communicatrix

Good enough, Day 21: Day 22, or The Beginning

I have never been especially good at math. I am also highly distractible, and find that I can lose time when I’m focused on something. Or not focused on something! Which is to say, pretty much anytime.

At some point in this series, I lost a day. No, really—go back and count the days. I started on the 24th of August—a Saturday—specifically so that it would end on a Friday—the 13th of September, my birthday. I used two different online calculators and then counted out the days manually, just to be sure.

Alas, somewhere between Tuesday the 27th (a tiny piece on meditation) and Thursday the 29th (a poem), I had a time bubble in my brain, and lost a day—a Wednesday. I was posting things quite late in the day already at that point, as usually happens with these series, and people were responding to each day’s post the following day, as the emails were arriving at rather weird hours in the inboxes of America, and so I somehow convinced myself that not only had I gotten that day’s work done, but also the next day’s.

I did fret about this a little. I HAD BROKEN THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT. I had made a promise to write every day, 21 days in a row, and now I’d ruined everything. I thought about coming clean right then. I thought about doubling up (or is it down?) the next day. For a brief moment, I even thought about proceeding as if nothing had happened, finishing out the run, and leaving things at that.

And then I came to my senses: this was a series about letting go of perfection to make way for something, anything at all. Was the point—the larger, capital-“P” point—to write perfectly, or to write, period?

* * * * *

One shelf of one cabinet in my apartment is devoted to books written by people I know (and one dead relative I never met, but about whom I figured, “Good enough”).

Over the past few years it’s gotten fuller and fuller, which is wonderful, but which is also a little sad, because it was never one of my books that got to do any of the filling. Yes, I wrote a couple of chapters in a really terrific book, but that book counts as a collective win, not a personal Everest scaled.

There are many, many reasons why there is no Colleen-Wainwright book on that shelf, but they boil down to the same, sad, scary word: perfectionism. If nothing can ever be good enough, it’s hard for anything to be, period, let alone be something as big as a book.

So a few months ago, I took matters in hand and signed up for a class—a writing class focused on process, designed to get new writers who don’t think they can write and long-time writers who either need a little reinvigoration or a full-on (gentle) ass-kicking, and, via various tools and exercises and gentle (but ass-kicking) encouragement, gets them writing—a few pages, every day, for six weeks.

What’s funny about the class (other than the teacher, and many of the students, which really makes for a delightful way to spend a few hours of your week) is that somehow, just by writing a little bit every day in a very specific way, all of that process ends up in a not-insignificant amount of product. To drive this point home, each student in the beginning level of the class is asked to compile a handful of pieces into a chapbook, and to make enough copies to share with the class.

I called mine GOOD ENOUGH, because it is.

* * * * *

I took the liberty of printing up a few extra copies of this first—and likely, only—run of my first (chap)book. 21 extra copies, which I am making available for (PAUSE FOR COLLECTIVE GASP FROM PEOPLE WHO KNOW ME) sale.

There are short 10 pieces in it, only one of which has seen the light of internet day so far: poems and tiny essays and bits of creative nonfiction. (There are also some pen-and-ink drawings, which you may recognize if you were a reader of my late, lamented newsletter.) One of my longtime readers and dearest critics has pronounced it the best thing I’ve ever written. She is also a friend, but not of the variety to blow smoke up an ass—mine, or anybody else’s. I’ve seen her not do it.

The price is $5 for the book, tax included, plus $2 to ship it to you anywhere in the U.S. Each one is numbered (x of 52 copies), and I will happily sign it for you, and/or include an inscription of your choice. One per customer, please, in case you were thinking of hoarding chapbooks.

* * * * *

It’s been a relief to write again, and a consternation, as well. Any thoughts I had of getting past my perfectionism and writing happily ever after vanished somewhere around Day 5. Or maybe it was Day 2.

Irregardless, as I heard someone say just today and let roll off my back without so much as a shrug, I will write. Certainly here and increasingly, I hope, Out There. I will do it imperfectly, with my full self, or as much of me is available at the time.

