Month: September 2007

Fat pants, booze and the boy from New Jersey

fat pants

The BF and I must be happy, because we are fat. Fat and happy, fat and happy, go together like a pee and nappy.

Only like most things, it’s not as simple as that.

He is fat because he has been working 16 – 20 hour days on a hamster wheel of stress, pushing pixels for the Man, eating whatever carb-y thing he can grab in between worsening his carpel tunnel. He is fat because the writers and the actors and the directors are going to do big battle with the producers next spring, and there are too many dependents in his trust for whom the words “strike” mean nothing, but who require food, clothing and health insurance, nonetheless.

I, on the other hand, am fat because I quit acting. I am fat because where I once ran my thespianic ass all over the 25-square-mile playing field that is Actors’ Los Angeles, I, too, now park it in front of a keyboard for the bulk of the day.

But he is also fat because of the Lexapro, or whichever of those SSRI dolls he’s on to officially correct what he used to self-medicate. Whereas I am fat because, here it comes, I have been self-medicating. One, two, sometimes three glasses of hooch per evening. The creep has been slow but steady, a match reverse of my dip into the Valley of Monotony. And it’s time to stop before I have to Stop.

Last night, I dreamed I went to an AA meeting. Because it was a dream, it was probably unlike any AA meeting in existence (I’ve never actually been to one): there were a lot of forms to fill out for newcomers, and once I made it into the meeting (already in session), it looked more like I imagine a Cuban refugee camp might, with little clusters of people building shacks, playing card games, cooking over open fire.

It was an interesting dream to have last night, because of the day I’d had before it: work, rain, reading…and abstinence. Apparently, the perfect storm for creating self-awareness. A day just as long, filled with just as much work and solitude, but devoid of alcohol or the desire for it. Here’s what I’d sussed out as of this morning:

  • The work was engaging. I got my hands a little grubby with code, but went slowly and broke nothing. Knocked a big item off my to-do list, and felt pride of accomplishment on a lot of levels.
  • The rain gave me permission to stay inside and do it. One of the dastardly things about this relentlessly “perfect” place is the tyranny of perpetual sunshine. I’ve never liked the outside so all-fired much, but there it is, 24/7, postcard-perfect and in my face. No wonder Bukowski drank. L.A. should go fuck itself, sometimes.
  • As much of a powerhouse as I think I am, the truth is, I amn’t. I need rest and reading and quiet and solitude. I need space for puttering and play. The BF was two hours late to a rendezvous, we had promised to help celebrate a very important birthday, and as I’d passed them with a spectacularly engrossing read, I was sanguine. Well, for me, anyway. So QED.

And then, because I can’t possibly be expected to get it all myself, I was visited this morning by the Archangel Ira Glass, who sang a song of a 19-year-old saint from Elizabethtown, New Jersey. Since I gave up TV about a year ago, there are some gaps in my cultural knowledge. Everyone and his brother has seen the Nike basketball commercials starring freestyle sensation Luis Da Silva and heard his amazing story. (If you haven’t, here’s an extended version on YouTube. And here’s Luis all by his fantastic self.)

Just like that, the other piece of the puzzle turned up under the sofa: find that passion. Find it find it find it, and then keep a holy shrine to it in my heart, and on a screen saver and a bright-yellow rubber bracelet and any other talisman-reminders I need. When I’m plugged in, the rest falls into place. Good days, bad days revert back to plain old time, which I’m spending doing the thing I’m Here to Do (plus some attendant side tasks and the daily chores that keep me from being a callous monster.)

It seems pretty simple in the cold, clear light of day: find the thing I love, work hard, take breaks, get a refreshing night’s sleep, wake up happy, do it again. Abstinence takes care of itself when I take care of me. Fat pants and booze are the symptoms, not the root issue.

Thank you, Ira and Luis, for reminding me.

Thank you, Sofka, Leslie, Pema, Jack, Julia and Jiddu, for telling me in the first, and second, and third, and-and-and, place.

Thank you, dear reader, for keeping me honest…


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

Can you lead an authentic life with fake hair?

pink hair

I make no secret of my age. (46, and if you haven’t wished me a “happy” yet, feel free to!)

I’m up front about my struggles to get organized, to get happy, to get my bowels in working order.

So why, oh, why am I having such a problem letting my hair go gray?

A little backstory: unlike many of the women on my mother’s side, while I had a few stray grays pop up as early as my 20s, I didn’t need to start actively coloring to cover them until my late 30s. And I was earning a nice living via acting at that point (with good health insurance…sigh…), so it made sense to make sure my hair matched my face, which for some reason insisted on looking 5 – 10 years younger than the rat’s nest on top of it.

