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:









Boris, the butt-monster

I’m exhausted by all the striving I see online.

—Patti Digh, in fear.less (which you really should read)

* * * * *

I have been having a spot of difficulty lately with my writing.

By “writing,” I mean “posting anything to outward-facing places like email or the Internet,” and by “a spot,” I mean “fucktons.”

Privately, I have written a great deal over these past several weeks—as much as (if not more than) I ever write. Pretty much every day, I write at least three pages, longhand, in a spiral notebook. Most days, I also sit down to one or another of my now TWO computers—whichever feels luckiest—and write quite a bit more in various text editors and/or word-processing programs.

Even more than writing, I have been reading lately: magazines, of course—no shortage of these had piled up during my little birthday project. And the Google Wave with Dave™ (aka the Greatest Blog in the World Written Just for Me).

But mostly, I have been reading books. Delicious, delightful, glorious books. I have three books going in the bedroom, three as part of my morning crank-up routine, one for the bathroom, and a few more on the Kindle, as I’ve been on the lam from my L.A. life these past several weeks, and carrying even one’s most beloved books becomes burdensome when it must be done on the back of an psychically exhausted, physically out-of-shape, middle-aged body. (Restoration work is underway here as well, but it will be some time before I am in, you’ll excuse my political incorrectness, Sherpa-shape.)

If my math is correct (and Lord knows, it frequently isn’t), I have read four times as many books in the three months since 50-for-50 ended as I did during the two months the project ran full-steam.1 Putting aside the unnatural competitiveness that would have me exceed last year’s final book total or feel a failure regardless of what other accomplishments I’d accrued, this much reading-of-books speaks to a deep need for filling the well back up in a particular way. Rest is great, but rest-plus-reading really does the trick.

Besides, one can only sit in a hot tub watching Midsomer Murders for so many hours per day. Although I have also astonished myself these past few months by how many “so many” can be. Also, how many episodes of Midsomer Murders exist.

* * * * *

For future reference, here’s a list of things not to do (in no particular order) when you are already feeling pretty darned bad about yourself:

  • Hold your breath
  • Sit with your legs crossed
  • Lift your shoulders up until they are just below your ears
  • Keep them there
  • Quit exercising
  • Eat a pound of dairy products
  • Refuse to leave the house, except to purchase more dairy products
  • Go on Twitter or Tumblr
  • Read any blogs except this, this, this, or possibly this
  • Wear your tight pants
  • Refuse to turn on the heat in your apartment because while you live in Southern California, you grew up in the Midwest where they have REAL winters, and besides, you are horrible and don’t deserve heat
  • Execute any items from the backlog of your to-do list
  • Look at your to-do list
  • Look at reminders of previous accomplishments
  • Wait to post something to blog until it is Significant

* * * * *

For a time in my early 20s, I lived in New York City—two years in what is probably still an unfashionable part of then-barely-fashionable Park Slope, and then, to reduce the possibility that I might lose my shit on the “F” train and do harm to myself or others in a sweaty fit of claustrophobia-induced rage, a final year in Midtown Manhattan. (Never underestimate the change of attitude to be gained by getting to work as one’s ancestors did, by rolling out of bed and walking a brisk 12 blocks to Madison and 41st. Also, corn muffins!)

I was conflicted from the moment my college roommate dropped me off at my new, temp-to-perm apartment. New York was awesome in both the yo, bra!  and traditional senses of the word: there were those rare days where everything clicked and it was like riding one big, long, beautiful, lazy wave in my own private music video; mostly, there were long stretches where New York's indifferent magnificence and seismic power kept my shoulders stooped and my sense of self in some kind of check. Ultimately, though, you either make your peace with the energy of New York, accepting that it is always-on and that you, spindly human creature, must lower your sights, or you leave. (Or, I guess, you harden parts of yourself and/or die, but these seemed unacceptable options to a headstrong young American lady of 25 years.)

I left—ostensibly, for a boy, but really, so I would not fry my delicate circuits—and moved back (back!, most awesome-in-the-old-way of all words next to "forward") to Chicago. For my first year there, friends would have to all but snatch a handful of coat to slow me down as we walked. Even when we weren't walking with much of a destination in mind. I received a new nickname—“the White Tornado”—which, I’m not proud to admit, I secretly adored. I ground my teeth and smoked my face off and moved to probably the only apartment in Chicago without an actual kitchen you could cook meals in, subsisting almost entirely on takeout, black coffee, and the bitter rinds of dwindling dreams; I lived, in other words, like I was still in New York, only with colder winters and much more closet space. I hated my job but refused to leave, I loved my boyfriend but refused to make time for the relationship, I hated myself but refused to consider doing even the tiniest thing differently. Magical change! That’s what I wanted!

Eventually, I found a new job, my boyfriend wised up and dumped me, and I got into therapy—not quite in that order, but close—and things did change, mostly because (hel-lo!) I changed them. Astonishing, right? To find one is not, in fact, locked in a dungeon in 17th-Century London, but that one has agency. Of course, humans being what they are and me being an especially human sort of human, my upwards trajectory from there was not without its backsliding and dips. But I never did slip back to that nadir of despair I felt before I walked into my first-shrink-slash-astrologer’s office and took the red pill. Can’t un-ring a bell, I guess.

What has eluded me, however—and rather astonishingly, when you consider how many times the Universe has been called upon to serve up the lesson in yet another shape—is how to slow the fuck down. How to grab the back of my own coat, if you will, and ratchet things back to a sprint. Every time I find myself here—Wile E. Colleen, blinking in midair, breaking the fourth wall to share with an unseen audience a woeful acknowledgment of my dumbass-ness in chasing a Road Runner (who will never, ever be caught) to the wrong side of the cliff—I wonder if there will ever come a day when I don’t find myself picking my broken self up and putting myself back together, just to repeat the sequence in the next reel.

