Good enough, Day 8: Wacky wig and glasses, redux

If you haven't figured it out by now, I tend to take things very seriously. And by "things", I mean everything. What you say to me in a casual email. What I say to you in line at Starbucks. What I read on your Facebook timeline.

And always, always what I am working on.

When I went to kindergarten, I was a dead-serious carrot-peeler and colorer. When I wrote ads, I was a dead-serious jingle writer who came early, stayed late, and worked weekends. And when I finally admitted to my fathers heavenly and biological that I was an actor, I signed on with the rigorous devotion of the fresh convert. I knew which newsstand got their copies of Back Stage West before the rest, and I had my self-submissions mailed out the next morning. I took any role I was offered and prepared for it as though it was the lead—which it wasn't, ever, until the tail end of my acting career. (And even then, only once.) My embarrassingly short stint in the Groundlings Sunday Company was an object lesson in the futility of trying too hard, yet persist, I did: submitting sketches, wheedling fellow company members to collaborate, and, most shameful of all, sinking kingly sums into my personal wig collection long after it was clear to everyone else that I had the stink of death on me.

I let go of those wigs the way I disposed of the pieces my copywriting portfolio—slowly and reluctantly, as their lack of relevance dwindled, then altogether, in a kind of wistful resignation. My print ads ended up in the dumpster, but the last few wigs I offloaded on a talented young friend (who still has a busy career in and out of sketch comedy, and no clouds on the horizon). Even then, my need for security and, I suppose, recognition was so great, I included a request with the handoff—namely, that if some unimaginable need arose, she would be willing to loan one back to me.

Life is funny, and so is my friend Justin's writing. So when he offered to write me into his soap-gone-gonzo webseries AVE 43, I agreed without hesitation. My head was shaved by now, and the part he'd written kinda-sorta took that into account: when Margo made her first appearance, she was an imperious interior designer. After it became clear that "imperious" is NOT a color I've been gifted with, Margo reappeared as a terrified victim of The Highland Park Diddler in two episodes—once in a support group, and another where she has an unfortunate run-in with the Diddler himself. (PG-17 for violence, not sex.)

When Margo returned, she had joined the ranks at The Twat Club, AVE 43's resident cathouse. While she was strictly a "'novelty' slut"—even in gonzo-soap webseries, I don't play romantic leads—Justin thought it would be best if she donned a wig, for verisimilitude. He told me that he and his boyfriend had an old "Marilyn" wig I could use, but I said I was pretty sure I could cover it on my own. I am, after all, a pro-FESH-un-al.

Annie was more than willing to do that loan, but as I mentioned above, she is much in demand. It came down to a choice between me fighting my way out to Santa Monica on a Friday night, or the as-yet-unseen Marilyn wig. Though only midway into my year-and-a-half-long experiment with "good enough," I managed to make the sane choice. I showed up the following morning with my lines down cold but everything else breezily scavenged: working-girl costume cobbled together from creepy, too-small underwear I'd kept on a hunch, plus a six-year-old lipstick I was too cheap to throw out.

Oh, and the wig of course. The hideous, gorgeous, dime-store wig. It lifted Margo to a (sorry) ho new level. The wig deserves its own credit, really; it does most of the acting, and writes its own jokes.

What's most important is that I love wearing that hideous wig. It is easy. It is messy. It gets the job done, but doesn't take itself too seriously. It suits the kind of actor I have somehow, accidentally, backed into being: not one who does it because she has to, or out of some wildly mistaken notion that it will fill any kind of hole inside, but because it is fun. I learn my lines, I show up early, I pull the wig on—any which way, mind you, and no mirror—and have a blast. I am allowed to be my ridiculous self, channeled through an even more ridiculous character, playing alongside brilliantly talented people.

Good enough? No—perfection.


The skinny on, plus all previous 21-Day Salutes™.

[video] Hair today, books tomorrow

[youtube] [Long-ass video clocking in at a whoppin' 5:05]

Salutations, and apologies for the distinctly lengthy, somewhat self-indulgent, purportedly "useful" video above. In my defense (and I'm nothing if not defensive), I'm both: (a) woefully (or not) out of practice; and (b) pressed for the kind of time needed to write a shorter letter. We're looking at a rather tense couple of months here at communicatrix HQ, deliverables-wise (after which time I'm sure my essays will return to their previously scheduled interminability; my videos will return to a brisk conciseness; and my newsletters will return, period.) (Kidding. I think. I mean, I should be putting out a newsletter next Wednesday, but don't quote me on that. But you can sign up here, if you want to roll the dice.)

This video—which you may have to click through to watch if you're reading this somewhere other than on the web and an actual computer—contains two main sections.

Section the First is just a hair update. While very little has changed, hair-wise, since September, amazingly (as is abundantly evident via this video), it takes me A MINUTE and THIRTY-NINE SECONDS to state this very obvious fact. I suppose part of the issue is that I'm taking a little time to say howdy and to provide context, and another bit is that I had to shill show off my fancy new Wahl cordless electric all-in-one hair-clipper thingy. Lots lots lots more to say on this whole being-bald(ish) thing, but those are stories for another day—a day which has not quite made it on the publishing calendar yet, but which certainly will at some point.

The second section concerns books. Not just any books, but a particular ritual of reading certain books—one I've been engaged in for some time, and which I've found to be extremely helpful in keeping me focused/on-track (a perennial challenge) and non-depressed (ditto, and how).