But if I’m honest, and dammit, if I’m not, there’s little point to anything anymore, I wanted to look chronologically younger for me, too. In the late 90s, I’d just left my marriage of 8 1/2 years for a man 12 years younger than I, who looked 5 – 7 years younger than he really was. And who was also, shall we say, empirically good looking. It was frustrating enough for me and my fragile self-esteem to flit about with The Youngster in public; add to that the subtle and ongoing pressure from him to “look my best” (what is it with these empirically good looking people?) and you have a perfect storm for public deceit.

Well, I’m not acting anymore. And dye, in addition to being not inexpensive, is toxic and time-consuming. What could I do with those extra two hours per month? Those extra 1000 or so cancer-free years days of my life? Or, while we’re at it, the extra 750 bucks a year? (A steal in L.A., but still.)

I find myself obsessing over gray hair. It seems to be a trend, or a meme, the ladies lettin’ it go, perhaps kicked off by Meryl Streep in the otherwise forgettable Devil Wears Prada. Someone wrote a book about it. There’s a Yahoo! group devoted to it, a graying Botticelli’s Venus as their icon. (I joined.) There’s that idiotic Dove campaign.

I think it comes down to this: vanity.

Not vanity about looking my age, but about looking good for my age. Or maybe just looking good, period. I quit wearing makeup long ago, and I’ve let myself get woefully squishy around the middle; strictly from a design/style perspective, hair dye saves my beauty bacon. It’s the lazy gal’s way to look good (at least, until your face and skin tone stop coordinating well with dark hair. I am going to look like a raggedy-ass schlub growing out my gray if I don’t work a little harder to look good in other departments, like clothes and fitness.

Maybe that’s the thing: put “Pilates body” on the to-do list. Make it a big goal for…say…2010, and get crackin’. Then, once I’m leading the yoga class, shave my damned globey-head bald and wear all black or something.

It’s an option I’ve discussed with my patient, generous colorist. He’s amazing, really, basically helping me figure out how and when to fire him.

There are no easy answers to this. I would like to think I’m “there”, but clearly, it ain’t so. Whether I like it or not, going gray is a political statement in a patriarchal society where a woman’s currency is tied to her looks and reproductive status. As is toeing the party line with a box of dye.

I do not like the lies I am telling, and yet, here I am.

Now, where’s the way out, I wonder…


UPDATE 9/19: I wrote another blog post about aging (and lying about aging) here that may help illuminate some of this thinking.

Image by s.o.f.t. via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Happy birthday to me

we three

Birthdays are as good a time as any for starting a fresh page. And this year, mine came in with a full moon and a Jewish new year.

If that’s not a message from the Universe to do a little soul-searching, I don’t know what is.

Well, my appraisal goes thusly:

Over the past 12 months, I’ve written 5 posts on design, 12 columns about acting, 82 posts on marketing and god knows how much crap on this blog.

I’ve launched a monthly newsletter, been VP of Membership and President of my Toastmasters club, written 10 speeches and traveled to Portland to drink tequila with my fellow bloggers.

I’m actually too frightened to add up how many hours I’ve worked for money, but I’ve sent out 68 invoices. And some of them were for (gulp) multiple jobs.

I was hypnotized 30 days in a row and wrote about it. I’ve been to Disneyland twice and the ocean once. I watched my friend Mark’s business take off. I watched my friend, Uma, make magic happen from the depths of coma. And then I saw magic happen to her when she awoke.

I consulted with my ex-husband on how to be a good wedding officiant and accompanied my ex-boyfriend and his girlfriend to their bible study class.

I said goodbye to some people I will miss, and reconnected with some others I thought I’d lost forever.

I got really sick. I got a muffin top. I quit acting (not necessarily in that order).

I watched time speed up. Again.

From my vantage point of 46 years (hey! I’m an Elder!), I’m pretty sure there will always be more stuff to do than hours in which to do it. There will always be promises made that aren’t kept, roads not taken and wondered about, other roads taken and rued. With luck and paying attention, there will be less and less of all this as the years pass. At least, that’s how it seems to be trending.

Love the minute you are in right now. Love that pimple on your face (or your butt), love the horrible meal you just made yourself, love the crappy air and the noisy traffic and the terrible drivers. Love your boyfriend and your mail carrier and your crabby uncle and your impossible friend from high school. Love your p.o.s. car. Love your too-small house and your too-big bills. Love your love handles.