* * * * *

They say, whoever “they” are, that you should never apologize for not updating your blog, the implication being that to do so is either presumptuous or tedious (or both). But even putting aside my very genuine feelings of sorrow over letting my public-facing work languish (and my worry that you will no longer love me, really love me), I am sorry: I’m sorry I caused some people to worry (and thank you for your emails, dear worriers); I’m sorry I requested attention by showing up regularly, only to throw it over when I couldn’t. With great privilege comes great responsibility, and don’t think for a minute I do not understand what an enormous privilege it is to have anyone’s attention for any amount of time in this day and age, much less for the amount of time these long-winded and mineral-dense essay-lets require.2

What I must give up, though I fear it will be neither simple nor easy, is being sorry that I cannot do it all. That I cannot fight New York and win, that I will never be always-on. How can I be? There are 8 million people in New York and just the one here at communicatrix HQ.

This goes double for the Internet, where everyone—no, really, everyone—is trying so hard all the time, and where, at least once per day, someone somewhere is posting the results of some extraordinary accomplishment. Both of these things are deadly to individual human beings: the striving for attention is, as Patti Digh says, exhausting; and comparison, as those smarty-pants Sufis know, is from the Devil (although the saying comes to me via that great and gentle Virgo, Mark Silver).

* * * * *

Repeat after me: “I will receive no awards for the things that mean the most to me.” Rewards? Certainly, and plenty of ’em, although if you are like me, Speedy Gonzales, it can take a while to recognize them as such.3 All I can say, from my privileged vantage point of 50, is “be patient” (and, though it should go without saying, “stay awake”). I am rewarded for going to bed at a reasonable hour with a rested mind capable of a productive day. I am rewarded for exercising some restraint around cheese with, among other things, comfortably-fitting pants. I am rewarded for the time actually spent exercising with a more cheerful outlook. And so on.

Awards add a frisson of awesome, both big and bra, and have their place. The ritual around them is nice, as is the occasional bit of formality, and coming together for a shared moment. But that is what they are, these outward-facing, peak experiences—frissons, blips on a long, and (let's face it) often dull radar trail of a life. A sane mind and a peaceful heart in a healthy body is pretty much the trifecta. For as much as I like my big-and-bra awesomes, I live for those bits of peace I’m able to string together in longer and longer increments. Hallelujah for getting older, I guess.

And so I will sign off by paraphrasing a few more words from my wonderful friend, Patti Digh4: while I was busy doing one thing, and a thing I very much loved doing, I did not realize how much I had gotten away from doing another thing, and a thing I very much love, for all that. Without recognizing it, I let things fall a bit out of balance a bit too long; I have been taking, and will continue to take, steps to bring myself back to balance. (And oh, holy cow, do I ever hope that my own returning to balance allows for a site redesign sometime in the coming year. We are overdue!)

I am back, albeit as a slightly different "I." I shall proceed with the moving-forward in an awesome-in-both-ways way. Big and scary (most of the time)! Big and super-fun (some of the time, or I'm ditching it entirely)! The newsletter will be back on Wednesday; the posting will resume with more regularity here. Those of you awaiting writing in the form of various perks from the big shindig will not, I am hopeful, have to be a-waiting forever. I will continue to do more of this talking stuff, and I will resume shaping the book version of the talked-about stuff.

And if you see me barreling ahead of you, for the love of all that's holy, grab the back of my coat, remind me of this post, and gently but firmly suggest slowing my pace.

I may growl at first, but not loudly, and certainly not for long.

xxx c

1Five books finished from 7/15 - 9/13 vs. twenty from 9/21 - 12/12. That’s four times, right? Or did I lose even that tiny, already-withered part of my brain, too?

2I am also sorry that I cannot always be there to engage with you, and to talk to you about your Thing, whatever that Thing may be, on Twitter or Tumblr or what-have-you. I am even sorrier that I cannot always support you in your Thing as vocally or renumeratively as I might like. At some point, I will give up this crazy notion of a quid pro quo world and really, truly make my peace with the excellent twin notions of from-each-to-each and Paying It Forward; for now, I mostly feel guilty and failure-ish. But if it is your Thing and you love it, you must do it anyway, and hate me as you like. Because each of us must work as hard as we can—although only as hard as we can—to get our Thing out of us and into the world. However, I am also pretty sure we should be very judicious about how many Things we throw our weight behind, or put out there. (Cf. Patti Digh in that excellent fear.less piece, which you really should read.)

3That’s two Warner Bros. cartoon references in one post. What do I win?

4Words which (I swear to you) I found only at the tail end of writing this piece. Is there something in the water, or is this a ladies-turning-50 thing, or what?


neatly stacked eggshells Once upon a time there was a man who would, from time to time, play a friendly game of tennis with his much-younger wife.

The wife was naturally athletic, highly competitive, and devoted hours to practice and instruction; the man was riddled with infirmities, profoundly disinterested in sports, and played as seldom as the bounds of his conscience and her nagging would allow.

Yet he regularly wiped the court with her.

After each fresh loss, she'd complain (with no small bitterness) that he was hitting the ball all wrong, that he hacked away at it with same lack of form and style and basic respect for the game exhibited by his droopy, borderline-impermissible outfits. Forget fair—how was it even possible that he won with such maddening regularity?

To which he’d inevitably reply that he simply did the easiest thing for himself, which was to put the ball in the most difficult place for her.

* * * * *

Do you wish for things to be perfect? I do. Or did. There was a time when I owned (no lie) two crystal decanters (one for bourbon, one for scotch) and ironed my cloth napkins by hand. As a small girl, I used to drive my mother crazy by depositing into the laundry hamper t-shirts that I’d tried on and decided not to wear; tried-on jersey knits, I argued, get stretched out in the trying-on, and thus needed to be washed and dried again to be properly considered “clean.”