I've actually written at some length about daily reads in my marketing column for actors, so I won't belabor it here except to say this: the daily devotional has its place in the secular world, too. Some kinds of change are particularly slippery and elusive, and the right words (i.e., from people who've been working on this stuff longer than you, and are further down the road, and are maybe not too preachy) in a manageable, portion-controlled size (for me, extremely small), repeated at the right intervals (in my case, daily) can be great helpmates. Two of the books are listed in the column I link to, above, but for your convenience, they are:

Think and Grow Rich Every Day, a carving-up of the Napoleon Hill self-help classic by two enterprising fellows, and more power to 'em. Each month focuses on a particular aspect of Hill's teachings, with one month lumping together two of the shorter chapters ("The Subconscious Mind" and "The Brain"). The authors claim to have updated the language a bit from the fusty original text, but damned if I can tell much difference. And that chapter about the sex urge is just nutso; you'll want to take October with a grain of salt, or a pinch of saltpeter, or something. But it's eminently more readable in these bite-sized morsels, and has helped me to keep my eyes on the prize. And as I mention in the video, this book was, in a weird and witchy way, partly responsible for the success of 50-for-50.

One Day at a Time in Al-Anon, a compendium of teachings from the 12-step recovery programs for the friends and families of alcoholics, who (boy, howdy) generally suffer from their own addictive, self-destructive tendencies. I hope you don't need this one. I hope that you have no boundary issues or co-dependent b.s. or any other of the narsty, sticky residue of self-loathing that growing up in an alcoholic (or xholic) home can leave. But if you do, and you can put up with a little Higher Power here and there, you may find it not only steadying in stretches, but shockingly illuminating. I have taken in a few days' entries with the wonder I can only imagine Helen Keller must have felt by the family pump.

The third book I cannot conscientiously recommend yet, as I've only been playing with it since the start of this new year. (Which somehow already seems old at four days in—how weird is that?) But in the month or so since I finally got over my squeeginess over the covers, I have become quite taken with the output of Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, aka SARK, reading a full two books' worth and well into a third. (I put down another one a third of the way through because the erratic typesetting was making me seasick.) But in case you want to check it out—which I did, literally, from the library—here it is.

But really, with all of these books, I'd suggest test-driving them via your amazing public library before committing your hard-earned dollars and even more precious attention. Unless you are filthy rich, in which case please buy them and anything else your heart desires via my Amazon affiliate link.

Okay! This post is already too long and my to-do list isn't getting any shorter. One short request before I go: if you have any daily-devotional-type books you LOVE, feel free to leave them in the comments. Right? Right!

And happy new year, while I can still say it.

xxx c

While this is probably obvious, for the purposes of 100% transparency, this post contains a shitload of Amazon affiliate links. Feel free to buy ANYTHING through your local bookseller, or to test-drive via your local library. Except for maybe that hair trimmer. Because (a) doubtful that anything but a chain store will stock electric clippers or that libraries carry them at all and (b) ew, gross.

Start with the end in mind This post is #50 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

Roughly 18 months ago, I began thinking of how I wanted to mark my 50th birthday.

The easiest part was eliminating what I did not want: a fancy trip, a lavish party, and above all, presents and cards and stuff stuff stuff. Aside from a few mission-critical hardware upgrades, and possibly a new traveling suit, I'm loathe to acquire much in the way of stuff.

So I started thinking of what I wanted to feel like on my birthday. This was far less complicated, although it was still easier to talk about how I did not want to feel: empty. Wistful. Lonely. Small. Powerless. Afraid. Sad.

And then, a few months later and entirely by accident, a thought was planted in my head: SELFISH. I realized that more than anything else, I did not want to feel selfish—not on that day, not on my birthday, not ever again. On the other hand, my previous forays into volunteering had been "enh" at best, disastrous at worst. Let's just say that my blessings, while considerable, did not include a dominant follow-through gene.

So I decided that I would use what I did have to do what I could do, and then some. I could write. I could employ all of my old marketing and design and advertising tricks in the service of good. I could test the sturdiness of this (ugh) "platform" I've built over seven years of life on the Internet by seeing if it could hold up under the weight of a ginormous (double-ugh) "ask." Yeah, theoretically I'd been building it to promote something of my own I could sell in the vague-but-foreseeable future—a book, a service, a something—but what the hell? Based on my previous track record and actuarial projections for a chronically ill middle-aged woman living in toxic Los Angeles, I could easily die before that happened.

Besides, as The Youngster used to tell me, "Don't save 'happy'."

The pieces fell into place almost magically after that. When I decided that the tangible thing I'd do was to raise money for some cause already out there doing good in the world, the number $50,000 floated into my head. It felt insane—until I spoke it aloud to my friends Jason and Jodi Womack who said, "It's not insane, and we'll help you make it happen." And said it with such conviction and such love that for the first time, I believed it might actually be possible. When I anguished over which of several worthy nonprofits to do this in support of, my friend Bonnie, whom I had introduced to WriteGirl, and who had subsequently become a mentor to an actual WriteGirl (she has a much better follow-through gene), reminded me of the "no-duh" choice.

Ideas for perks floated into my head, and friends ass-kicked me (nicely!) into making the terrifying-to-me requests for help. Jill Murphy materialized out of nowhere, while I was, as she put it, freezing my butt off under a strategically-placed vent in the PDX airport; equally out of the blue, my friends Jennifer and John Lehr graciously offered their home—their home, where they live—for the party.