Thank you, and excelsior!

xxx
c

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

 

Good enough, Day 18: What’s up & what’s gone down

A formerly-monthly, currently-occasional round-up of what I’ve been up to and what’s in the hopper. For full credits and details, see this entry. Video, above (or click here to view on Flickr) of the PALATIAL suite I got upgraded to at the MGM Signature, a distinctly non-sucky, non-casino hotel on the otherwise frightening Las Vegas Strip.

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

The last time I posted an update like this was the first where I admitted that I had (almost) nothing planned, networking- and speaking-wise. After years of go-go-go, it was time to stop. Full stop.

Now, after many months of rest, contemplation, and other manifestations of interior reconstruction, I’m sticking a toe in the waters of Real Life again—now, with the full knowledge that really, it is no more real than the other kind. It is, however, easier for others to attend and/or participate in!

  • DV Expo (Los Angeles, September 25) :: I will be giving a one-hour talk titled, “Sell Me a Story: Building Your Own Fan Base in the Digital Economy”—possibly my favorite talk title I have ever come up with. Like most things, it came to me when I’d all but given up on it.
  • PACA Conference (NYC, October 21) :: I’m honored to be giving the keynote address at the 18th Annual event for PACA, the Digital Media Licensing Association. This year’s theme is “Opportunity in Change,” and as we know, that is right up my particular alley.

I would love love LOVE to come speak to your organization or institution about marketing/social media, crowdfunding, and communicating across the digital divide. I’m especially interested in speaking at schools and institutions local to Southern California, including guest speaking in college programs for actors, photographers, writers, and other creative types.

Please see my speaking page for more information, or email me: colleen AT communicatrix DOT com.

Colleen of the Past (stuff that has already gone down)

  • The Career Clinic :: I am thrilled every time I get to be a guest on my friend Maureen Anderson’s terrestrial radio show. She must love it, too, because not only does she keep having me back, but she lets me talk about all kinds of stuff that could only be very generously considered career-related. In June of this year, we talked about why I continue to shave my head some two years after my pledge to do it once.
  • Visual Connections blog :: I advocate for margins in this post for the visual media buyers’ blog, which I wrote partly as a warm-up for my talk at the PACA Conference this October. Also, it has my favorite title of any blog post I’ve written, ever—I’ve been wanting to use it since I dreamed it up back in 2008, and was thrilled to finally find a topic it worked for.
  • AdvancementLive :: My friend and colleague Andrew Gossen, Director of Social Media Strategy at Cornell University, hosted a Google+ chat on Crowdfunding and Higher Education and asked really good questions. I come at it from the individual/marketing angle, and Ryan Davies of Carleton University talks about it from the institutional perspective.
  • Walking Wilshire :: For National Walking Day, my favorite L.A. pedestrian, Alissa Walker, did a series of podcasts on Wilshire Boulvard for KCRW. Literally, ON WILSHIRE. She caught up with me after a panel at The SAG Foundation, and interviewed me on my 20 years (!!) of living in the ‘hood.
  • The Setup :: My rig has changed a bit in the 11 months since this interview ran, but I’m too much of a nerd fangirl not to share this interview with my favorite geek-paradise website.
  • The Strictly Business Blog :: Fifteen new posts on marketing, self-improvement, and a whole lot of other cool stuff since the last round-up! No, I’m not going to link to each individually!

I’ve also been fortunate to represent my client ASMP with some new talks on branding and marketing at WPPI, WPPI On the Road, the Palm Springs Photo Festival, and to return to both Cornell’s Alumni Leadership Conference and to HOW’S Creative Freelancer Conference (where, in what may be my craziest bit of serendipitous freakitude to date, I presented a talk featuring, among other things, a story about Jessica Hische while she was sitting a mere 20 feet from me! It was absolutely as awesome as you might imagine.)

Oh—and I also got to give a little teaching-style lecture to my fellow actors again on behalf of my longtime client, Casting Networks, and to a photography business class at Pasadena City College, which I LOVED. Did I mention I love speaking and that you should email me about doing it for your organization? WELL, I’M DOING IT AGAIN.