These days, unless company is imminent I rarely notice dirt smaller than my forearm, and we will not discuss how many days in a row I will wear a pair of yoga pants or how, say, I eat most of my meals. (Okay, we will: as quickly as possible, usually in front of some kind of screen.) But the longing for perfection dies hard. While I’m no longer squeamish about a sticky kitchen floor or a little black mold on the tub caulking (at least, not in my own bathroom), I still lose days to reorganizing the files on my hard drive. I am sure there is a right way to name my files, and that someone else knows what it is, and that if I listen to just one more podcast about workflow, the secrets of a clean, orderly hard drive will be revealed to me, and life (by which, of course, I mean my work) will finally be perfect.

And by “finally be perfect,” I mean, of course, that I will feel safe and loved, welcomed warmly by the legions of happy, well-adjusted, together people with clean, orderly hard drives as I step through the secret Willy Wonka door at the back of the wardrobe that was there all along, had I just chosen to see it.

* * * * *

Speaking of hard drives, I have spent the past two weeks wrestling with mine. Actually, because of the way hard drives work (or don’t), we’ve apparently been wrestling for more like two months; only as the slowdowns and hangs and crashes begin to outweigh the up time did I figure out what was what.1

While I defy you to pick a good time for your hard drive to melt down, this really was an exceptionally bad one. Coming off of my massive birthday project (fulfillment of which has only just begun), I’d immediately dived into a little speaking tour for my fine photography clients, while simultaneously prepping a brand new talk deconstructing the project. When it became clear I’d reached the point of no return in Laptop Land, I took a cold, hard look at my calendar: it was Friday afternoon; my first scheduled delivery of the presentation was on Tuesday evening. If everything went perfectly, I would be able to hit things hard on Sunday, and still have three solid days to work on my slides.

First of all, never use the terms “perfectly” and “computers” in the same sentence; you’re asking for trouble. Secondly, things went so not-perfectly that come Sunday, I’d been reduced to a tangled knot of gassy intestines surrounded by an alarming number of index cards. By Monday night, I straight-up gave in and bought a new laptop. Which is awesome in many ways, starting with the one where I live on a planet where that’s possible and ending with a brand-new Macbook Air in my shoulder bag, but bad as an indicator of how smoothly things were going overall. Because brother, I am cheap, and I wasn’t planning on Computer #2 for another six months.

Anyway, my brand-new Air and I hunkered down on Tuesday and put together what was so far from a perfect presentation as to be laughable, but a presentation it was. At the appointed hour, I trundled everything over to the little Meetup group that was kind enough to be my guinea pig, took a deep breath, did the disclaimer dance of a lifetime, and let ‘er rip.

Roughly two hours and a million-billion excellent questions (and answers) later, we were done, and I was finished. But in the most wonderful, wonderful way—used up, like you’re supposed to be. It had been slow in places and too fast in other places and bumpy in lots of places, but it worked: we got the information from one place (me) to another (them), with excellent feedback in the opposite direction. Because somewhere in there, I’ve managed to play enough tennis that I can put the ball in the right places when I need to. Only in this case, nobody lost, and everybody won, and a pretty good time was had by all.

So much for perfect.

* * * * *

Seven years ago today, I hit “publish” on the first of, at this counting, 1,375 posts on communicatrix-dot-com. Ever since that first day, I’ve harbored visions of turning this blog into something spectacular—fast-loading, with loads of features and a terrific, user-friendly design and REAL categories and an actual search function that works. The perfect, perfect place I see glimpses of in my dreams. Someday, when I have the money, when I have the time, when I have the energy.

In my lucid moments, I realize that these things are all excellent, they are not the point. What matters is getting the thoughts from here to there; what matters is that I have a place to take what I’ve lived and learned and spin it into some kind of yarn that someone else might find useful. A little knotty in places, but useful, nonetheless.

Were we living in a perfect world, this post would have flowed like water—from my brain, through my fingers, out to you. And it would have done so yesterday, on a non-travel day, ready to go up at the stroke of midnight.

As it is, I have my friend Dyana to thank for getting it up in time, period. You see, I’d forgotten that today was my blogiversary until I got her email congratulating me on it this morning. Shamed, I decided to forgo my usual travel-day ritual—freaking out about getting to the airport on time, followed by lots of reading on my Kindle—and write instead.

It is neither the best nor the worst thing I have ever written; it lies pretty squarely in the middle.

But here it is, just over the net, just inside the line. Right where it's supposed to be.

xxx c

1A major shout-out here to the fine folk at ShirtPocket, makers of the must-have backup utility, SuperDuper, both for the free troubleshooting and for making a product that has more than once saved my bacon.


Image by Robert S. Donovan via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Overriding wants, or, "What Detroit's got to do with it"

americano from caffe umbria in seattle Every morning, after ramping up with a mug of weak tea, I have one giant cup of incredibly strong coffee.

Almost immediately, I am filled with focused energy, high spirits, and love for my fellow man. Which, even though it's happened every single day for the past 30 years (give or take the occasional streak of repentance), still manages to surprise me each time.

It feels so surprisingly good, in fact, that as soon as I finish my giant cup of coffee, I want another one. Just today. Just this once. Because that first cup really put me in the right mood, only I didn't quite get everything done that I wanted to while I was riding the black wave. And I have a lot to do. And, hey, it's Thursday (or Monday, or Saturday) and sunny (or hazy, or sometimes, even raining), and no one is the goddamn boss of me—why the hell not, right?

The part of me that's self-actualized, well-shrunk, and sober enough to remember the vapor trails of coffees past knows why, of course. It recalls that while one is good, two is more likely jitters, or a disruption in sleep cycle, or even (you'll pardon the indelicacy) significant gastric distress. And it further recalls, with no small quantity of shame, that two often leads to three, which inevitably opens the gateway to a flare.

But that un-evolved bundle of impulses that's jacked to the tits on Shortcut Joy Juice? It couldn't care less; it just wants more, please.


* * * * *

I'm not a Desire Noob. I grok the whole Buddhist "attachment is suffering" thing—intellectually, anyway. I'm aware that quite often, in the same way that thirst or sleepiness can masquerade as hunger, objects of desire stand in for other, less-easily identified or fulfilled (or acceptable) needs. I definitely understand that when I'm going after something outside of myself, it's usually because I'm feeling unfed somewhere inside of myself.