I cannot begin to list all of the people who helped right now without running the risk of omitting some, but when has that ever stopped me? My friends Lisa and Heather shot and edited a fan-fucking-tastic video. Gabriel built a website. Overnight. My friend Jean and her partners Greg and Philip at Smile donated 50 copies of TextExpander. Jim Coudal sent me so many Field Notes, I had to stop seven times on the walk home from my mailbox, the carton was so heavy.

Friends stepped up, more and more of them, with alacrity and remarkable cheer, to offer help as I explained this Big, Scary Thing that I needed to do. Dyana and Donna. My friend Julie and her sister Gillian. A dozen people offered to do supporting projects: Mike Monteiro and Erika Hall and the whole Mule Design team, who indulged me with a special run of my favorite t-shirts, and then threw in half the proceeds from an entirely different set of t-shirts, to boot. Danielle LaPorte, who did a special "telejam" for her people, working together to raise a staggering $3295. Bee and Geoff hung themselves out there and created work to be auctioned off. Tim made art you can still bid onClaire and Mary & Dave sold their art. Pace and Kyeli raised over a thousand bucks and sang a filthy song with me. (Which O-Lan mixed, even though she was not supposed to be working. Because she is awesome.)

Ten designers created desktop wallpapers, 50-count-'em-50 lady writers contributed beautiful interviews, and a partridge in a motherfucking tree, stick a fork in me 'cause I'm DONE.

As promised, there will be a series of more thoughtful, detailed, and specific follow-ups on what I learned doing this Big Scary Thing, so that hopefully, you can use some of it to go do your own Big Scary (and, I hope, totally different) Thing. But for now, let me leave you with this: that thing you think you can't do, because it's impossible?

Maybe it isn't.

xxx c

P.S. Forgive me for making you do this, but there is some really big, fat, juicy effin' news toward the middle of the above video. I know, I know—you hate watching videos (unlike that other guy, over there). But trust me, it's more fun to hear or see it than read it. I know, because I about fainted when I was told, before I started screaming like a teen girl at JFK in 1964. So for you, a cheat: hit play, then advance it to 1:20. You won't be sorry. And THANK YOU.

And on the 50th day, they partied This post is #45 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

Yes, you have to work hard.

But occasionally, you have to stop working to rest. Or relax. Or, occasionally, to celebrate.

And by "you", as The Youngster used to say, I mean "me."

I'm still working—hahaha—on all of these things: learning to rest, relax, and (occasionally), to celebrate. Last night, for example, I sort of relaxed while my good friend and even better sport Heather Parlato painstakingly coconut-oiled my scalp, so my soon-to-be-barren dome wouldn't look all scabby and gross after the shaving. We caught up on gossip during and I had a rosé-wine spritzer after, so I'm counting it in the "fun" column.

I hope you are putting things in your own, personal "fun" column. I hope that occasionally, your "fun" column runneth over onto the other side of the page. Fun (or even "fun") is a necessary component of human existence—even the existence of steadfast and earnest, workaholic writers.

Or so they tell me.

xxx c

P.S.  As per the looooong video above, I would love it if you decided to come have some fun with me on my birthday, this Tuesday, September 13. Owing to my nervous-Nellie conservatism about too many people at my host's house and plain old bad math, I initially released far fewer tickets than I probably should have. This has been corrected. Please buy one! I have to spend all this money on the food and drink anyway; a few more heads will make the party more fun, and still be wildly cost-efficient. Yay, efficiency!

The lost days of summer This post is #44 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

Between the hacking, the ungodly heat (with humidity, which is downright baffling out here in the desert), and overwhelm born of dreams you barely dared to dream actually coming true, I lost a day. Or two. Or something.

At least, I lost the outward-facing part of them. Because sometimes, the things you make to put out in the world aren't ready to live there just yet. (Especially when it's 450 degrees in your apartment and your brain has been simmering in its own juices for three days.)

It is my longstanding policy to write about things only when they are useful, and experiences only when I have enough of a handle on them to be at least somewhat illuminating. I have a year-or-so's worth of fumbling, stumbling garbage posts which, I think, prove the wisdom and prudence of adhering to such a policy.

So I "lost" a day. To you. But this day is not really lost. In addition to being, like any day, part of the rich fabric that makes blah blah blah, I also learned a Very Important Lesson about myself which should make things better/stronger/faster moving forward, and which (of course, duh!) I will share just as soon as it's been properly assimilated.

In the meantime, a word about someone else.

I met Michael Bungay Stanier at the World Domination Summit this year. I'd been a fan for a long time—he's a really smart, really funny fellow who shares terrific resources for busting through creative blocks—but I fell for him hard in Portland. Because in addition to being really smart and really funny, he's really, really true-blue. This is something you can maybe fake online, but that you cannot ever fake in person.

Michael is taking a brief break from doing all of his awesome business-type stuff to promote a very special cause: ending malaria. To be precise, he's edited a book full of terrific essays from a variety of other smart, big-hearted people (and written a bang-up one himself), the proceeds of which go to buying mosquito nets to help fight malaria. You've heard of this simple fix before, no doubt; what's kind of sad-making is that this simple fix has not been widely-enough deployed to actually fix malaria. But we soldier on, right?

$20 of each sale goes to the cause. That's the FULL PRICE of the Kindle version, and all but four or so bucks of the print edition. I've read a dozen of the essays so far, and can vouch for the quality. No fluff, no tossed-off nonsense.