Love the piece of shit blog post you wrote just now. Just…love it all.

Because it goes fast.

Super-dee-duper fast.


Photo of my sister, Liz, my sister, Cathy, and me taken by our Aunt Patti last Thanksgiving.


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


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

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

…and after the kisses, the list!


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

Aaron Potts at Today is That Day

Adam Alexander at Adam’s Peace

Adam Kayce at Monk at Work

Adam Khoo at Adam Khoo’s Philosophies and Investing Insights

AgentSully at Life Learning Today

April Groves at Making Life Work For You

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

Ash aka Mr. Biggs at One Powerful Word

Al at

Alan Torres at Made to Be Great

Alex Shalman at

Alexander Kjerulf at The Chief Happiness Officer

Alexys Fairfield at Unraveling The Spiritual Mystique

Albert Foong at

Alvaro at Sharp Brains Blog

Amber at Random Mangus

Amie Ragan at Psychology of Clutter

Amy Hedin at There is no Maximum to Human Potential

Andrea Learned at Learned on Women

Andrea J. Lee at Money, Meaning, and Beyond

Andy Wibbels at

Anita Pathik Law at Power of four Way

Anmol Mehta at

Anna Farmery at The Engaging Brand

Antonio Thornton at

Ariane Benefit at Neat & Simple Living

Ask Lucid at Ask Lucid Spiritual Development

Barb Melloh at The Law of Attraction Info

Barbara Sliter at Creatorship

Belle Wong at Abundance Journal

Ben Yoskovitz of Instigator Blog

Bill Perry at Lucid Blog

Billy Smith at The Organic Leadership Blog

Blogfuse at LifeDev

Brad Isaac at Achieve It

Brian Clark at Copyblogger

Brian Kim at

Brian Lee at

Brooke at Plain Advice

Bob at everyeveryminute

Bolly at Motivational Corner

Cam Beck at ChaosScenario

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

Carlon Haas at Possess Less Exist More

Cheif Family Officer at Cheif Family Officer

Chris Brogan of ChrisBrogan-dot-com

Chris Cree at SuccessCREEations

Chris Marshall at Martial Development

Chris Melton at

Chris Owen at Pink Apple

Christine Kane at

Christine Valters Painter at Abbey of the Arts

Clyde at Feeling Good

Colin Beavan at No Impact Man

Colleen Wainwright of Communicatrix

Conceive, Believe, Achieve at Conceive, Believe, Achieve

Crabby McSlacker at Cranky Fitness

Craig Harper at Motivational Speaker

Curt Rosengren at Occupational Adventure

Cyres at Cyres Matters

Damian Carr at Soul Terminal

Daniel Sitter at Idea Sellers

Darren Rowse at

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

Dave Schawbel at The Personal Branding Blog

Dave Schoof at Engaging the Disquiet

Davers at Language Trainers Blog

David Allen at The David Allen Company

David Bohl at Reflections on Balance

David Fitch at David

David Richeson at 360 Degree Success

David Rogers at How to Have Great Self Confidence

David Seah at David

David Zinger at Slacker Manager

Dawud Miracle at

Dean Lacono at Law of Attraction for Beginners

Debbie Call at Spirit In Gear

Debbie LaChusa at 10 Step Marketing Collection

Debra Moorhead at Debra

Denise Mosawi at

Des Walsh at Thinking Home Business

Devlyn Steele at Tools To Life Guide

Dick Richards at Come Gather Round

Dominic Tay at Personal Development for Winners

Don Simkovich at Hey Don

Donald Latumahina at Life Optimizer

Donna Karlin at Perspectives

Donna Steinhorn at Rethinking

Douglas Eby at Talent Development Resources

Dr. Charles Parker at The Core Psych Blog

Dr. Hal at Northstar Mental fitness blog

Drew Rozell at Drew

Dwayne Melancon at Genuine Curiosity

Edward Mills at Evolving Times

Ellen Weber at Brain Based Business

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

Emmanuel Lopez at The Adventures of Motivatorman

Ellesse at Goal Setting College

Elly Jolly at Jolly Life Coaching

Enoch Tan at Mind Reality

Eric Napier at Quotation Collection