Where and what are a little harder to suss out.

The Universe, for its part, seems to love nothing better than a good self-improvement project, so it's been throwing resources my way.

One book I've stumbled on describes extramarital affairs—a veritable hotbed of attachment and suffering—as a duck-and-run for something each party involved would prefer to avoid addressing in himself. Which on the one hand is kind of a gigantic "no duh" and on the other, is a little unsettling: all infidelities? For all parties—transgressors and aggrieved?

So for fun (because this book sure isn't), I leaf through the back catalog of my own sordid past—the wrongs I've done, the WAY worse wrongs that have been done to me. And I reluctantly admit to myself that indeed, in every case, we were a trio of self-deluded, sometimes self-righteous jackholes who were, in one way or another, refusing to live in our truth of truths.

Another book helpfully provides a definitive list of things that spur us on to do other things. Things like wanting sex & love or fame/money/power are, no surprise, at the top, followed fairly logically by things like "master mind group" and shared survivor experiences. (Also, surprisingly—but awesomely—music!)

At the bottom, the author lists two negative change agents: fear and drugs/alcohol. Which at first seemed nutso, until I really thought about them as part of a hierarchy of intentions. After which I had to admit, they made a lot more sense: the same rotten conditions that can foster a peaceful revolution can, when you add fear, create an angry mob and insalubrious changes. And chemically-altering substances can foster all kinds of actions, but erratically and unreliably.

By this logic, it appeared that if it was my desire to feel energized, focused, joyous, and loving that drove me to drink coffee, it would take some equally strong—if not stronger—desire to counter it.

* * * * *

Speaking of sex and love, back when I was in the process of quitting smoking—which basically involves stopping all at once, then keeping yourself from starting over and over (and over) again—I remember thinking how great it would be if, every time I wanted a cigarette, in lieu of lighting up I could grab someone and make out with them. I hadn't worked out the why of it, exactly; I think I likened it to that thing where you distract yourself from an aching tooth by pinching your arm really hard. Only this would be a craving that could cancel out another craving.

Now I wonder if that wasn't what smoking was for me all along—a way to distract myself from a powerful but terrifying craving to create and/or connect with the All-That-Is.

Perhaps it wasn't ever the nicotine I really wanted, but feeling at one with all life.

* * * * *

I'm officially on the road now. San Diego and Boston last week, Minneapolis this one, a U.S. City Near You coming soon. In just over two months, I'll have traveled more than I did in the first nine months of the year combined.

This is not a complaint; I'm out there doing what I love and getting paid for it, which is something I've worked toward for a long time. It's just a reality that constant travel is far harder on my current body than the one I had when I first envisioned this as a viable lifestyle. (And that's not even getting into how travel itself has declined since my previous traveling heyday, aka the '80s.)

However, the travel is good for my body in one way. Because my desire to do this work is so strong, whatever helps me do it serves as a powerful motivator for not doing something else—in this case, drinking that second cup of coffee. When the urge to re-caffeinate comes on, I now ask myself: "Do you want that cup of coffee, or do you want to go to Detroit?"

I get that "Detroit" might not work for everyone. Right now, however, it works for me.

* * * * *

One final thought on using will (or greater, future-you wants) to override current wants: some compassion is necessary. Because change is a process, not a switch. Some days, I have the best intentions of sticking to one cup...then wash them down with a second. Other days I slip up (or back, or sideways) in other ways: I'll eat something that's not on the SCD, or I'll stay up too late and clip my sleep on the other end, or I won't go for my walk, or I overindulge on wine or (legal) sweets.

Not that any of these things are terrific, but what's worse is beating myself up over it. Note, correct, and move on. If there's time in there, I do some sussing for triggers. If not, don't beat myself up over that, either.

Because beating myself up doesn't get me closer to anything. Even Detroit.

xxx c


I vastly underestimated my ability to do something "impossible." And I vastly overestimated my ability to recover from it.

* * * * *

It is curious, the formless form recovery takes.

When I was recovering from my Crohn's onset nine years ago, there was a constant tension between wanting to leap forward, back into life, and needing to fall backward into bed. Maybe this is how our crazy will to live manifests itself: as soon as we're assured that we're not actually dying, we're programmed to grab for the next branch to pull ourselves up with. Only it's not the logical branch—that one right there, just a few inches above us, with a groove that looks uncannily like a handle; it's that one over there on that other tree—at the tippy-top, a mere vine's-swing away. And so—well, there's a lot of falling and flailing.

What I want right now, for example, is to EAT THE WORLD—to "Mary Poppins" my way back to order and sanity, to launch the 147 new ideas that have floated into my head since this 50-for-50 madness began, and to experience the hell out of everything I've had to put on hold. I want to wrassle my Excel spreadsheets to the ground and merge them with MailChimp and fulfill all those perks, already. I want to write that first book I've been putting off for five years. I want to bake a freezer-full of SCD-legal bread, walk a labyrinth, drive cross-country, spend an hour on the phone with each of my friends, and digitize my tapes. I want to read the 25 books piled up in my to-read stack and buy 50 more (and still check out a couple every time I visit the library). I want to go paperless, speak Spanish, walk a mile a day, learn calligraphy, buy a sofa, move, adopt a dog, fall in love, host a dinner party, spend a month in Australia, plant a garden, and empty all my inboxes.

What my body wants, on the other hand, is to sit in a tub of extra-salty water with the lights out, a glass each of seltzer and bourbon beside me, and some soothing BBC porn streaming from my laptop a few feet away. (While I slowly, carefully shave my head.) (For the third time in two weeks.)

Two steps up, four steps sideways, and a backwards dip into the bath. It's quite a pas-de-deux I'm having with myself.

* * * * *

For me, one of the most insidious but helpful indicators of overload is the desire to acquire.

