Month: January 2009

Searches, we get searchesâ„¢: revival edition

searchesThose of you new to the delights of communicatrix-dot-com may not be familiar with a long-ago weekly tradition, the “Searches, We Get Searchesâ„¢” feature.

Of course, those of you newer to the communicatrix-dot-com family of readers might be, erm, more familiar with a…shall we say sexier version of me mining my stats for comedy gold.

Well. No song this week. (Although as I’ve mentioned recently, given the nuttiness of the general searching population, I refuse to rule anything out for the future.) This week, we’re doing it up old-school, as god in her infinite old-school-godlike wisdom intended.


how do you stop someone from sucking all the happiness out of life? (Google)

Never stop what you can successfully sell tickets to.

free underarm stubble (Yahoo!)

If that’s not an economic indicator, I don’t know what is.

best paying carpenter jobs (Google)

No no no, it’s not the carpenter jobs that pay; it’s the hanger-on jobs that pay.

i don’t want a colonoscopy (Yahoo!)

Oo! Oo! Can I have yours?

feng shui and stairs to the basement (Google)

“The chi is coming from inside the house!

a motor in 10 minutes project (Google)

And we were worried about handing Detroit that bailout money!

if i keep sucking in my stomach will it get smaller

No, but if you look at yourself in a rear-view mirror, it will seem farther away than it is.

what clothes to wear if you look like audrey hepburn? (Google)

Something in a plain black burial vestment.

poem for handyman shower (Google)

Your Special Day is coming
Remember: white, not black!
And please, before you walk the aisle
Do cover up your crack.

i love the apple store (Google)

Captain Obvious kills a few hours on the Google.

read heads with cleavage (Google)

I’m not sure how efficient it would be, but you could have a lot of fun trying.

naked stage hypnotist (Google)

Auto-suggestion taken to new levels.

prednisone and alchohol mixed (Google)

Hulk smash(ed)!


Book Review: The Power of Less


If for no other reason than his New Year’s Challenge has gotten me to actually play the guitar again, I would love Leo Babauta forever.

But in addition to being a gentle ass-kicker of the highest order and to writing the generous and excellent ZenHabits blog, Leo is also a shining example of that favorite thing of mine, someone who uses himself as guinea pig, testing his concepts on his own esteemed personage and reporting back, generously, kindly, and with far, far less swearing than yours truly, with the results. (For more of these fellow travelers, see the blogroll cleverly named “Fellow Travelers” on my Virgo Guide blog.)

In other words, Leo is a walking, talking ad for the everyday miracle that can happen when one lives by the simple (but not always instinctive and definitely not always easy to follow) credo that less is more, establishing simple but solid changes one at a time that, over time, result in a spectacularly different kind of life.

And now, because not everyone digs the bloggity-blog thing, and because sometimes it’s, well, simpler to carry around a handful of dead tree, Leo Babauta has written a lovely book laying out his system for personal change so that the world (or the interested pockets of it) can follow along.

What, in a nutshell, is the Power of Less?

As I do more and more consulting work, I’m finding that one of the chief issues smart, creative people grapple with, the kind of people who read communicatrix, for example, is finding focus. Leo’s point (and mine, when I can state it simply enough) is that if you pull away all the gunk first, you’re left with a much more reasonably-sized bear to wrassle. Which is to say, there will always be bear wrassling, and somedays, even a smaller-sized bear will pin your ass to the ground, but really, don’t you want to do what you can to improve your odds?

While he covers everything from dealing with email overload to starting an exercise program, his core principles are basic, and support every lesson and idea in the book:

Principle 1: By setting limitations, we must choose the essential. So in everything you do, learn to set limitations.

Principle 2: By choosing the essential, we create great impact with minimal resources. Always choose the essential to maximize your time and energy.

The principles take different shape depending on the desired change, and Babauta offers up plenty of real tips from his own experience for the most critical kinds of changes we need to implement, reducing project load, managing email, starting (and sticking with) an exercise regimen. But all of his examples start with the kind of sound prep that I’ve come to realize is essential for creating real change:

As Leo himself says in a helpful FAQ, The Power of Less distills the core principles of his blog in an easy-to-digest (and much easier to carry around and mark up, if you’re into that kind of thing) book form. Yes, you could drill through his entire ZenHabits oeuvre and get the info, but if the point is to simplify, you have to admit that a neatly bound, portable volume is way simpler to use.