And yes, I paid for my copy. Or, as I like to think of it, I bought a mosquito net to protect the girl who might turn out to be the woman who writes an epic poem that makes some warrior decide to lay down his sword, or the woman who finds a cure for malaria, or maybe the woman who becomes the mother of the guy who finds a cure for malaria. (Hey—it could happen. There are some smart guys, too.)

I know that between giving for this and giving for that (not to mention the heat of what's supposed to be fall), we're all burnt crispy. But this is a book that you're buying to help you, too. It's a book full of actual, helpful, actionable tips and tools you can use to start changing your life in ways that will help you to make the world a more awesome place. So if you don't want to buy the kid a mosquito net, buy your selfish self a book. It's all good. They'll take care of the mosquito net anyway.

xxx c

Visit the End Malaria Day website

Notes from The Dip [50-for-50 video]

[youtube=] This post is #31 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.


I have been feeling a little bit down these past couple of days because we are in the Dip.

Which means I am in the Dip.

And DAMN, you can read or think or talk all you want to about the Dip, but being in the Dip is an entirely different matter.

So from the depths of the Dip, an email came from my friend, Jennifer Lehr. She's one of the amazing women writers who did an interview for this project, and she's been hugely helpful behind the scenes as well. Plus, she gave actual cash. Which is very much appreciated.

Anyway, Jennifer made a very good suggestion, which boiled down to DO SOMETHING. She said it much more nicely and she gave specific suggestions (both of which are hugely helpful) but basically, she's right: if you are stuck, DO SOMETHING. Something you haven't done before. Something to move yourself out of where you are. And hey, while you're at it, maybe show a little gratitude, because there is never a time when that is a bad thing.

So I made a video, and we'll see, but I'm going to keep making them. Maybe not every day, but as much as I can. Although maybe every day. Maybe I'll get better at them if I make them every day, and I'll grow to enjoy it, and people who like video better than they do reading (freaks! all of you!) will have something nice by way of a "thanks."

One of Jennifer's suggestions was to share some of the terrific emails and comments I've been getting since this thing began. So today, just randomly, I picked a nice one from Clara Boza:

As a writer, reader and all-around word nerd since B.B. (before birth), I can only dream of what an organization like WriteGirl might have meant to me as a shy teen girl with few role models for pursuing my dreams. WriteGirl rocks!

Because that's the essence of my reason for doing this: I wish I'd had a WriteGirl. And from the comments and feedback I'm getting, and the things I see on Twitter and Facebook, along with the things I hear from the WriteGirl women volunteers, I'm not alone. Girls need this. Probably more than boys. Everyone needs support, but it's just incredibly tough on girls growing up in this culture. So many weird, confusing messages get thrown at them from every angle, and too often the most important thing gets lost.

Which is that how you look on the outside is not nearly as important as how you develop what's inside.

I want these girls to hear that LOUD and CLEAR.

I want them to hear it over the advertising and the magazines and the reality TV crap and everything else that shouts at them 24/7.

Thank you for your support! Keep on trucking! Never, never, never give up! And all the rest of it.

I love you all!

xxx c

Writer lemonade

here we go... This post is #17 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

A few years ago, I was invited to do a reading at a friend's series called "In the Flesh."

Because I am a gigantic thrill-seeking hambone who lives for the high-wire of small theater, I jump at every opportunity to perform live, including this one. It wasn't until later that the full impact of what I'd agreed to sunk in.

You see, "In the Flesh" stood not only for the act of reading live and in-person, but doing a reading of sexy material. About sex. A subject which, despite all of my cursing and bravado and forthrightness, I have never felt comfortable writing about.

Did I know this when I agreed to the gig? I did. Perhaps you do not hail from an alcoholic family and therefore lack my experience in advanced denial and holding two completely conflicting notions in your head at once. It's magical, I tell you! You would not imagine the nutty, sitcom-like situations you can find yourself in!

Anyway, there I was, a couple of days before the show. Too late to back out, too chickenshit to talk about sex with the class. So I did the only logical thing: I decided to sing about it.

For years now, I'd been noting the more unusual search terms that had brought people to my blog, and posting them every now and then in a semi-regular, semi-comic way. What I'd kept in reserve were the questionable, the adult, the outright perverse ones. I pulled them up from the text file where they'd languished, weird and dirty-like. And suddenly, they spoke to me, in rhythm. Then melody. I sang pieces of it over and over, rearranging them here and there, until they magically came together into what I dubbed "The Dirty Keywords Search Song." I enlisted the help of a friend who played guitar and owed me a favor, he met me at the venue (on his way home from a flight, adding a rockstar, cosmopolitan touch), and if memory and the video documentation serve, we brought down the house. Even after a top-flight lineup of very talented, very funny writers. Including Nina Hartley, who gave me a big hug afterward and said, "You funny."

I bring this up now for two reasons.

First, I'm trying to raise money. A LOT of  money, $50,000, in case you hadn't heard. And one of the ways I'm doing that is by offering incentives, to make it fun for people to give and participate, and to show my commitment to this thing. The entry-level incentive is a pack of MP3s, and, well, I thought it was high time that "The Dirty Keywords Search Song" got the full-on treatment. So I went back and re-recorded it the way I did that very first time, three years ago, to give as a practice track to my guitarist friend. I enlisted the help of Pace & Kyeli to add some nifty backing vocals because I was completely enchanted with their doo-wop skills when I saw them displayed in service of the World-Changing Writing Workshop.