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

  • 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 ::  I remain hopefully optimistic about social media, despite the crapulous happenings one must endure every day on the major channels. Currently, I am most active on Facebook, but I will occasionally post to Flickr and Twitter, and, once in a blue moon, Instagram and Pinterest. I’ve also been writing at least a very short summary about (almost) every book I read to Goodreads.

xxx
c

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

Getting down with where you’re at

I was supposed to be married now.

I was supposed to live in some sort of expensive housing with my husband—that we owned outright, if you’d have asked my more optimistic and/or financially prudent forbears. In Chicago, most likely. Or the suburbs, for the schools. (I was supposed to get over my Thing about the suburbs, too, I guess.)

I was supposed to have produced a couple of grandchildren for the mother and father who were most certainly supposed to be around to enjoy them, albeit less energetically than they’d have liked.

I was supposed to shop and eat and bank and recreate in a world that looked a lot like the 1960s or maybe the 1980s (but definitely not the 1970s), only with more jet packs and fewer multigazillionaires and a lot fewer angry, confused white people.

I was supposed to be—well, not writing TV commercials anymore, surely, but overseeing the people who oversaw the people who wrote TV commercials that were supposed to run on the many high-paying, widely-viewed network shows that featured exactly zero housewives, unless they came bundled with scripted jokes and a laugh track.

I was supposed to have excellent benefits, including dental and a generous retirement package, for doing this, along with six weeks’ annual vacation, a seat on a few local and national boards, a shit-ton of frequent-flyer miles (redeemable at any time, with no blackout dates), a vacation home, one or two books, and a pristine set of intestines.

When I look at the long, long list of things that were supposed to happen but that did not, it is perhaps less of a shock that this post tumbled out late, light, and lonely, no weeks (nor months) of posts shoring it up on the one side.

This, you see, is exactly where I am supposed to be, 51 years and pocket change into my life, and eight years into this amazing odyssey that someone, somewhere, regretfully decided to name “blogging”: in my little apartment, noting a remarkable thing after a remarkable day that included nothing that any one of my wonderful, wonderful, well-meaning family would have called “remarkable”.

I am exactly where I am supposed to be, which is fine with where I am.

I would say that I wish I’d been here eight years ago—or 38 years ago—but that’s not true, either: I was exactly where I was supposed to be then, too; I just didn’t know it.

More soon. Although what either of those actually look like, remains to be seen.

xxx
c

ALL THE “ANNIVERSARY” POSTS:

What’s up & what’s gone down: July 2012

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)

For the first time in the three years that I’ve been doing these updates, I have zero plans. (Well, that I can talk about publicly.)

Zero public talks. Zero hosted meetups. Zero conferences I’m planning on attending, save World Domination Summit next year. And most definitely, zero birthday plans for this year.

At some point, hopefully soon—and I only say “hopefully” because I’m a hopeless Virgo hard-case when it comes to work—I’ll have some things to share. Until then, sign up for the newsletter. Stay tuned here. Friend me on Facebook. (Unless you only want to be “friends” so I’ll like your whatever or come to your whaddyacallit, because that is “friendly,” not friendly. Obviously.)*

Light a candle, say a novena, butter a piece of toast, but only if it makes you happy. I’m fine, I swear! Plenty of cool stuff going on.

In fact…

Well…

Okay, now that I think about it, there are two places where I know I’ll be in the near future:

  • “Photographers Helping Photographers” :: One of my very favorite people, Jenna Close, is giving what I’m 100% sure will be a kickass workshop for ASMP Los Angeles this Thursday evening, July 26, at Vaney Poyey‘s studio in Downtown L.A.
  • Sustainable Business Models :: This all-day symposium in New York City is free to the public with advance registration. It will also serve as the launch for…
  • The ASMP Guide to New Markets in Photography, the organization’s new and important book on surviving as an imagemaker in an attention economy. And yes, yours truly wrote the chapters on branding and marketing, so I will be on hand, Sharpie at the ready, eager to inscribe something personal and awesome (of course!) on your freshly-purchased copy.

But really, this was all put in place eons ago. So much so that it almost cancels out any future-ness about them.