Erin Pavlina at Erin

Evelyn Rodriguez of Crossroads Dispatches

Frank Kanu at Frank Uncovers Excellence in Leadership

Frank Roche at KnowHR Blog

Galba Bright at Tune Up Your EQ

Garr Reynolds at Presentation Zen

Gary at Personal Strategic Plan

Gilad Buchman at Sigsug

Gleb Reys at Personal Development Ideas

Grayson at Modern Worker Blog

Greg Butler at

Greg Frost at

Geoff R at

Gretchen Rubin at Happiness Project

Gustav at

Guy Kawasaki at How to Change the World

Gyanish at Diethack

Halina Goldstein at The Inner Travel Journal

Hilda Carroll at Living Out Loud

Heather Goldsmith at A Creative Journal

Henrik Edberg at The Positivity Blog

Honman at Open Your Mind to Prosperity

Inkedmn at The Cranking Widgets Blog

Isabella Mori at MoriTherapy

Itzy Sabo at Email Overloaded

Jacklyn Ker at Inspiring and Empowing Lives

Jarle Husefest at The Personal Development Blog

Jason and Michael at Black Belt Productivity

Jason Ivers at A Miracle a Day

Jason Womack at Fit and Effective

Jay White at dumb little man tips for life

Jean Browman at Transforming Stress Into Power and Cheerful Monk

Jeannette Maw at Good Vibe Coaching

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

Jeff Lilly at Druid Journal

Jeffrey Phillips at Think Faster

Jennifer at Goodness Graciousness

Jennifer Mannion at Heal Pain Naturally

Jenny and Erin at Jenny and Erin

Jeremiah Owyang at Web Strategy by Jeremiah

Jerry Hart at Blue Print to emarketing

Jerry Lopper at Personal Growth

Jessa at

Jessica Hagy at Indexed

Jim stroup at Managing Leadership

Jim Walton at Black In Business

JoLynn Braley at The Fit Shack

Joan Schramm at Accelerating Momentum

Joanna Young at Coaching Wizardry

Joanne at I’m Happy Fish

JodeeB at You Already Know This Stuff

Joe Vitale at Dr. Joe Vitale at Zero

John Pratt at John Pratt International

John Place at John Place Online

John W. McKenna at The Leadership Epidemic

John Wesley at Pick The Brain

Jon at Join The Secret

Jonathan at Smart Wealthy Rich and Freelance Folder

Jory Des Jardin at Pause: Meaningful Work

Josh Bickford at Reach For Magnificence and Reach for Magnificence

Josh Kaufman at The Personal MBA

Judy Martin at The Work/Life Monitor

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

Julie Bonner at Declutter It

Kailani at An Island Review

Kammie Kobyleski at Passion Meets Purpose

Karen at Journey with Water Learner

Karen Lynch at Live The Power

Karen Wallace at The Clearing Space

Karl Moore at Karl

Karl Staib at Karl

Kathy Mallary at Coaching Biz Tips

Keith Ferrazzi at Never Eat Alone

Kenton Whitman at

Kevin Kinchen at Creative Power of Thought

Killeris at Attitude, The Ultimate Power

Kim and Jason at Escape Adulthood

Kim George at Doing What You Can Do

Kimber Chin of Client K

Kirk Nugent at Kirk

Kirsten Harrell at Ipopin

Krishna De at Biz Growth News and Todays Women in Business

K.L. Masina at Be Conscious Now

Leah Maclean at Working Solo

Laura Young at The Dragon Slayer’s Guide to Life

Lee Nutter at bmindful

Leo Babauta at Zen Habits

Life Reflection at Universe in a Single Atom

Linda Salazar at Awaken The Genie Within

Lisa Braithwaite at Speak Schmeak

Lisa Gates at Design Your Writing Life

Lisa Van Allen at Finish Strong

Liz at Internet Marketing Strategies

Liz Strauss at Successful Blog

Lodewijkvdb at How to be an Original

Lola Fayemi at Real World Spiritual and Personal Development

Lorraine Cohen at Powerfull Living

Luciano Passuello at

Lucid at Spiritual Suggestions

Lumosity at Brain Health Blog

Lyman Reed at Creating a Better Life

Lyndon Antcliff at and


Maddy at Illuminated Minds Want to Know

Malathy Badri at Laws of Universe

Manny at Success Books

Maria Gajewski at Never The Same River Twice

Maria Garcia at Get Organized Now

Maria Palma at The Good Life

Marianne Williamson at Journal

Mark at The Naked Soul

Mark Forster at Get Everything Done

Mark LaPierre at The Winding Path