And then, because you've gotta have a video to sell stuff, I made a video:


(I have to use the old, Flash-style embed on this blog, so if you can't view it, you can click here to see it all modern and HTML5-style.)

Note: the MP3 will sound much nicer because I also got my good friend O-Lan to remix it for me all professionally and stuff. But the raw mix sort of works for the video, so I left it raw.

You can get this as an MP3, along with other assorted tracks, for a $5 donation. Or it comes bundled in a fabulous value pack with all this other stuff like wallpapers and a cross-stitch pattern of the Writer's Motto for a $25 donation.

But there's a second reason I made this video and am sharing it here: crazy shit happens. Things break, they don't go as planned, they don't come together. And if you are a little unsure of your skills or a control freak or both, it can be dispiriting. Your nice plan, all derailed by crazy shit!

The thing is, the very best stuff can come out of the derailment. The first draft that disappeared in a power outage almost always results in a better, tighter draft tossed off after all the long processing you had to slog your way through. The terrifying hospitalization yields a miraculous bloody epiphany which turns into a stage show and a talk and a whole new, happier life. There's a longstanding literary tradition of turning lemons into lemonade which I finally, FINALLY get because it takes conflict to have resolution, and we all need to make sense of something in a scary world gone mad.

Speaking of which, there's a third reason I needed to do this: because it scared me. And if you're not terrifying yourself on a semi-regular basis, I can almost guarantee you're not working hard enough.

xxx c

[video] Travel baggie hack!

[watch Travel baggie hack on YouTube; running time 3:01]

Amazingly simple tip that has helped quell my (considerable) anxiety about arriving or departing without mission-critical dongles, USB cords and other electronic doodads when traveling.


  • the appropriately-sized zippy freezer bag for electronic crap
  • an index card and writing device

What you do:

  • make list of the crap that goes with your crap on index card
  • stick in bag
  • check list ITEM BY ITEM when packing on either end

As I show in the video, you want to account for all moving parts, as it were. So I don't just list "remote", I also list "USB stick for remote" and "hideous foam case for remote." (Well, I abbreviate.)

And don't forget: putting your name and number on all your stuff makes you a nerd, but it makes you a nerd with a much higher chance of being reunited with your crap if the two of you become separated.

Questions? Comments? Improvements? Leave them in the comments!

Thanks, and safe travels.

xxx c

Tip via my pal Sean Bonner, who probably doesn't use it anymore because he is a mad-crazy citizen of the globe and travels light.

[video] Roll your own "flix" queue

[Watch "Create your own 'flix' queue" on YouTube; running time 3:34]

I'm a big fan of Netflix streaming video, but there are also other groovy things on the Internet that I might want to watch sometime, "sometime" being "later, not now while I'm busy trying to stop procrastinating with these other five things and get back to work."

As I say in the video, I used to just save videos to my delicious bookmarks, but I'd find myself forgetting to go there and look for stuff in the heat of the video moment. And because I lurve how easy and delightful it is to create nice-looking, well-behaved drop-down bookmark folders in Chrome, I experimented with storing them there, and found it made much more sense. I mean, I'm there, at the computer, usually about to be four feet away, doing Nei Kung or ten feet away, making lunch, and why not just have that stuff at the super-ready.

So if you cannot bear to watch video (I sympathize and empathize), here's the drill:

  1. Create a folder in your bookmarks bar labeled something you'll remember.
  2. Bookmark the video you want to save for later.
  3. Edit the title that propagates the bar (I like to have 00:xx first, then a spacer, then something just brief enough to quickly parse)
  4. If desired, get Virgo on that shit and drag your movie bookmark into ascending or descending order, time-wise.

That's it!

Have fun, and if you use and like this (or modify it to like it better), please do let me know.

xxx c

P.S. I know it is a totally crazy nutball thing, but as I was working on this video, Netflix went down. I KNOW.

* * * * *

Various & sundry:

If you're a professional photographer, you should definitely get your shutterbug ass to Chicago for next week's Midwest tour stop of Strictly Business 3, the outstanding biannual conference put on by the American Society of Media Photographers. Insane quantities of high-quality workshops, sessions and talks, including mine (mine...MINE!!!), "How to Make People Love You Madly: Selling Yourself in the Postmodern Marketplace." April 1-3, the Allerton Hotel (tip-top-tap, old-timers!), Chicago.

As a past speaker at the Creative Freelancer Conference, I have a (not very) secret code to get you an additional $50 off the early bird registration, for a total of $80 off: CCW11. The CFC is back in Chicago, which is a lovely place for a conference, and if you're a creative type who's self-employed, I encourage you to take a look. Lots of great relationships have been born and blossomed at the previous three CFCs, and the information and personal attention is top-notch. (I make nothing on that link, baby, it's all you.)

Finally, I'm DELIGHTED to be performing at this Sunday's Tongue And Groove, Conrad Romo's outstanding spoken-word showcase at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, 1623 1/2 N. Cahuenga Blvd., 90028. Six bucks, cheap; starts PROMPTLY at 6pm, and we've got a hard out at 7:30. OLD PEOPLE NIGHT. (Just kidding, I'm sure you'll go out clubbing all night afterward.) The rest of the lineup: James Brown (This River), Jo Scott-Coe (teacher at Point Blank), Alan Berman, J. Keith van Straaten, with musical guest Juli Crocket and the Evangenitals (my new-favorite band name).