It can manifest as the desire for tangible goods, like books or gadgets or art, but just as often these days, it shows up as digital items—electronic file folders overflowing with stories to read later, eCourses I have no time to complete. I have showed Brooks Palmer my considerable and embarrassing hoard of paper and CDs, but I lacked the fortitude to share the rickety hard drives filled with busted fonts, crufty Quark files, and PDF manifestos.

And let us not speak of the overworked, underutilized Someday/Maybe list.

I have now read enough books about clutter and watched enough episodes of Hoarders to know that this itch to take things on speaks to some lack that these items can never, ever fulfill. When I am sane and well-rested, I have the discipline to resist all stores but the one that sells groceries, and to visit that one only when well-fed, and with list in hand. When I have rested my body I can exercise it, and when I've exercised it, I can make it sit still and write. When I have allowed myself to really feel all the things I am actually feeling—which I hate to do, because it almost always involves crying—I find a calm afterward that allows me to do or even just be, that transforms me from Ms. Pac-Man nom-nom-ing my way through random ones and zeroes to an actual human being who can listen to herself and others with something resembling compassion, who stands an honest-to-God chance of really being useful.

* * * * *

When things get really crazy, the only thing to do is get super-normal. I go back to the small, simple-not-easy things that ground me in reality, then let me inch across that ground. I make my bed. I wash the dishes. When enough days have passed where the dishes have been washed, I clean the sink. I buy groceries and cook meals from them instead of eating takeout. I walk, I work out to an exercise video, I hold Horse Stance for five minutes. I lapse. I write my morning pages. I recover. I lapse again (which I guess would be a relapse). I meet with my master mind group; they tell me to do what I know I must, the simple-not-easy things.

Fall off. Get back on. Fall off. Get back on.

* * * * *

I had an idea that recovery would take two weeks, and so I dutifully blocked them off on my calendar. It turns out that blocking things off does not a restful time make—you actually have to rest, too. But there is always something else to be done that looks more interesting, and, more to the point, that seems more productive.

As always, the first step to changing a behavior is realizing you have it; the next is noticing when, then why it's happening. You get to—or really, you have to keep living your life as you change. Recovery, a.k.a. living, is messy and non-linear. But much like life itself, it beats the alternative.

xxx c

Wanna make some art, lazy-man style AND help clear out your house at the same time? Check out my friend Leah Peterson's Group Painting project and contribute some earthly detritus. I'm releasing last year's three Nikki McClure calendars. Yay, art!

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

What's up & what's gone down :: September 2011

the author with and without hair A mostly monthly but certainly occasional round-up of what I've been up to and what's in the hopper. For full credits and details, see this entry.

Colleen of the future (stuff I'll be doing)

  • Fundraising on the Mac with IndieGoGo [Apple Store, 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica: TONIGHT, 9/21, 7-8pm] I'll be featured on this monthly panel, talking about (I assume) some of what I learned during my recently-completed 50-for-50 Project.
  • "Making People Love You Madly" tour [October dates: San Diego, 10/6; Boston, 10/11; Minneapolis, 10/19] I'm hitting the road with a beefed-up version of my "marketing in the postmodern age" talk starting early in October for my client, the American Society of Media Photographers. Many of the chapters allow non-members to attend for a fee. This version of the talk uses specific examples from the world of commercial photography, but anyone with a small creative business will come away with plenty of ideas. And, if you're good at networking, many new contacts from the world of photography!
  • October L.A. Biznik Mixer at Jerry's Famous [Los Angeles; Wednesday, October 19 OCTOBER 26!]  Fun, free, low-key networking plus great tips, tricks and ideas from your fellow indie-biz folk, which of course includes me. Duh. My co-host again this month is South Bay illustrator Donna Barger. Rumor has it there will be buttons available to support a certain cause. And that they are effing awesome. Join up here (free membership, which is nice), and you'll be emailed when the notice goes live.
  • Seattle Interactive Conference [Seattle, November 2-3] I'll be presenting a new talk on the Biznik Stage, all about the b.s. of "silver bullets," and how regular people can mobilize an audience.

Colleen of the Past (what I have done for you lately)

Colleen of the Present (stuff I do, rain or shine)

  • communicatrix | focuses :: My monthly newsletter devoted to the ways and means of becoming a better clearer communicator (plus a few special treats I post nowhere else). This month: How to talk FAST (or, pulling a talk for 500 people out of your ass the night before). Free!
  • Act Smart! is my monthly column about marketing for LA Casting. Nominally for actors, there's a ton of good info in there for any creative business person. Browse the archives, here.
  • Internet flotsam :: If you suffer from a surfeit of time, you can always look for me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, StumbleUpon and delicious. Oh, and that Google+ all the nerds are yakking about. But not much yet. Only so many hours in a day.

xxx c

Photo (with hair) by Shawn G. Henry; Photoshopping (without hair) by Donna Barger.


Of all the questions I'm asked about the 50-for-50 Project, the one that comes up most frequently is definitely "Why the hair?"

Sometimes it comes up in the context of context—i.e., What the hell does shaving your head have to do with raising money for WriteGirl?—which I can understand. More on that in a bit, although since we've officially begun bean-spilling time, I may as well confess that the desire to shave (or at least, the desire to see what the hell was under all that hair) pre-dated the desire to do anything remotely selfless by a good eight years. I mean, what woman hasn't sweated through a grow-out summer or written that check for single-process color AGAIN or, hey, seen another bald chick and wondered to herself what it would be like?

But far more frequently, Why the hair? might be loosely translated as What are you, crazy? So few choose baldness (and let's face it, even the "bald by choice" crowd is more accurately described as "balder by choice") that opting out of hair is seen as extreme. Why would you do voluntarily what sick people are dragged into kicking and screaming? (And I'm speaking of our friends in chemo, not casting aspersions on military recruits, religious orders, or even right-wing extremists. Although, well, you know.)

* * * * *

The party line for "Why the hair?" vis-à-vis a fundraiser for Girl Empowerment came from my friend Daniel Will-Harris, another writer/performer/marketing hybrid-freak like me. Figures, right?

