara Sliter at Creatorship

Belle Wong at Abundance Journal

Ben Yoskovitz of Instigator Blog

Bill Perry at Lucid Blog

Billy Smith at The Organic Leadership Blog

Blogfuse at LifeDev

Brad Isaac at Achieve It

Brian Clark at Copyblogger

Brian Kim at

Brian Lee at

Brooke at Plain Advice

Bob at everyeveryminute

Bolly at Motivational Corner

Cam Beck at ChaosScenario

Cara Lumen at The Success Magnets With Cara Luman and Your Second Wind Blog

Carlon Haas at Possess Less Exist More

Cheif Family Officer at Cheif Family Officer

Chris Brogan of ChrisBrogan-dot-com

Chris Cree at SuccessCREEations

Chris Marshall at Martial Development

Chris Melton at

Chris Owen at Pink Apple

Christine Kane at

Christine Valters Painter at Abbey of the Arts

Clyde at Feeling Good

Colin Beavan at No Impact Man

Colleen Wainwright of Communicatrix

Conceive, Believe, Achieve at Conceive, Believe, Achieve

Crabby McSlacker at Cranky Fitness

Craig Harper at Motivational Speaker

Curt Rosengren at Occupational Adventure

Cyres at Cyres Matters

Damian Carr at Soul Terminal

Daniel Sitter at Idea Sellers

Darren Rowse at

Dave Pollard of How to Save the World (walks the talk)

Dave Schawbel at The Personal Branding Blog

Dave Schoof at Engaging the Disquiet

Davers at Language Trainers Blog

David Allen at The David Allen Company

David Bohl at Reflections on Balance

David Fitch at David

David Richeson at 360 Degree Success

David Rogers at How to Have Great Self Confidence

David Seah at David

David Zinger at Slacker Manager

Dawud Miracle at

Dean Lacono at Law of Attraction for Beginners

Debbie Call at Spirit In Gear

Debbie LaChusa at 10 Step Marketing Collection

Debra Moorhead at Debra

Denise Mosawi at

Des Walsh at Thinking Home Business

Devlyn Steele at Tools To Life Guide

Dick Richards at Come Gather Round

Dominic Tay at Personal Development for Winners

Don Simkovich at Hey Don

Donald Latumahina at Life Optimizer

Donna Karlin at Perspectives

Donna Steinhorn at Rethinking

Douglas Eby at Talent Development Resources

Dr. Charles Parker at The Core Psych Blog

Dr. Hal at Northstar Mental fitness blog

Drew Rozell at Drew

Dwayne Melancon at Genuine Curiosity

Edward Mills at Evolving Times

Ellen Weber at Brain Based Business

Emily G. W. Lilly at The Science of Waldorf Education

Emmanuel Lopez at The Adventures of Motivatorman

Ellesse at Goal Setting College

Elly Jolly at Jolly Life Coaching

Enoch Tan at Mind Reality

Eric Napier at Quotation Collection

Erin Pavlina at Erin

Evelyn Rodriguez of Crossroads Dispatches

Frank Kanu at Frank Uncovers Excellence in Leadership

Frank Roche at KnowHR Blog

Galba Bright at Tune Up Your EQ

Garr Reynolds at Presentation Zen

Gary at Personal Strategic Plan

Gilad Buchman at Sigsug

Gleb Reys at Personal Development Ideas

Grayson at Modern Worker Blog

Greg Butler at

Greg Frost at

Geoff R at

Gretchen Rubin at Happiness Project

Gustav at

Guy Kawasaki at How to Change the World

Gyanish at Diethack

Halina Goldstein at The Inner Travel Journal

Hilda Carroll at Living Out Loud

Heather Goldsmith at A Creative Journal

Henrik Edberg at The Positivity Blog

Honman at Open Your Mind to Prosperity

Inkedmn at The Cranking Widgets Blog

Isabella Mori at MoriTherapy

Itzy Sabo at Email Overloaded

Jacklyn Ker at Inspiring and Empowing Lives

Jarle Husefest at The Personal Development Blog

Jason and Michael at Black Belt Productivity

Jason Ivers at A Miracle a Day

Jason Womack at Fit and Effective

Jay White at dumb little man tips for life

Jean Browman at Transforming Stress Into Power and Cheerful Monk

Jeannette Maw at Good Vibe Coaching

Jeanie Marshall at Empowerment and Meditation Blog and DailyAffirm: Positive Affirmations Day by Day