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

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

  • communicatrix | focuses :: My (usually) monthly newsletter devoted to the ways and means of becoming a better clearer communicator (plus a few special treats I post nowhere else). 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 :: I am currently rather disenchanted with the Internet and have been busy doing stuff in my Actual, Real Life. (You should see my under-sink cabinet!) But I continue to waste far too much time over on FacebookInstagram, and, ever so often, Twitter and Pinterest.

P.S. Newsletter coming soon. I think….

xxx
c

*If, however, you would like to invite me to an actual party or an actual opening or maybe even an actual launch with actual, real, live people, and actual refreshments, by all means, do. And may the gods rain money and ice-cream cakes on your lawn.

What’s up & what’s gone down :: February 2012

the author speaking to ASMP Philadelphia

Me! In Philly! In a way-too-big auditorium!

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)

  • “Making People Love You Madly” tour for ASMP [February dates: Salt Lake City, 2/23; March dates: Denver, 3/1; Cincinnati, 3/22] Still (whew!) on the road with my “marketing in the postmodern age” talk for 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!
  • February L.A. Biznik Mixer at Jerry’s Famous [Los Angeles; Tonight, Wednesday, February 15, 5:30-7:30pm!]  Fun, free, low-key networking plus great tips, tricks and ideas from your fellow indie-biz folk, which of course includes me. Duh. I co-host with South Bay designer-illustrator, Donna Barger, but really, she’s running the show. Heeeeeere’s Jerrys!
  • WPPI [Las Vegas, NV, 2/21] A-a-a-also, ASMP is generously sponsoring my marketing talk at this annual gigundo wedding photography conference hosted by Nielsen. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t post anything so market-specific here on the blog, but I was reminded a week or so ago that all kinds of people read this crazy blog, EVEN WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS. Like, even my wedding photographer. Yes, really.
  • TEDxConcordiaUPortland [Portland, OR; March 31] I am beyond thrilled, honored, and yes, terrified to be presenting at this conference whose theme is “Becoming Extraordinary.” I mean, pressure much? But I had such an amazing, amazing time at the last TEDx produced by my now-friend Michelle Jones that—well, I made her be my friend. So there you go. Tickets are on sale now. Please don’t wait to buy them; it will sell out!

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

  • Mac Power Users podcast :: I was beyond honored—not to mention cartwheel-turning happy—when co-hosts David Sparks and Katie Floyd invited me to be a guest on a “workflows” episode of their popular podcast. I’m not as super-smarty-pants nerdy as many of their guests, but there are puh-lenty of tips we got out there on both writing and tweaking your Mac to do your writerly bidding more efficiently. Plus, it was just rollicking fun! [Running time: 66 minutes]
  • 30-Day Art Challenge :: How blown away was I that Oliver Emberton chose THREE of my little musings to illustrate for his monthly self-imposed creative challenge? How about “VERY, VERY and VERY.” Thank you, Oliver!
  • The Strictly Business Blog :: I’ve continued to write for my wonderful clients, the ASMP, on a variety of marketing and productivity-related topics. This month, I contributed posts on creating successful collaborations, my writerly “secret weapon”, and how to best handle referrals to ensure more of them.
  • Savor & Serve Blog :: My lovely and smart pal Jennifer Louden created a wonderful roundup of suggestions on how to find your tribe when you’re moving to a new town, either permanently or temporarily. I threw my 20 cents in, but there are scads of suggestions—you’re bound to find a few you’ll love implementing.

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). 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 :: You  know, I have not been so much with the Internet flotsam of late. Mostly posting links/etc. and chatting on Facebook. This could change—and probably will. Most things do, given time.

xxx
c

Photo by Greg Benson.

What’s up & what’s gone down :: January 2012

the author speaking in front of a gigantic picture of herself

Hey! It's Charles Foster Godin Chodron Kane!