How can you tell if the book is for you?

I’ll be honest: while I employ many principles from David Allen’s GTD system, I could never get it fully up and running for long enough to say I’m “doing” GTD. Leo’s “system”, in quotation marks because it’s really a philosophy, but he offers concrete and helpful tools to start operating under it, owes a lot to GTD, as well, but he’s managed to pull the best stuff from it and leave the rest without making you feel you’re missing anything.

So I’d say this: if you’ve tried and abandoned systems for organizing your life, or reducing procrastination, and you suspect that the reason you have is because (a) you become overwhelmed easily and (b) you have multiple areas of focus pulling you in (too) many directions, Leo’s Way may be for you. Because Leo’s Way is really going to be  your way, you will find and create your own systems naturally as you let other stuff drop.

And that may be just the ticket for fellow Virgos (and Virgos-at-heart)…


  • BUY The Power of Less via amazon (and I get…oh, I dunno, a quarter or something. Which is awesome!)
  • BUY The Power of Less via your independent brick & mortar indie store (and they stay in business so they’re around when I finally write my own #@%* book and do a tour and come visit you in your town)
  • BUY The Power of Less via and support some guy sitting in his bathrobe and slippers in the second bedroom of his house in a suburban cul de sac

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

7 things you (still) probably don’t know about me


The rules:

1. Link to your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
2. Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.

I was tagged by Sean Bonner.

While I find it incredibly hard to believe that, after four years of blogging in that way I do, a Proust questionnaire, annual 100-things roundups and several memes of the stuff-you-don’t-know-about-me nature, there is ANYTHING that you don’t know about me that’s for public consumption…well, we’re here to find out if it’s possible. And then I’m putting a goddamned moratorium on these until 2010. At least.

1. I have never been diagnosed as such, but I’d bet money I have a touch of OCD, and I’m not a betting woman. My OCD is less about ritual (although I suspect that breaking myself of Check Email First Thing Daily and Frequently Afterwards Disease is going to be rough) and more about random stuff: I become irrationally attached to certain objects, especially those whose value in the real world is minimal. I’m currently attached to a yellow coffee mug made in Italy that came to the States via Cost Plus; if I drink my at-home morning coffee out of anything different, my whole day is kind of “off.” Similarly, I have a bluish mug made in Thailand (also via Cost Plus) that I drink one mug of black Irish tea (Barry’s) out of every morning, just before the coffee. Should these two mugs break before I find replacements I can slowly rotate in, I fear the entire communicatrix operation will grind to an immediate and ugly halt.

2. Speaking of OCD, you’d never know it from the obsessively, almost painfully short way I “groom” my fingernails, but I had 1″-long fingernails all through high school which I kept polished in either “Mushroom” or blood red. (The “Mushroom” was really called “Mushroom”, which is just a disgusting name for a nail polish, if you aren’t coked out of your brains in that ’70s fashion, and you have two brain cells left to rub together.) Remember: there were no computers for normal people then, only mainframes and cards and suchlike, and I kind of gave up typing for the duration. I do remember that putting money in vending machines required an intricate position-toss-bump, which I really should replicate someday for the YouTube if I can find me some Lee Press-on Nails and a machine that still takes change.

3. The actual conversation that happened when I became engaged to be married went (something) like this:

The Chief Atheist: What’s your timetable on this marriage thing?

The communicatrix: Ready when you are.

The Chief Atheist: Okay. Let’s get the books.

Whereupon we each produced our ’80s-licious DayTimers and came up with a date three months from then. (It was 1990, but everything was still pretty ’80-licious.) (Oh, and we had to field the question of whether this was a rush job for a Blessed Reason, and no, it wasn’t.)

4. On the other hand, I accidentally set up two friends of mine, a good friend from high school (and college, come to think of it) and a good friend from my last place of work. They met to talk career stuff, went home together and lived happily ever after, if recent reports hold true. So I got that goin’ for me.

5. I’m a starter, not a finisher. Maybe you did know this about me; maybe I’m the only person alive who’s met me who didn’t know this about me. But it was not until last year, 47 years into the game, folks, that I figured out I’m just not good with details and follow-through. I mean, I can get it up when I have to, but I’m much more enjoyable and delightful and refreshing when left to my crazy devices, and when other people handle the A to B to (etc) to Z stuff. RELATED: I suffer mightily from Eyes Bigger Than Stomach Syndrome, where both “eyes” and “stomach” are metaphorical. The suffering, however, is all too real.