I was still casting about for a way to quickly sum up a logical "why" when I threw out the problem to him in an email exchange we had way back in mid-July, just two weeks shy of Launch Day. What he wrote back was so logical, so obvious, that if I'd had time to do it between the eleventy-seven constant items on my to-do list, I'd have kicked myself.

Because it's about what's inside a girl's head, not what's outside.

Duh. I mean, DUH.

Delighted, I tucked away this nugget in my filthy miner's pockets to satisfy curiosity in the metaphorical saloons of tomorrow, and did not think much more about the email—except, of course, to credit Daniel whenever I used the line, because I'm not an ass—until I pulled it up to check the date on it for this piece. And as I scanned it for the money phrase, I finally saw an equally important line below it:

How many men can you recognize just by their haircuts?

Sure there are thejoke haircuts. And, ironically, the very serious "Kojak."But really, how many?

Whereas I'll bet that with absolutely no help from Google Image Search, you could come up with five or ten examples of women identifiable by haircut on the spot. Hell, I think Jennifer Aniston and Madonna might be responsible for five or ten iconic styles between them. Every day on Pinterest, I find yet another worshipful gallery of wish-list hair styled created by yet another woman. And so we're clear on this, I'm not immune.

The more you think about it, the worse it gets: How many hours do we spend on our hair? And how many dollars? Even worse, how much emotion do we have tied up in it? How often do we judge—ourselves, our friends, complete strangers—on something as evanescent and arbitrary as hair? This person is [old/hip/stylish/frumpy]. To be [pitied/admired/envied].

Just how attached are we to our hair? Or, by extension (you'll pardon the pun), to any of our other external markers?

Like most things I write on my blog, when I say "we," I'm most definitely saying "me." When she did my chart, my first-shrink-slash-astrologer warned me that with Venus in Leo, my obsession with my hair wasn't going to end anytime soon. "You'll always need to be happy with your hair," she said.

Which is why I thought of her when I woke up last Wednesday morning and really looked at myself in the mirror for the first time. Could I be happy with my hair, I wondered, if my hair was no-hair?

Because unless I had completely lost my head along with the stuff on top of it, I was actually digging my no-hair, and was thinking of not-keeping it.

* * * * *

Trust me when I say that I have thought through the angles on this baby. I know that my no-hair could easily become as much of a "thing" as my hair ever was, if not more. Already, it's my new toy: I have endless fun in the store, trying on this or that, seeing what works with the not-hair.1 While I have no hair, I have no less vanity. Indeed, I may have more: I actually like how I look! And I am not at all embarrassed that I like it!

So (a), it's clear that I have not exactly evolved to a higher plane and, (b) it's bizarre as hell, but there it is. Me, bald equals me, pretty. Go figger.

But it's not all vanity. I've jokingly referred to the effect the shave has had on me as a "reverse Samson", and I wasn't kidding—I feel almost shockingly more powerful than I did pre-shave. Part of all this feeling good is doubtless a residual effect of accomplishment: raising more than $50,000 is a not-insubstantial achievement, and overcoming my fear of doing something I considered impossible is arguably a bigger one. (It's the lesson I hope anyone looking through all this for one will find, anyway.)

The thing is, I am not sure what the thing is just yet. There's so much to unpack about this experience that it could take me some time. More time than nature allows: hair grows fast. In a week, I've already gone from razor-smooth to sandpaper to velcro to enjoyable fuzz. Seriously—I'd be the hit of the rave these days, if they still had raves, and if I could be talked into going to one. My friend The Other Colleen, who was also bald for a time, warns me of weeks to come that will be filled with people wanting to rub my head like it was a Buddha belly or an especially soft cat.

For now, then—until I can figure this out, and until I can get some mileage from my surprisingly feminine new wardrobe—I'm sticking with not-hair. And when I find I have some answers, or perhaps that I've become a wee bit overly attached to turning heads (albeit for reasons of freakiness), or I'm through The Change, or I'm assured that it will grow in the luxurious shade of silver I'm longing for, then I'll probably grow it out again.

Maybe. Possibly.

Unless, of course, I don't.

xxx c

Photo by the amazing Josh Ross. Full gallery of his "photobooth" shots of the head-shaving is here. There's also a terrific series of "event" photos by the equally amazing Barry Schwartz. 

1Slim, clingy, simple, and dark, for starters; "patterned," "structured," and "outré," my former go-to looks, now make me look like a tiny lesbian court jester. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Start with the end in mind

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bcj0rnmIiz4& 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.


a whole bunch of very special Field Notes books This post is #49 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.

At some point, you must release into the world the work you have labored over privately.

It will have smudges and smears and imperfections. It will not be all of what you had hoped for in some places. It will be more than you ever dreamed of in others.

But as you let it go—as you ship it, in the parlance of the day—you will feel one very specific, very glorious thing:


xxx c

Never forget

I am finally old enough to start understanding certain things that I used to think I understood. The line about those not knowing history being doomed to repeat it, for example. I've made too many of the same mistakes more than once because of my failure to process them properly. That's not much to offer by way of wisdom. As to comfort, I have even less.

So I simply wish that the people for whom this day is especially difficult find some small bit of peace. I will continue trying to make myself worthy of the sacrifices others have made on my behalf by leaving things better than I found them, by showing gratitude for each bit of each day, and by remembering with an eye toward not repeating the past.

Peace on Earth, good will to all.

xxx c

50-for-50: Frequently asked questions

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IQZhGoLqBs] This post is #47 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.

Eventually, when this is behind me, I'll write up a more organized list of FAQs. But the video above and the list below take care of some of the things I've been getting asked a lot now that are sort of time-sensitive.

1. Party invitations

If you have given money for a party invite and have not received one from us (they're coming from Pingg.com), contact me IMMEDIATELY: colleen AT communicatrix DOT com. I will forward your email to Jill Murphy, who's taken over party stuff so my head doesn't explode before we can get the hair off of it. But yes, all the invites have gone out.