[video] Curbing (online) impulse spending

[youtube=] [Watch "Curbing (online) impulse spending" on YouTube; running time 2:24]

What this is:

Having taken quite the hiatus from earning money last year, even dealing with it, you might say, I've been getting very serious about becoming a grownup with money. I promise not to turn this blog into a big, long, snoozy preachfest, but as I think of little ideas that might be useful or fun to share, you know I'll do it. Because that's how I roll, baby!

In this video, I explain a little browser-bookmark action thingy I do to maintain some control where there might otherwise be impulse spending. Basically, it's a semi-nerd version of creating a little distance between you and the purchase, to see if you really want it. You're probably doing this anyway, because you are way smarter about curbing your impulses. As I say in the video, I'm not half-bad at it in real life, outside of bookstores and when there is delicious (legal) food around.

Some notes on this week's video:

I got all CRA-A-A-AZY with ScreenFlow this time and taught myself two new tricks. See if you can spot 'em! (Just kidding, I learned how to make things bigger and smaller and how to make a spotlight thingy. I feel omnipotent and will probably try to chew through a car bumper now, just for fun.)

The site whose amazing stuff I'm lusting over is Tinkering Monkey. I want that Don lamp so bad I can taste it. (Tastes like car bumper! Rrrrrawr!) But the pendant, now that's a nice, modest treat a lady could get for herself if she did a really good job at something-something, right?

Sigh. I can point fingers all I want, but I'm as much a product of consumer culture as anyone I'd be pointing at.

xxx c

UPDATE [03/16/11]: I've removed the pendant from the menu bar because (drumroll) my friend Mike Monteiro surprised me with one at SXSW. Thank you, Mike! And I love you, little tinkering monkeys!

[video] Better yogurt through Post-It notes


[watch "Better Yogurt Through Post-It Notes" on YouTube; 3:03 minutes]

Like last week's video, this crazy little how-to is more about systems thinking, viewing things though the lens of friction reduction, than it is a nutty one-off hack about closing browser tabs or sticking Post-Its on things. Actually, when you really think about it, most of my videos are about that, excepting the spicy ones.1

In this case, my points are two-fold.

First, when you get stuck, stop and think (after briefly raging at the heavens or whatever): what stuck me, and what might prevent that from happening again aside from my own deep feelings of frustration and personal inadequacy.

Second, for tasks or processes you tend to repeat, in my case, making tub after tub of yogurt, look for ways to streamline up to, but stopping short of, the point of ridiculousness. In this case, it cost me zippo to write out two sticky notes at once.

I guess there's a third point, as well: a system that's working is fine. You don't have to change it! And as I hinted at in Point the Second, you don't want to go too nutty with the tweaking. Keep the goal in sight, and remember: forest, not trees.

As to all the yogurt-talk, here is a fine explanation of our delicious yogurt, including how-tos for making it in a yogurt-maker or (gas) oven. They spell it with an "h", but it works just fine down here in Canada South.

And here's that SCD page on my site, because I keep taking links off the front page in my decluttering rampages.

Now, back to bed!


1I owe what little I've been able to absorb and implement on systems thinking to my friend and client Sam Carpenter, who literally wrote the book on it. It's an easy and useful read, and the stuff is applicable to any line of work or area of interest in the physical world: kind of like uber-hacking. I wrote a review which you can read here. I also highly recommend Sam's newsletter (sign up via his website) and not just because I taught him everything he knows about making that particular system work better. (Insert winky emoticon here.)

iPhone addy hack for introverts [video]


[watch "iPhone addy hack for introverts" on YouTube; 1:35 minutes]

This is so dirt-simple and so effective it will blow your mind. And you don't even have to watch the video, although it's kind of a cute one, complete with A SURPRISE PLOT TWIST, so maybe you might want to.

Here's the deal: many, many introverts hate answering the phone. Hell, as far as I can tell, there are a fair number of extraverts who hate answering the phone. The phone sucks! Except when the phone is awesome, like when it hooks you up with your fave people who cheer you up and make your life nicer and better for five minutes.

So what you do is, dirt-simple, remember?, assign a nice photo to each person you need or want to talk to on your smartphone. Er, iPhone, I'm pretty sure you can do this with any phone that has a camera, but I'm Apple-centric and what do I know from other telephonic devices? Nothing, that's what.

Bonus-extra ridiculous-but-useful tip: if there is someone you really, really do not want to talk to but must for some reason, name them something cute in your address book ("Rainbows and Flowers!" "Ice Cream and Doilies!"), pick an adorable picture of bounding puppies or bunnies in cups, and you will answer every stupid, hateful call with a secret smile on your face. Or, you know, just smile as you watch them go into voicemail.


People in this video (besides me): Heidi Miller (social media/self-promo junkie); Jodi Womack (women's business networker extraordinaire)

Making gatherings better [video]


[Watch "Helpful Networking Thingy" on YouTube; 03:12 minutes]

We had a great time at last week's Biznik event at Jerry's Deli. We pretty much always do, but this time, we introduced a new, fun, sharing-kinda thing that really reinvigorated everyone, provided interesting things to talk about and gave each of us insight not only into each other, but some ways we might improve our lives and businesses moving forward.

I describe one of the tools I used in the video above. Basically, it comes down to this:

  1. Have each attendee to your gathering come with a problem or question they'd like to crowdsource.
  2. Provide some means for them to write the question and collect answers, we used 8.5x11" sheets and markers, and laid them out on a table. I rolled out some kraft paper underneath it all so I could tape the sheets neatly. You could also put giant sheets up on the wall, or use a big whiteboard and take pictures after.