6. When I think about acting again, two things stop me: having to wear contacts, which, as one long-ago friend of a friend put it so perfectly, feels like “wearing potato chips on my eyeballs”; and auditioning. Actually, driving to the audition and parking. Over and over again.

On the other hand, if anyone wants me to be #4 on the call sheet of their sitcom that shoots in Los Angeles, or anywhere else, for that matter, I’m there. Or some goofy, recurring gig on any show. Or their spokesperson for some non-disgusting product or service.

Or hell, give me my own show. Just do NOT put me in charge of anything but my own, crazy devices. And make sure there is a very good Colleen-wrangler on staff.

7. For years, I was the Last-Chance Texaco for gay boys. I used to joke about this, but as I’ve gotten older and late returns have come in, I’ve realized the shocking and astonishing truth of it. I didn’t even go out with all of them; I was just the legitimizing crush in many cases. But there are far too many of them for it to be a coincidence. I chalk it up to my incredible gay-friendliness from a young age (hey! I was raised by almost-show people!) and the unavoidable truth that I’m about as close as you can get to being a man while still being a woman who both self-identifies that way and has the necessary biological and social female cred.

Or who knows, maybe I am just one of those ultra-desirable people whom everyone goes for. (BWAHAHAHAHA! It’s good to start off the day with a hearty laugh!)

And now, for the tagging part: Alissa Walker, Neil Kramer, Dave Greten, Rick Crowley, Danny Miller, Prince Campbell (aka chartreuse), Erik Patterson. Because I love you and you’re monsters of writing and because a few of you have not been writing enough (*cough* Rick *cough* *cough* Erik *hack* *cough* *hocks loogie*) and…and…BECAUSE I CAN, DAMMIT!


Image by kirstenjolanda via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license. And no, cupcakes have nothing to do with anything; they are just excellent, and when I pulled up Flickr to look for an image, about 25 shots of DELICIOUS looking cakes (wedding varieties; various varieties) from this lady in the Netherlands who owns a confectionary shop came up. So there!

The week that (almost completely) kicked my ass

Time will tell, but last week may just go down in Colleen Wainwright History as the Week that Finally Won.

Notice that I did not say “the week I won”, but “the week the week one won*.” As in Week, 1; Colleen, 0.

I’ve got so many things going on so many fronts, so many flags in so many (mole)hills, so many plates spinning, so many metaphors cut adrift and left to moulder, that I’m seriously considering whether I took full leave of my senses in committing to so much this year, much less this month. And remember, I did hella consulting with smart people before agreeing to this year’s commitments. So really, it’s not like this is some fantasy list, totally ungrounded in any reality.


On Friday, I kind of lost it, the culmination of too many days of not enough sleep, with too many external commitments and not enough firewalling of personal time. If I didn’t already know I’d blown it by the way everything I did that day taking twice as long as it usually did, I knew it for sure when I had the closest thing I’ve had to a fight with my significant other, The BF, whose patience can only be expected to extend so far.

There were signs along the way that things were going awry. The panicky feeling when I stare down my calendar and realize if I don’t scrub something, I’ll fall even further behind. Dreading fixed givens of any kind, even the fun ones, because it means I’ll have to stop working, and fall even further behind.

My solution for 40-something years when something wasn’t working was to throw more coffee on it. More hours. More energy. More brainpower. Usually, it worked. Sure, I was tired after a push, but I knew I could catch up afterward.

Unfortunately, or not, it looks like those halcyon daze of being able to kite energy checks are over, or at least, with the equipment in its current state. Looking ahead, that means that if I want to have any chance of accomplishing what I’ve set out to do, I have a few choices:

  1. cut back on commitments, so I can increase recharging time
  2. cut back on farting around, so I can have more time for important stuff
  3. dramatically change how I’m treating my physical plant, so that it’s more resilient

I’d be lying if I said I was thrilled about the prospect of any of these. Plus, I have a feeling that the only reasonable course of action is a mix of all three.

On the other hand, I have a feeling that by grappling with this beastie, I’ll not only feel and operate a lot better, but I’ll come back with excellent info to report. Because I know I’m not the only one dealing with issues of balance in these crazy times.