2. Perk fulfillment & thank-yous

We—or rather, I—will be fulfilling perks after the close of the campaign. Probably at least a week after, because I seriously need a week to just recover. Since I'm doing it myself, it may take a while, but you will get your stuff, digital or physical.

As to thank-yous, I didn't promise I'd do this, but I want to. Again, it will take a while. Please be patient! I can only do so much, and I have taken two months off of work to do the campaign, so I have to work, too. Because boy, Anthem Blue Cross gave me the OPPOSITE of a birthday present. Okay. 'Nuff said on that one.

3. How I did what I did

I've started getting a number of requests for information on how I organized, ran, prepped, etc. the campaign. I will be sharing everything I learned over the next couple of months. Maureen Anderson interviewed me (and separately, Keren Taylor, director of WriteGirl) for The Career Clinic radio show; I'm going to do an interview for IndieGoGo's newsletter and a Q&A via Skype with Don Stanley for his Social Media class at University of Wisconsin-Madison, which hopefully, they'll post for other people to see.

I will also be writing things up myself, so please subscribe to the blog and subscribe to the newsletter to make sure you get those. You can unsubscribe whenever you want—I encourage it, in fact. But if you email me asking for the info, you'll just get a reply to look for the info here. It will become recursive and annoying, and neither of us wants that to happen.

Again, please be patient. I'm pretty overwhelmed now, and I cannot help but think I will be more so once it sinks in that I am a 50-year-old lady with no hair.

4. T-shirt fulfillment

The "Old." shirts are printed all at once, then shipped out by the printer. You should receive your "Old." shirt sometime in October, if you ordered one. (And no, you can't order one now—orders have been closed.)

5. Yes, I'm donating the hair

To these people. They seem nice, and they are definitely NOT blowing their money on web design, which makes us simpatico.

6. When is the last day to contribute?

September 13, 2011. After that, you're welcome to donate money to WriteGirl, and I hope you will. But to say you're a part of this crazy little project we're all working on together OFFICIALLY, kick in here by Tuesday. Early. Because I may or may not have set the campaign to run out before 11:59pm Pacific.

Okay! That's all I got for now.

Catch you on the flip-flop!

xxx c

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #68: 50-for-50 edition

desktop wallpaper designed by spencer cross This post is #46 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.

The Reverend Molly, who found her way to 50-for-50 via Sugar, shared this absolutely beautiful (and also, very interesting and helpful) piece on what it's like to live outside the cultural norm—in her case, sans hair.

Not only was Sugar stunningly generous in devoting her entire weekly column to 50-for-50, she specifically articulated what was so meaningful about this whole project for all of us in a way none of us, myself included, have been able to.

A beautiful (what else?) story from interviewee Leah Reich about her experiences growing up in a small Colorado town, and what it means to have someone believe in you.

A gorgeous tribute by interviewee, client, and good friend Judy Herrman about why we undertake bits of certifiable insanity like 50-for-50. And living.

This piece mistakenly says I've already shaved, but let's not hold this against them. Because an awesome plug is an awesome plug, and hey, Donna Barger did do a bang-up job with the Photoshopping!

Finally, I love the support from the gentlemens, too.

Image inside the frame by Spencer Cross, awesome designer, dog-owner, human being, and founder of kernspiracy designers' group. You can get it in a luxurious, desktop-sized image of inspiration with a $15 contribution to the 50-for-50 project on IndieGoGo, through September 13, 2011.

And on the 50th day, they partied

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsvNxTJlI9E 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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uo5mIyLVb20 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


[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijirOr2ad1s&w=475&h=297] This post is #43 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.

Apparently the Evil Salesmen of Illegally Obtainable Wood-Making Pharmaceuticals (and you know who you are) will stop at nothing to shill their effing crap.

Yes, even subverting the process of helping high school girls become strong, productive members of society. (As opposed to, oh, say, Sleazy and Morally Bankrupt Salesmen of Illegally Obtainable Wood-Making Pharmaceuticals. AHEM.)

We spent the better part of Monday—Labor Day, ironically!—trying to put Humpty together again. We've decided our efforts are better-placed posting interviews, prepping the big head-shaving extravaganza, and, most importantly, raising as much money as possible for WriteGirl by Tuesday, September 13.

So, heyóif you want to stick it to those Godless and Child-Hating Salesmen of Illegally Obtainable Wood-Making Pharmaceuticals, how about doing one of the following:

  • Donate! (always a good choice, especially if you haven't yet)
  • Tell someone! That person sitting next to you, maybe, or some friends on Facebook, or that cute guy in line at the coffee shop. (Hey—could be a win/win!)
  • Alert the media! Not about this stupid website hacking—about our 50-for-50 Project, where we are banding together in a massive uprising of communal effort to CHANGE THE WORLD for the better. Because hey, a bunch of regular people raising $50,000 in 40 days—yes, that's 10 days ahead of schedule—to make the world a better place is the kind of good news we could all stand to hear more of.
I hope to be back to our regularly scheduled hoopla soon.
xxx c


[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DaAJcNnF9Q&w=475&h=297] This post is #42 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.

Every morning, I get up and make myself a cup of weak tea. On the days where will wins out, I make the bed and dress myself while the kettle boils; on days where it doesn't, I anxiously check my email for Letters In The Night, new missives there to cheer, rile, entertain or tweak me.

Afterwards, with breakfast, I have a cup of coffee. Strong, but espresso, so in my head, it's okay with my gut. (It's not, but that's a story for another day.)

Then I brush my teeth and take my meds while the kettle boils again. I drink the second weak cup (with honey, when the will loses out) while I sit at my analog desk, read my morning's motivational stuff, and write a few pages longhand, Julia-Cameron-style.