Mark McManus at Build Your Life To Order

Mark W Shead at Productivity 501

Martin Avis at Kickstart Daily

Mary K at Becoming Your StellarSelf

Matthew Cornell at Matt’s Idea Blog

Meg Haworth at Life Lessons From Your Soul

Melanie Benson Strick at The Success Blog

Merlin Mann at 43 Folders

Michelle at aMusing My Genius

Michelle Moore at Happiness Blog

Michael Port at The Think Big Revolution

Michael Vanderdonk at TOACH Performance

Mike Janssen at Opgestroopte Mouwen

Mike Kemski at BANABU

Mike St. Pierre at The Daily Saint

Millionaire Mommy Next Door at Millionaire Mommy Next Door

Mona Grayson at Question The Mind

Mr.Wang at Mr Wang Says So

My Everyday Planner at My Everyday Planner

Nancy Mills at The Spirited Woman

Nancy Tierney at Unconditional Confidence

Neil Patel at Quick Sprout

Nic Askew at Monday 9AM Blog

Nick Smith at Life 2.0

Nneka at Balanced Life Center

Organize-It at Organize-It

Pamala Slim at Escape From Cubicle Nation

Pamm Larry at My Spiritual Dance

Patricia Singleton at Spiritual Journey of a Lightworker

Patti Digh at 37 Days

Paul at Paul’s Tips

Paul Piotrowski at Self Help Wisdom

Paula Kawal at Paula

Peggy Payne at Peggy Payne’s Boldness Blog

Peter at I Will Change Your Life

Peter Aldin at Great Circle

Peter Haslem at Necessary Skills

Phil Gerbyshak at Make It Great

Philippe Matthews at Shockwealth

Priscilla Palmer at Personal Development Demands Success

Quint Jensen at Win Your Mind

Raymond Salas at Zenchill Powertools

Real Modern Man at Real Modern Man

Reg Adkins at ElementalTruths

Ricardo at Wake Up Tiger

Rich Schefren at Strategic Profits

Rick Cockrum at Shards of Consciousness

Rick Cooper at The PDA Pro

Ririan at Ririanproject

Rob at 7Breaths

Rob Cooke at Leave the Office

Robert at Compassionate Council

Robert at Myselfdev

Robert Ashcroft at PDSS Online

Robin Skeen at Robin’s Reflections

Robin Yapp at Yapp 3.0

Robyn McMaster at Brain Based Biz

Roger Von Oech at Creative Think

Rolf F. Katzenberger at Evomend

Rosa Say at Managing With Aloha Coaching

Ryan Marle at The Alpha Project

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

Sam at Aquire Wisdom and Live with Passion

Scott Adams at The Dilbert Blog

Scott Berkun at Berkun Blog

Scott Bernadot at Keeping The Secret

Scott Ginsberg at Hello, My Name Is Blog

Scott H Young at Scott H Young

Scott McArthur at McArthur’s Rant

Self Pursuit at Self Pursuit

Senia at Positive Psychology Coaching

Seth Godin at Seth’s Blog

Shane Navratil at Zoomstart

Shauna Arthurs at Breathing Prosperity and Follow Your Path

Shaheen Lakhan at GNIF Brain Blogger

Simone at Dynamic Living

Simone and Mandy at Outfit Inspirations

Slade Roberson at Shift Your Spirits and Spiritual Blogging

Sleeping Dude at How to Wake Up Early

Sonora Jayne Case at Positive Realities Coaching

Spike at Organize It

Start Up Coach at Take Charge of Your Life

Stephanie and Jeffrey at Brains on Purpose

Steve Beisheim at Jumping Ship Happens

Steve King at The Green Geek

Steve Olson at

Steve Pavlina at

Steve Roesler at All Things Workplace

Stephen at HD bizblog

Stephen Hopson at Adversity University

Steven Aitchison at Change Your Thoughts

Success Current at

Surjit at Gurushabad

Susan Sabo at Productivity Cafe

Suzanne Bird-Harris at Learning Curve Coaching

Takuin Minamoto at

Ted Demopoulos at Blogging For Business

Terry Starbucker at Ramblings From a Glass Half Full

Thom Quinn at Qlog

Tiffany at Little Red Suit

Tim Ferris at 4-Hour Workweek and Lifestyle Design Blog

Tim Taylor at My Agapic Life

Tom Peters at Tom

Tom Spanton at TRCoach

Tom Van Brunscot of Transformation Economy

Tony Chimento at Living Forward

Tony D Clark at Success From The Nest

Torlink at You Create Reality

Travis A. Sinquefield at Disorganizational Behavior

Travis Wright at Cultivate Greatness

Trizoko at

Trevor Gay at Simplicity is the Key

Troy Worman at Orbit Now!