Jeff Lilly at Druid Journal

Jeffrey Phillips at Think Faster

Jennifer at Goodness Graciousness

Jennifer Mannion at Heal Pain Naturally

Jenny and Erin at Jenny and Erin

Jeremiah Owyang at Web Strategy by Jeremiah

Jerry Hart at Blue Print to emarketing

Jerry Lopper at Personal Growth

Jessa at

Jessica Hagy at Indexed

Jim stroup at Managing Leadership

Jim Walton at Black In Business

JoLynn Braley at The Fit Shack

Joan Schramm at Accelerating Momentum

Joanna Young at Coaching Wizardry

Joanne at I’m Happy Fish

JodeeB at You Already Know This Stuff

Joe Vitale at Dr. Joe Vitale at Zero

John Pratt at John Pratt International

John Place at John Place Online

John W. McKenna at The Leadership Epidemic

John Wesley at Pick The Brain

Jon at Join The Secret

Jonathan at Smart Wealthy Rich and Freelance Folder

Jory Des Jardin at Pause: Meaningful Work

Josh Bickford at Reach For Magnificence and Reach for Magnificence

Josh Kaufman at The Personal MBA

Judy Martin at The Work/Life Monitor

Julia Rogers Hamrick at Julia’s Blog: Journal of the Journey Home to Eden

Julie Bonner at Declutter It

Kailani at An Island Review

Kammie Kobyleski at Passion Meets Purpose

Karen at Journey with Water Learner

Karen Lynch at Live The Power

Karen Wallace at The Clearing Space

Karl Moore at Karl

Karl Staib at Karl

Kathy Mallary at Coaching Biz Tips

Keith Ferrazzi at Never Eat Alone

Kenton Whitman at

Kevin Kinchen at Creative Power of Thought

Killeris at Attitude, The Ultimate Power

Kim and Jason at Escape Adulthood

Kim George at Doing What You Can Do

Kimber Chin of Client K

Kirk Nugent at Kirk

Kirsten Harrell at Ipopin

Krishna De at Biz Growth News and Todays Women in Business

K.L. Masina at Be Conscious Now

Leah Maclean at Working Solo

Laura Young at The Dragon Slayer’s Guide to Life

Lee Nutter at bmindful

Leo Babauta at Zen Habits

Life Reflection at Universe in a Single Atom

Linda Salazar at Awaken The Genie Within

Lisa Braithwaite at Speak Schmeak

Lisa Gates at Design Your Writing Life

Lisa Van Allen at Finish Strong

Liz at Internet Marketing Strategies

Liz Strauss at Successful Blog

Lodewijkvdb at How to be an Original

Lola Fayemi at Real World Spiritual and Personal Development

Lorraine Cohen at Powerfull Living

Luciano Passuello at

Lucid at Spiritual Suggestions

Lumosity at Brain Health Blog

Lyman Reed at Creating a Better Life

Lyndon Antcliff at and


Maddy at Illuminated Minds Want to Know

Malathy Badri at Laws of Universe

Manny at Success Books

Maria Gajewski at Never The Same River Twice

Maria Garcia at Get Organized Now

Maria Palma at The Good Life

Marianne Williamson at Journal

Mark at The Naked Soul

Mark Forster at Get Everything Done

Mark LaPierre at The Winding Path

Mark McManus at Build Your Life To Order

Mark W Shead at Productivity 501

Martin Avis at Kickstart Daily

Mary K at Becoming Your StellarSelf

Matthew Cornell at Matt’s Idea Blog

Meg Haworth at Life Lessons From Your Soul

Melanie Benson Strick at The Success Blog

Merlin Mann at 43 Folders

Michelle at aMusing My Genius

Michelle Moore at Happiness Blog

Michael Port at The Think Big Revolution

Michael Vanderdonk at TOACH Performance

Mike Janssen at Opgestroopte Mouwen

Mike Kemski at BANABU

Mike St. Pierre at The Daily Saint

Millionaire Mommy Next Door at Millionaire Mommy Next Door

Mona Grayson at Question The Mind

Mr.Wang at Mr Wang Says So

My Everyday Planner at My Everyday Planner

Nancy Mills at The Spirited Woman

Nancy Tierney at Unconditional Confidence

Neil Patel at Quick Sprout

Nic Askew at Monday 9AM Blog

Nick Smith at Life 2.0

Nneka at Balanced Life Center

Organize-It at Organize-It

Pamala Slim at Escape From Cubicle Nation

Pamm Larry at My Spiritual Dance

Patricia Singleton at Spiritual Journey of a Lightworker