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)

  • “Making People Love You Madly” tour for ASMP [January dates: Albuquerque, 1/17; Phoenix, 1/19; New Orleans, 1/23; February dates: New York City, 2/1; Philadelphia, 2/9; Salt Lake City, 2/23] I’m continuing the road with a beefed-up version of my “marketing in the postmodern age” talk for 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!
  • January L.A. Biznik Mixer at Jerry’s Famous [Los Angeles; Tonight, Wednesday, January 11, 5:30-7:30pm!]  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 BargerHeeeeeere’s Jerrys!
  • TEDxConcordiaUPortland [Portland, OR; March 31] I am beyond thrilled, honored, and yes, terrified to be presenting at this conference whose theme is “Becoming Extraordinary.” I mean, pressure much? But I had such an amazing, amazing time at the last TEDx produced by my now-friend Michelle Jones that—well, I made her be my friend. So there you go. Tickets go on sale January 28, and this event will sell out. And yes, I’d pay to go even if I wasn’t speaking—it’s that kind of day.

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). 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 :: You  know, I have not been so much with the Internet flotsam of late. Mostly posting links/etc. and chatting on Facebook. This could change—and probably will. Most things do, given time.

xxx
c

Photo by Michael Smith.

[video] Hair today, books tomorrow

[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.

Perfect

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.

ALL THE “ANNIVERSARY” POSTS:

Image by Robert S. Donovan 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.

The love you take

the author and members of writegirl.org

This post is #1 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.

Almost four years ago to the day, I went to a lunch that changed my life.

The organizer, Bob McBarton, had been after me (gently) to attend one of his literary “salons” for some time. Every time I read the email announcements, I was tempted: he brought in some really fantastic people to talk books, politics, and culture, around a pretty sweet table.1

But when I’d look at the accompanying attendee list, always lengthy Word attachments, to accommodate the weight of the bios, I’d chicken out. Never mind the guest speakers, even the attendees were luminaries in their various fields, each of them hugely accomplished, and in “real” endeavors, not this b.s. futzing around I’d done in advertising and acting and my silly little blog. They’d published books (multiple books, in some cases) tried significant cases, produced award-winning films, run cities. One of them had overcome physical obstacles that made my Crohn’s onset look like a paper cut, and gone on to succeed in multiple high-profile positions in multiple incredibly tough-to-crack industries.

Finally, though, my curiosity got the better of me, and I went. I wound up seated between the mayor of a nearby town and a couple of nice, unassuming ladies in the general vicinity of my age. Of course, I was way too uninformed to talk about the homeless problem with hizzoner, so I turned my attention to the women, Keren Taylor and Allison Deegen, the executive and associate directors, respectively, of a local nonprofit called WriteGirl. They’d spent the better part of the past six years helping hundreds of teenage girls not only get through high school and into college, but become confident, well-read, joyous communicators.

I was talking about changing the world through writing; they were doing it.

One girl at a time.

* * * * *

There’s a little test I use when I’m coming up with something, an essay, a song, a poem, a talk, and trying to get at a Truly True Truth: if it makes me either (1), laugh out loud; or (2), burst into tears, it’s a keeper. Because as you well know if you’ve ever lived through a highly emotional time, an illness, a death, a natural disaster, a knock-down-drag-out with your honey, laughter and tears sit so close to each other, they might as well be making out in the balcony.

I have cried at every WriteGirl workshop I’ve been to. I’ve also rarely laughed so joyously as I have there, nor felt more hope for humanity. These are amazing girls, all of them. They vary in their levels of introversion and extraversion, boldness and shyness, just like the rest of us, but each of them has been 100% present and committed at every workshop I’ve been to. They throw themselves into the exercises, even when the exercises challenge them or feel a little weird at first. They show up, week after week, to work with their mentors in between the monthly group workshops. They engage, they ask questions, they play, and they write. Oh, boy do they write, and how. You want to laugh and cry, brother, you get yourself to a WriteGirl meeting.2

No less amazing are the women who volunteer their time to mentor the girls, to organize the workshops, to corral the bazillion details that go into running an organization like this. Need I tell you that money is always, always tight? It is. What Keren and her team manage to do on the money they receive is matched only by the astounding calm with which they manage the constant doubt of where the next buck is coming from.

For once, I want these wonderful women not to worry: I want them to know that $50,000 is coming, and in 50 days, and from you. From us.

* * * * *

Did you know that everyone and his brother’s band is doing a Kickstarter-type campaign these days? It’s true, look it up.