In the meantime, I put it out there to the wise community. If you were in my shoes, where would you start? If you’ve been in my shoes, where did you start?

I’m starting by shutting down earlier when I can. I’m writing this at 9pm on Sunday, and figure it’s my last act of the evening. I’d planned on taking one last spin through the presentation I’m giving tomorrow but truly, I think both the presentation and I will do much better by sleeping on it…


The video above (link to it on YouTube in case you can’t see it) is but one of the many, many things I put together this crazy-ass past week. I have to say, I don’t regret one minute of working on it, it’s easily the most fun project I worked on, by a country mile.

*See? See? Ugh. Exhausted. Not good! Alissa and I are going to go to the “Say no to yes!” class together.

The dead-simple formula for achieving absolutely anything achievable


Among the 100 billion other obligations I have only myself to blame for, I’ve been prepping my presentation on marketing and social media for my alumni group this coming Monday.

The core of it is the same as what I did for my Seattle workshops, and for my actor marketing seminar, and for the keynote Dyana and I gave at the Design Center. If you want to get down and dirty, it’s probably the core of any (responsible) speech on the topic of marketing and social media because really, the principles are the principles are the principles. There’s no mystery sauce someone has that will magically make you rich, internet-famous, and decrease your belly fat the way the stars do. Because that belly fat thing is just what regular people do, expending more calories than you take in, only the stars have unlimited resources in the form of personal chefs, personal trainers and time, blessed time to enlist in fighting the good fight.

In the same way, I’ve come to realize that most change happens the same way. And today, combing through old emails, looking for something else, I stumbled on this gem of a formula so simple, even a BROKE, HAS-BEEN star with NO personal anything at her disposal could follow it:

  1. Recognize where you are
  2. Figure out where you want to be at
  3. Plot out action steps to get you from 1 to 2

See? Ridiculously simple.

But “simple” is so often confused with “easy”, and that’s where the trouble lies (and the rows upon rows of self-help and money-management and find-love/etc books sprout up.)

Also, as I’m finding via my own incredibly circuitous route to fabulosity, things have a way of changing that can mess you up, and implementing things in real-time often takes far more will, time and resources than it does in the dry run of your mind’s eye. Not to mention luck. If you don’t believe me, ask those two guys who just landed the plane in the Hudson River.

Also-also, the more creative and excellent one is, the very people who have really great things they want to achieve, and whom the world really needs to have get a move on, the greater the likelihood of getting stymied by one’s own multifaceted excellence. The slightly dumber, or less gifted, or at least less multiply-talented often have an easier time of finding the necessary focus to get traction: they aren’t saddled with a lot of pesky alternate routes sitting there, looking alluring.

The good news is that my (repeatedly) messing up, underestimating how much time something will take and overestimating the energy and resources I have to devote to it, will be good for you, because I will keep writing about it. This, in turn, will be good for me, because I will be forced to examine things. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I’m doing a metric crapload of examining right now as a result of all the stuff I’ve taken on this year. But really, the blog is good for forcing me to get my thoughts out and down, instead of swirling around in my head or even sloughed off in a morning walk. This way, they’re there for posterity AND my own, forgetful self.

For tonight, however, the formula is both simple to sort out AND easy to implement:

  1. I am here in the cold, messy dark of my apartment, overwhelmed by everything I’ve committed to and the enormous burden of responsibility it feels like.
  2. I want to be in bed, watching good/bad BBC, snuggled up with a warm, friendly body (with another, furrier one at the foot of the bed.)
  3. Put on shoes, get in car, drive to The BF’s.

Well, okay, I may opt for clogs…


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

Control what you can


I’m like a broken record about a couple of things with my actors, and yes, I think of them as MY actors, because I put my heart and soul into schooling them on every hard-won lesson I’ve got. And also because I am possessive about them the way I am about MY readers and MY boyfriend and MY dog, even though my dog is technically The BF’s.

The first thing I nag them about is opening their big Dummy Actor minds to the idea that they can learn about acting from learning, period. From studying another art or craft, from learning another (completely unrelated to acting) skill, from reading something, anything, about something other than acting. It’s why I hammer them to sign up for my newsletter, which is jam-packed with stuff any human being with words can use every day of their lives, in or out of the audition room, and it’s why I despair every time I see an “unsubscribe” from one of them. Actors, some of them, anyway, are into learning EXACTLY what it will take to get from A to B, where “A” is where they are and “B” is up on the stage of the Kodak Theatre, clutching a tiny gold man by his crotchal area. (You think I’m kidding, you haven’t met enough actors. Or enough honest ones.)