Tuck Self at Rebel Belle Blog

Tupelo Kenyon at

Ubertech at Geeks Guide To GTD

Vera Nadine at Vera

Vickie at Contemplate This

Wade Millican at The Middle Way

Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership

Wan Qi at Meditation Forum Mantras

Wild Bill at Passionate Blogger

and these collaborated sites:

Burst Blog

Change This

Change Your Thinking

Daily PlanIt

Did I Get Things Done

GTD Wannabe


Joyful Jubilant Learning

Life Coaches Blog Stratagies for a Greater Life

TED Blog

Transformational Girlfriends


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

thinking hard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other words, playact…like an actor!


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

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

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

When I snap my fingers, you will feel no fear

ugly dolls

This is a follow-up post about the Hypnotherapy Project, which I collaborated on in July and August of 2007 with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hoped to accomplish here; you can read all of the entries in chronological order here.

I have had a couple of follow-up meetings with Greg, debriefings of a sort. We did some tweaking, he tried out a few new tools he picked up at a recent convention (topline: they’re way cool, and Greg is slowly but surely turning into an unstoppable force.) Both times, he tiptoed around the issue of me following up, mainly, what was happening with me and why I wasn’t.

I could blame it on the heat, you can blame a lot on 96ºF weather, especially when it’s happening in your apartment*.

I could blame it on a busy work schedule, or the necessity of attending to various items that were somewhat neglected as I devoted up to four hours per day, 30 days in a row, to plumbing the depths of my psyche.

I could even blame it on mental exhaustion and it would be true: you plumb the depths of your psyche and expose it to the world 30 days in a row and see how sprightly you feel.

But the truth is, another big reason I haven’t written any follow-up analysis of my 30-day hypnosis experiment because I was afraid.

Afraid that my analysis would be wrong, how can I know what really happened to me, and how it’s affecting me now?

Afraid that my writing would be inadequate, how could analysis of something after the fact be as compelling as writing made raw and present by exposed nerves and immersion?

Afraid: isn’t that why I agreed to try the experiment in the first place, to deal with my fear?

Well, no. No, it wasn’t. I got into it to see what would happen. What I found out was, big surprise, there was a lot of fear under there, gumming up the works. We put names and faces and events to the fear, but hoo boy, was it startling to run up against so much of it.

Did I think that it was all going to evaporate once the 30 days were up? Once I could put names and faces and events to it? Apparently, a part of me did just that, and was astonished when, oh! there it is, it popped up again here, when the phone rang, or there, when I opened my checkbook register.

The bad news: the fear does not just evaporate when you turn the lights on.

The good news: it is easier to look at it in the light than imagine it in the dark.

Some examples:

  • While I still feel a bit of resistance come Thursday, when Toastmasters rolls around, it is nothing like the paralyzing fear I had (even if I was good at hiding it) when I first took over as President back in June.
  • I’ve had the money my father left me sitting in a low-interest holding account since he died three years ago this fall. I mean crap interest, personal savings account-level interest. It’s my last tie to him and I guess I was afraid to let it go, a not-uncommon thing after a loved one dies, apparently. This week, I wrote a check for the whole shebang and closed it out. The writing was a little shaky on the check, and I felt a little sick and nervous walking to the bank, but I did it.
  • I’ve started keeping a daily calendar where I actually slot out everything that must be done that day so I can see how much I’ve committed, and over-committed to.
  • As a result of the above, I am actually taking on less. At least, I think so.
  • Heaps of books, clothes and other goods have been making their way out of my life, I’ve made considerable inroads on the mountains of paper to be entered into various accounting programs.
  • For those of you into the woo, I had a pretty amazing thumbs-up from the Universe about 10 days ago. I’m not quite ready to talk about it now, but it went a long way towards validating the public writing work I’ve been doing over the past three years.

How much of the change is directly attributable to the hypnotherapy, vs. the regular therapy or even the super-regular process of living with my eyes and ears open? It’s impossible to quantify, of course. There’s no double-blind protocol when you are working on you, no matter how many of your sub-personalities have signed on for the test. But I assure you that great change has been set in motion.

And I will do my best to document it as it happens. Maybe not fearlessly, but openly, honestly and with the great hope in my heart that any step one of us takes moves us all forward a little bit.


*As documented by a thermometer purchased 10 days ago to prove to myself I was neither exaggerating nor going mad. And that’s with shades drawn, and windows blacked out with foam core and beach towels, and three fans blowing the sad stream of cool air generated by the portable A/C directly on my mainly-naked person. But hey, it’s a dry heat.

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