Patti Digh at 37 Days

Paul at Paul’s Tips

Paul Piotrowski at Self Help Wisdom

Paula Kawal at Paula

Peggy Payne at Peggy Payne’s Boldness Blog

Peter at I Will Change Your Life

Peter Aldin at Great Circle

Peter Haslem at Necessary Skills

Phil Gerbyshak at Make It Great

Philippe Matthews at Shockwealth

Priscilla Palmer at Personal Development Demands Success

Quint Jensen at Win Your Mind

Raymond Salas at Zenchill Powertools

Real Modern Man at Real Modern Man

Reg Adkins at ElementalTruths

Ricardo at Wake Up Tiger

Rich Schefren at Strategic Profits

Rick Cockrum at Shards of Consciousness

Rick Cooper at The PDA Pro

Ririan at Ririanproject

Rob at 7Breaths

Rob Cooke at Leave the Office

Robert at Compassionate Council

Robert at Myselfdev

Robert Ashcroft at PDSS Online

Robin Skeen at Robin’s Reflections

Robin Yapp at Yapp 3.0

Robyn McMaster at Brain Based Biz

Roger Von Oech at Creative Think

Rolf F. Katzenberger at Evomend

Rosa Say at Managing With Aloha Coaching

Ryan Marle at The Alpha Project

S.J. Yee at Personal Development for the Book Smart

Sam at Aquire Wisdom and Live with Passion

Scott Adams at The Dilbert Blog

Scott Berkun at Berkun Blog

Scott Bernadot at Keeping The Secret

Scott Ginsberg at Hello, My Name Is Blog

Scott H Young at Scott H Young

Scott McArthur at McArthur’s Rant

Self Pursuit at Self Pursuit

Senia at Positive Psychology Coaching

Seth Godin at Seth’s Blog

Shane Navratil at Zoomstart

Shauna Arthurs at Breathing Prosperity and Follow Your Path

Shaheen Lakhan at GNIF Brain Blogger

Simone at Dynamic Living

Simone and Mandy at Outfit Inspirations

Slade Roberson at Shift Your Spirits and Spiritual Blogging

Sleeping Dude at How to Wake Up Early

Sonora Jayne Case at Positive Realities Coaching

Spike at Organize It

Start Up Coach at Take Charge of Your Life

Stephanie and Jeffrey at Brains on Purpose

Steve Beisheim at Jumping Ship Happens

Steve King at The Green Geek

Steve Olson at

Steve Pavlina at

Steve Roesler at All Things Workplace

Stephen at HD bizblog

Stephen Hopson at Adversity University

Steven Aitchison at Change Your Thoughts

Success Current at

Surjit at Gurushabad

Susan Sabo at Productivity Cafe

Suzanne Bird-Harris at Learning Curve Coaching

Takuin Minamoto at

Ted Demopoulos at Blogging For Business

Terry Starbucker at Ramblings From a Glass Half Full

Thom Quinn at Qlog

Tiffany at Little Red Suit

Tim Ferris at 4-Hour Workweek and Lifestyle Design Blog

Tim Taylor at My Agapic Life

Tom Peters at Tom

Tom Spanton at TRCoach

Tom Van Brunscot of Transformation Economy

Tony Chimento at Living Forward

Tony D Clark at Success From The Nest

Torlink at You Create Reality

Travis A. Sinquefield at Disorganizational Behavior

Travis Wright at Cultivate Greatness

Trizoko at

Trevor Gay at Simplicity is the Key

Troy Worman at Orbit Now!

Tuck Self at Rebel Belle Blog

Tupelo Kenyon at

Ubertech at Geeks Guide To GTD

Vera Nadine at Vera

Vickie at Contemplate This

Wade Millican at The Middle Way

Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership

Wan Qi at Meditation Forum Mantras

Wild Bill at Passionate Blogger

and these collaborated sites:

Burst Blog

Change This

Change Your Thinking

Daily PlanIt

Did I Get Things Done

GTD Wannabe


Joyful Jubilant Learning

Life Coaches Blog Stratagies for a Greater Life

TED Blog

Transformational Girlfriends


Priming the idea pump (A character checklist shamelessly lifted from acting)

thinking hard There are lots of tools the great actor has in her toolbox, but most of them really only gain utility with time. Script analysis, the ability to quickly access one's emotions, physical flexibility, vocal projection, even memorizing lots and lots of text is a skill that can take years to learn.