If you're the organizer, it's helpful to seed things with a question or two, or press a willing friend to ask one as well. It will help people get over their initial shyness with the new idea.

If you were one of the attendees and happen to be reading this, please feel free to leave your thoughts about how this worked in the comments.

If you've done something like this and achieved great success with getting people to loosen up right away and share, I'd love to hear your methods.

Oh, and if you're an entrepreneur in the Los Angeles area, I'd love to meet you at an upcoming event. There's one on February 16th; sign up for Biznik (free!), then you can RSVP to the event.



Corralling unruly receipts [video]

[youtube=] [watch "Corralling Unruly Receipts on YouTube; 1:54 of your life]

This week's video installment features a verrrrry old trick I use to keep all of my credit card receipts in one spot, but as I mention in the video, hey, it occurred to me once out of nowhere; maybe it hasn't occurred to everyone yet.


  1. Get a large envelope—mine is a size 12 (4.75" x 11")—of the type my union used to use to send me big, fat residual checks. Bank statement envelopes are also good, if you still get those in the mail. You can also use a regular letter-sized envelope, of course, but you will not be able to shirk your bookkeeping duties for as long as I do.
  2. Trim off the flap of the envelope.
  3. Staple the top (cut) edge of the envelope to the top, inside flap of a manila envelope.
  4. Insert in file drawer and watch your life magically change!

I guess I should note here that if you do not have a filing cabinet or use files, this will be of little-to-no use to you. However, you may find the video entertaining. (You would have to be really bored to do so, but oh, well.)

Thanks, please feel free to leave helpful comments, and if you do, please don't forget to be nice!

xxx c

P.S. January's newsletter went out today! If you're subscribed and did not get it, please check your spam folder. Partly because it's a good one and partly because, well, there are going to be a few changes in newsletter-land soon, and them what ain't opening their newsletters regularly are likely to find themselves out in the cold. And if you're not subscribed and you like this blog, you should be!

Knowing you're getting your money's worth [video]


[Watch "Entertainment Book Hack" on YouTube; 1:45, I'm gettin' there!]

One of the most baffling (but flattering) bits of feedback I kept getting last year was that I should post more videos.

WHATEVER. I mean, who watches videos when they can read? Only, well, I get it. There's a je ne sais quoi about seeing someone on video, where the "quoi" is "you get a much better real-time feel for what they're really like." And not everyone can come to the excellent and lively Biznik mixers I host out here in Los Angeles, or to SXSW, or wherever, so there you go. Me, out loud and in your damned face, from the comfort of your desk. Or the couch, if you're on an iPad.

I will try like crazy to keep these like me, on the short side, but as you know if you've met me in person, I am one loquacious motherf*cker. This one clocks in at 1:45, which ain't bad. On the other hand, there's probably :15  worth of actual info, so, you know, not great, either.


I have been buying those stupid Entertainment Books for years, since getting roped in by a fellow Toastmaster who was helping his Girl Scout daughter raise money.

The cover of this thing says "OVER $18,200 IN SAVINGS," but frankly, if you ate that much fast food and saw that many stupid Hollywood blockbusters, you'd need twice that amount in colon hydrotherapy, plus a good smack upside the head.

Still, theoretically there are enough good deals in there for most of us IF we plan carefully and use them. So this year, I'm taking it out of the theoretical and into the measurable. You can, too. Here's how:

  1. Affix large Post-It type sticky note to front of book.
  2. Write down amount paid for book.
  3. Each time you realize savings, write down the item/date/amount.
  4. Add up at end of year and see if you've been a sucker or a smarty-pants. (NB: I have not done this part yet.)

That's it!

As per usually, feel free to leave comments and suggestions here, or email me if you're feeling shy: colleen AT communicatrix DOT com.

And if you have awesome money-saving tips to share with other frugal types, do leave them in the comments.

Oh, most importantly, if you have ideas for things you think would make good videos, please please please let me know. Until I learn to orient myself toward video thinking, it's gonna be an uphill slog.



Selling My Crap on eBay, Day 12: Stupid jump rope

This is Day 12 of a 21-day series. More scoop on the who/what/why here.


I know, I know, you're thinking, "She's selling a stupid jump rope? Double-u Tee Eff?"

But I'm not selling a stupid jump rope; I'm selling a piece of history. The Maginot Line of my fight against advancing old age.

NOW are you interested? Email the 'tater: miz.tater AT gmail DOT com.


*No, this does not make you the German Army. Are you "Advancing Old Age"? No. You see?

Video Vednesday: Contorting yourself


I've been reading a lot about goat paths and entrenched ways of thinking in Randy Frost's latest book (which is awesome when it's not scaring the bejeezus outta me), and also doing a ton of walking and the regular quantity of Nei Kung.

So basically, I've been thinking a lot about habituation and ruts and why, while some habits are terrific and make life simpler as well as moving it forward, others keep you skipping in the grooves, to cop an old metaphor from the phonographic days.

Ideas have been flying by fast and furiously, a result, I think, of the walking, primarily, but also greatly due to some terrific and significant conversations I've been having. Still, I manage to grab a couple here and there, and caught some there to post here.

One small note about the batteries: when I say "recyclable," I mean "rechargeable." AND "recyclable." Of course.

This is a long and rambling one, and I'm really not sure about its utility, so constructive feedback is especially welcome.