Well, I’m throwing my hat into the ring. And possibly what’s directly beneath it.3

For my 50th birthday, I want to raise $50,000 for WriteGirl. In 50 days. So let’s get cracking.

There’s an IndieGoGo page you should go to right now. You’ll see various giveaways for various contribution levels.

Some of it is new and fun and exceptionally affordable. I had a number of designer and artist friends whip up some custom desktop wallpapers. There are MP3s! Of some of your favorite songs, and some of mine, all from women artists!

Some of it is stuff you cannot get anywhere else. Most pointedly, I do not do any copywriting anymore, but for a price, you can hire me to write your bio. Or your own silly-but-effective anthem, or your own poem that will make you cry. (Or one of the girls will, your choice!)

Or, if you’re really loaded and looking for a way to relieve yourself of $50,000 in a hurry, I will dedicate my first book to you. (Which would also mean I’d feel obligated to finally put one out there, so if you’re one of the people who’ve been patiently waiting and you have a friend with 50,000 spare dollars, hit ’em up.)

You can also donate without taking a “gimme,” if you’re so inclined. Or buy something as a gift for someone else, their own personalized-by-me Field Notes book, for example. An anniversary or birthday song. A love poem. It would be very much in the whole giving-is-getting spirit of things.

Which brings me to my last point: this is not for me, but it is entirely for me.

* * * * *

This whole project has been a combination of long-term thinking and short-term scramble.

Amazingly, so far, things have been falling into place, but that’s the angels’ work, not mine. Because while I was not too scared to envision myself bald, or even to envision raising what is, and there’s no other way to put this, a fuckton of money in an insanely short time, I was too scared until recently to ask for help.

When I finally did, the most amazing thing of all happened: people said “yes.” My friend Mike Monteiro said, Yes, I’ll make another run of the “Old” t-shirts for you, and we’ll give all the money to the girls. (link coming soon!) My friend-turned-client Jean MacDonald said, Yes, you can give away copies of TextExpander, how many do you want? Jim Coudal said, Yes you can have a bunch of Field Notes, and by the way, you might want to customize them, and here’s what we use.

My friends Lisa and Heather said, Yes, we’ll make a video, and you can stay at our place while we shoot. My friend Jennifer offered up her house for the party, her HOUSE.

My friends Jason & Jodi and Peleg and Judy and Adam immediately pledged financial support, and in amounts that took my breath away. My friend Tim offered up his team to build the website and then, when I waited too long and missed my window, my other friend Gabriel stepped in to save me. Every friend I’ve approached, Danielle and Dyana, Alice and Eden, Pace & Kyeli, Michelle and Jill, Josh and Donna, plus dozens more I’m forgetting now and hundreds more who signed up for the early notification list said, Yes, we’ll help you, and yes, we’ll get that money for these girls.

As I’ve said about myself before, I’m a pretty loquacious motherfucker, but when it comes to describing how this outpouring of love and support have affected me, I am at a loss for actual words.4 They’re inadequate, or at least, they are in this form and in this moment when I am, to put it mildly, somewhat knackered.

That I have such friends and in such quantities is remarkable. What is left now is for me to rise to the occasion, to try being just as remarkable.

For the next 50 days, I will be blogging and emailing and tweeting and calling. I will lay aside my fear of asking and ask. Oh, boy, will I ask!

And at the end of this road, whether I fail or succeed at raising every cent of this money, and don’t kid yourself, failure is always an option, if I have given it my all, I will receive my gift: to have given my all in pursuit of something greater than me.

But DAMN, I want the money for those girls, too. So let’s get crackin’, shall we?

xxx
c

Things you can do right now to support the “50 for 50” Project:

1Hey, food counts. Just sayin’.

2Of course, if you’re actually a brother, you’ll have to take my word for it. It’s a dude-free zone, except for a few actors who volunteer to play the male roles in the presentation at the end of the screenwriting workshop.

3That’s right: if we raise the whole $50K, I’m shaving my head at the culminating shindig. BALD, BABY. To the skin.

4Laughing and incoherent blubbering, however, I have been doing quite a bit. I can barely open up my email these days without bursting into tears of joy. This is a mighty fine thing, although it draws stares in coffee shops.