But there is one tool that is pretty easy to use right out of the box: the character checklist. Exactly what it sounds like, the character checklist is a list of questions that, when answered thoughtfully, provide a wealth of information for the actor to draw from.

Writers stand to gain much from the character checklist as well. For the fiction writer, it's a terrific way to sketch out a full picture of the character in your mind before writing, or even (oh yes) when you find yourself stuck. Let's face it: most characters in fiction draw heavily on slices of the writer's self; it's nice to have a few other things to flesh them out into full-fledged bona fides themselves.

But another great use for the character checklist is to jump-start your own non-fiction writing. Bloggers have embraced the meme in a big way; it's everyone's favorite crutch when the well runs dry.

And pre-Web 2.0, the form was equally popular. From the emails that circulate with lists of likes, dislikes and quirky questions to fill in and forward on to the venerable Proust Questionnaire, people are endlessly fascinated with...themselves, yes, but other people, too. My favorite features in glossy magazines are usually the ones where the same five, 10 or 20 questions are asked of different people.

There are probably as many of these character checklists circulating among acting classes as there are memes proliferating across the blogosphere. I dug this one out of my old actor files, and it's as good a place as any to start:

The Character Checklist from Colleen's Old Acting Files (provenance unknown)

  1. Name
  2. Age
  3. Occupation
  4. Hobbies
  5. Marital Status
  6. Favorite Color
  7. Favorite Restaurant
  8. Favorite Song
  9. Favorite Movie
  10. Favorite TV Show
  11. Pet
  12. Bad Habit
  13. What I Like About Myself
  14. Who I Look Up To
  15. What Makes Me Laugh
  16. What Makes Me Sad
  17. How Do I Relax
  18. What Word/Phrase Do I Use Most Often
  19. Favorite Room In Home
  20. Goals
  21. Embarrassing Moment
  22. Favorite Article Of Clothing
  23. Pet Peeve
  24. People Close To Me
  25. One Word To Describe Me
  26. Favorite Holiday
  27. What Is Important To Me
  28. What I Can't Do Without

The trick to making lists like these useful to your writing (and there's always a trick) is using them thoughtfully and strategically, not just indulging in them as diversions (although that can be fun sometimes, too). Figure out the task you're wanting to accomplish and then pick up your tool. Not all of the items will be useful for every piece of writing you're sitting down to work on, but a surprising number will be, if you let mind wander to new and interesting places.

For example, let's say you've got a blog edumacating people about widgets and you are plumb out of widget stuff to write about. You could...

  • Talk about how people shorten the life of their widgets with bad widget habits. (#12)
  • Describe your favorite widget use, and why. (#28)
  • Relate a horror story about a customer being widget-less in a widget-necessary situation. (#21)
  • Interview a few people in the widget chain of supply. (#24)
  • Link to your favorite widget scene in a movie on YouTube. (#9)

There's no set way to put yourself in a frame of mind to see questions differently so that you can answer them differently, but one great trick is to imagine yourself sitting down with someone who knows nothing about widgets, or who thinks they know everything about widgets, and then look at those questions as though you're being interviewed for a show or podcast or magazine that goes out to that target.

In other words, an actor!

xxx c

P.S. If you give this a whirl, I'd love to hear how it works for you: communicatrix [at] gmail [dot] com.

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

This post gets a lot of traffic from StumbleUpon. Go figure. Anyway, if you clicked looking to find posts about acting, there are a ton of them here, two years' worth of columns written for a major casting service's newsletter here in L.A. And if you're looking for more tips on writing and how to make it more awesome and less awful, check out the back issues of my non-sucky (I swear!) newsletter. Back to you, Chet!

What I learned on my trip to Seattle


  1. The standards for Seattle coffee are so high that even Starbucks tastes better there.
  2. The early settlers accidentally built all of their gift shops underground.
  3. Two miles feels like 22 when it is all uphill.
  4. Mel Brooks has another big hit on his hands.
  5. Crumpets taste better by the water.
  6. Ditto cupcakes, ham & eggs, beer, coconut pie, and everything on the menu at Etta's.
  7. If I lived there, I would have two muffin tops.
  8. From across the room, in glasses and pigtails, I am Decoy Megan Mullally.
  9. The ride to Bainbridge beats the island itself, hands down.
  10. I still like Portland best.