Video Vednesday: To-read/Amazon Wishlist hack

(on an iPhone/iPad/non-Flash-friendly device? Click here to watch on Vimeo, I think.)

In an effort to wrangle my ever-growing list of books I'd like to read, I've played with everything from hard-copy lists in pocket notebooks to Evernote, with a thousand .txt files in between.

My ideal list is:

  1. easiest to use on my computer (since I'm here most of the time)
  2. portable, so I can consult it when I find myself in an indie or used bookstore, grappling with overwhelm
  3. digital (because my handwriting sucks, and because it is easier to copy stuff digitally)
  4. updatable from multiple devices (i.e., is something I can sync between a handheld device and my computer, which is technically portable but which is such a hassle to haul around, I avoid it where I can)
  5. provides a way to sort by genre, author, etc
  6. contains a reminder of how I came to find this book (i.e., reco) and/or other context

The hack I describe in the video uses Amazon's Wishlist function and their browser add-on, the Universal Wishlist tool. It's easiest to describe how easy it is by showing it (hence, the video), but basically, you plug the title of the book you like and "Amazon" into your browser's search field, then click on the inevitable Amazon link that comes up. Instead of adding to your wishlist then and there, you click on the Universal Wishlist add-on, which brings up a little dialogue box that includes a space for comments. In this comments field, you add whatever context and/or reco reminders you like.

This is really a few steps away from my ideal book-saving tool. I'm hoping that someone makes my perfect iPhone app: one that would let me add context or other note, include a cover graphic, sort, sync and work offline. This way, I do have a list of books I can consult in the store, but it's dependent on network coverage, plus I have no access to my notes. I used text lists for a long time, but I realized at some point that I remember things visually, and text leaves out too much information to be helpful.

As always, comments are appreciated, I'm increasingly interested in refining my quickie-video skills, as evidence points to a not-small chunk of the population who, for some completely baffling-to-me reason, enjoy getting their information via video. (And this is not a fishing expedition for compliments, I know that there's something nice about getting to know the bloggers you "know" via video and audio as well as text; it's just that when it comes to learning stuff, I find myself impatient with even the best video screencasts, for the most part.)

Oh, and if my perfect book-collecting iPhone app exists already, PLEASE let me know. I'm tempted to partner with someone to build one, but I'd be a sad sack liar if I added a big project like that to my plate right now.


Video Vednesday: 52 books! 52 books! (and a hack)


I did it!

Earlier this week, I finished reading my 52nd book for the year. As I confess in the video above, as well as on the goal-tracking page itself, I started several of these books before 2010, some well before, which is one of the reasons I decided to take on this reading thing as a goal. Tired of unfinished business, I was. It's inevitable when Overly-Busy Syndrome collides with Eyes-Bigger-Than-Stomach Disease; there are too many things you want to read, and always new ones, and never enough time. (Now, when I put down a book unfinished, I do it consciously, this book is not for me, and I'm not going to read any more of it. Next!)

The video is especially blathery considering I am sharing the world's simplest how-to. I seem to be constitutionally incapable of creating an improvised video shorter than 2 minutes. On the other hand, I'm so damned excited about finishing 52 books in less than a year, something I'm sure I haven't done since my 20s, or maybe even college, that I'm giving myself a pass. This ONCE. Then, back to it.

Here's the trick, written-out-style, for my fellow non-video types:

At some point before I start my daily reading (40pp!), I decide on a natural stopping point around 40pp out, sometimes a little shorter, sometimes a little longer, depending on the book and my mood. Then I place a sticky note on that page, sticking up about 1/4", so that I know when it's time to stop.

I find this helps me let go of page count (as much as a nutcase obsessive type can) and focus on the book itself. Before, when I used other methods, I got all caught up in my underwear: if I used my right index finger, it got uncomfortable; if I used a second bookmark, it tended to lift the last few pages before my stopping point, which took me out of reading; and if I used my brain, well, we won't go there. Very ugly.

Hopefully, this little hack will be of use to you. If not, well, you can just congratulate me on (finally) doing the right thing again. Woo-hoo, indeed!


P.S. The book I'm holding up is Influence, Robert Cialdini's classic work on persuasion, which I'll be reviewing soon. As I mention in the video, I'd picked it up at a book sale right before I heard Jonathan Fields talk about it on his segment of the World-Changing Writing Workshop. It's every bit as much of a must-read as Jonathan said, and it's fascinating and FUN to read, as well. So there you go. Stay tuned!

Show me yer rig! (Gmail tags edition)

Show me yer rig! (Gmail labels edition) from communicatrix on Vimeo.

This week's edition is a followup to the screencast on using filters in Gmail: showing a bit of where I'm filtering those tags to, in other words, taxonomy.

Because I didn't want to make the video overly long, I'm including screencaps of the bulk of my tags in gmail, along with some of my rules and reasoning behind them.

Here are the prized, above-the-fold tags:

screencap of gmail UI

Here are the tags just under the fold:

screencap of gmail UI

And here are the tags just below them:

screencap of gmail UI

There are a few more below that, but they're really just variations on a theme. Basically, I keep the stuff I don't want to see but want to keep at the very bottom of my long list of tags by using a system of more or les 'x's and colons. (Did I say "semi-colons" in the video? Enh. You know what I mean.)

I have a feeling this might be on the outside edge of usefulness for someone who reads this blog, but hey, I'm still kinda-sorta trying stuff out in these videos. So let me know what you think: good, bad, ugly.

And hey! At least they're getting shorter, right?


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