* * *

We passed $50,000 yesterday evening, September 3, 2011, at 8:10pm Pacific Daylight Time. It's a thing I knew would happen, though I had no idea of how. And of course, the answer is complex, like most things: a mix of work and many hands making that work lighter, and a sprinkling of fairy dust, I suspect. I will, at some point when this is all behind us, debrief myself, analyze it, and share what I've learned, as well as what "process" I had, so that we may all benefit.

For now though, this: we have reached $50,000. We may congratulate ourselves on that. But we are not done.

* * *

This morning, that glorious Southern dollop of inspiration Patti Digh came up with a brilliant idea: what if we could each forgo our Starbucks runs this week and toss that money into the kitty?

I'm all over that one, with one problem: I'm already so cheap, I make all my caffeinated beverages at home. So I've come up with an alternate sacrifice, a different change in routine, which I hope my fellow cheapskates can use to join in the fun:

For the balance of the campaign, I will forgo my morning email check to do some writing, to take some action, that will benefit WriteGirl.

I will, in other words, suck it the fuck up and try to be the change I want to see in the world. Because as much as I want to see each and every person out there who lands in my inbox, my first job as a writer is to take care of the writer. And write.

And yeah, I'll be hustling for dollars, too. BIG dollars. Bigger than I dared dream aloud until now. But more on that in time.

For now, enjoy that last Starbucks, and the rest of the Labor Day weekend. And then let's DO THIS THING.

xxx c

aka "Baldy"

There is no "over", only "done"

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUviehKRNjY&w=475&h=297] This post is #41 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.

We were a hair's breadth from reaching the $50,000 mark when I said, okay, I typed into Facebook, that I hoped I'd be able to get the above video posted to the web before this whole thing was over.

Whereupon my wise, slightly-elder friend and font of inspiration Patti Digh said, okay, typed back into Facebook:

It's never over, sugar; it just ends.

(She's from the South, see; she can get away with that "sugar" stuff.)

And she's right, and about more than crazy birthday fundraising schemes: you don't stop writing because you're done with your book; you start writing a new book.

We're now past the $50,000 mark. So much happened in a few hours, I'm fairly overwhelmed. It's a good thing I didn't wait until now to make today's video, and not just because there's no light left.

Know this: I am grateful for every step of this journey so far. I am grateful to every single person who gave, passed along word, promoted, lent a sweaty hand, and cheered.

And this part has ended. But it ain't over. Not by a long shot.

xxx c

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #67: 50-for-50 edition

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sp1uuZUaTfY&w=475&h=297] This post is #40 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.

My delightful friend (and 50-for-50 interviewee) Maureen Anderson sent out another flare about our little to-do. Bless her heart, as they say south of the Mason-Dixon! And look for another sure-to-be-groovy radio interview yakfest featuring us, very soon!

Wherein we make the relaunch of the Roving Robin Report. Which we still cannot say three times fast.

What if you got a typewriter but didn't know what to write?

Danielle LaPorte, amazing supporter of women and girls and dreams that she is, pulls out all the stops in support of 50-for-50 and WriteGirl. GET IN ON THIS CALL. I did!

50-for-50 gets a sweet plug just above a sweet cake in my friend Beth Goldfarb's excellent newsletter.

A wonderful essay about the importance of writing over the course of a lifetime.

Another lovely post about WriteGirl's model and 50-for-50 from a mother and biology teacher.

Anna Rascout-Paz takes the baton from Naomi Dunford speaking out against terrorizing women and for empowering girls.

My friend Kate takes some time out of her new-mom schedule to plug 50-for-50.

Patti Digh does a good round-up. She generously included the 50-for-50 interview with Amy McCracken in this one. (Then again, what an interview!)

Building on the "you cannot focus on two things at once" advice put forth by David Robinson in his conversation with colleague Patti Digh.

Yet another wonderful, big-hearted artist has been inspired by WriteGirl to give to the 50-for-50 Project. For every piece of art you buy through the morning of 9/13/11, Jill Lena Ford will donate half the money to 50-for-50 for WriteGirl.

Big love from the GeekMom, who not only gives 50-for-50 a shoutout, but yours truly thanks for creating a non-boring campaign. Aw...the pleasure was mine!

More nerd-mom love for WriteGirl from CecilyK in the MomCrunch column at Babble.

Lisa Baldwin comes with a great idea: pool resources to buy a writing community WriteGirl poem.

Did you post about 50-for-50 and did I miss it? I would not be surprised, the days pass by in a hazy blur of frenzied activity, internet-related and otherwise. Please do let me know! I would love to highlight it here!

When numbers are enough

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJF2kaittOU&w=475&h=297] This post is #39 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.

$45,390 (so far).

796 funders (so far).

Can't count the tweets, Facebook posts, Google+s. Really can't count the private emails, phone calls, and one-on-one conversations.

Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, numbers speak as loud as words ever could. And when that time comes, like now, writers need to know when to shut up and be grateful. For numbers.

xxx c



[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUdWR1lOvPA&w=475&h=297] [A video that has exactly ZERO to do with this post!]

This post is #38 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.

Forget the long hours, the unbelievable amount of writing, and the constant low-level anxiety about not raising what I'd set out to raise: the hardest thing about this whole campaign by far was sitting down to write the defining, outward-facing piece.

I've been turning various pieces of this idea around in my head for well over a year, more like a year and a half. I'd drafted rough copy, made lists, secured help with various pieces of the production and (my usual least-favorite thing) asked for favors in the form of goods and services for the perks. I'd even shot a video, with the help of good friends. And still, writing and then hitting "publish" on that IndieGoGo site was the killer.

I'm not sure why this should surprise me. I go through the same thing when the long shadows provided by time finally disappear and I can no longer put off the actual writing of that column, that article, that presentation. And delivery, whether it's a "send" or a step up to the mic in real time, never gets easier. Not even as I get more adept at the writing. The bar just moves up a notch.

It will never, ever be perfect, whatever it is. It will never even be as good as I want it to be, most likely.

But one thing is even more certain than that: if I don't start, it won't be. And that is no longer acceptable.

And so I start. Again.

xxx c