The second thing I nag my dear, darling, maddening actors about is to put their time into what they can control and let the rest GO. I don’t think I’ve ever stated it explicitly the way I do in February’s column (coming soon to an inbox near you!), but really, if you’re any good at extrapolating, that’s what these endless exhortations to get one’s shit in order are about.

I bring these things up because today I stumbled across the website of a fascinating lady in New York* who happens to teach actors about how to do good monologues (which are, like, the hardest thing in the world to do, and actors HATE them), and happens to have been taught, at one point, by one of the world’s finest living persons of the theater, Mr. David Mamet. Whose teachings she compares to, of all people, FlyLady, whom I’ve also exhorted people to pay attention to if they really, really want to get their shit straight. And who has written an article about auditioning for actors that civilians (that’s “non-actors” to you non-actors) who have more than two brain cells to rub together and who want to get somewhere in their lives should go read right now. (Now. Here it is again.)

I’ve learned about marketing design by reading a terrific blog about marketing by a guy who does it for lawyers, who, trust me on this, could not be further from designers in terms of perceived value and service business models. A guy who writes a (terrific) blog about job seeking for super-tech types became a fan of this blog because…well, I have no idea why. But he is great and we are now real-life friends and learn from each other.

The list goes on. I can’t, because I’ve got to go run and meet a bunch of designers, a group I no longer count myself among, but you can dig around in my links and find all the other people who are nothing like me and yet getting at the same truth via different means. Or go back to this woman’s site and read everything she’s written for actors (check the right sidebar, partway down). Or go to FlyLady, and start practicing being an excellent, nice-to-yourself human being who gets things done without punching yourself in the face repeatedly.

All roads lead to Rome, baby. If there’s a traffic jam or washout or a bunch of potholes on one, go find another.

See you at the Spanish Steps…



*Also weird: her name is Karen Kohlhaas, which freaked me out because I already have a long-distance doppelganger thing going with my now-real-life/Biznik pal, Seattle consultant Karrie Kohlhaas, and if things keep going at this rate, the world is going to collapse in on itself way, way in advance of any Mayan calendar prediction. I mean, come on: REALLY.

Image by Just a Temporary Measure via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Get your motor runnin’, Day 21: Endings are also beginnings


In case you hadn’t noticed, stuff is falling apart all around you.

In case you hadn’t noticed, it always has been.

Someone is always losing a job or hitting a wall or falling out of love. Someone else, somewhere else, is making something new out of what didn’t seem to exist before, an idea or a song or a business or a soccer ball (see above!) or, god bless ’em (and thanks for doing it so I don’t have to) a person.

I had a good, long talk with an interesting fellow I met at a networking event tonight. We met at this networking event because I arranged the event which he also came to and we wound up sitting next to each other.

But we also met because I quit my job some 16-odd years ago and drove across the country with a man who is now married to someone else, to write for a show that no longer exists, produced by an amazing crew of people who have scattered to the ends of the earth. Or at least the edges of a few continents.

We met because I got kicked out of the Groundlings, had my heart broken several times, had my insides blow up. In fact, if pressed, I would say that most of the goodness in my life today exists because my life as a Healthy Person ended just over six years ago.

Or, if you want to get mundane and granular about it, we met because each of us ended a conversation with someone else.

Stuff is always ending, all the time, all around us, whether we like it or not. And unless the stuff is us having our heads banged into a wall, we usually don’t. And it has to be some egregious banging. Because just a little banging, even that can become preferably to the idea of something else, something that might be worse banging. No, we’ll take this particular banging against this particular wall. It’s fine. It’s not even stucco.

Fear, fear, gimme a beer. How do I steer? Is help near?

We talked of fear, this fellow and I, and about how it stops people from doing what they’re meant to do next. (It’s key, that “next.” Because you’re always doing something, right? And you can waste a lot of time staying in something when you should be moving on to what’s next.) He wondered if there was something particular that kept people from doing the next thing, and really, most of the time, the only thing particular about it is the flavor of fear: fear of loss of identity, fear of loss of prestige, fear of failure and thus becoming a non-person (this is a BIG one for artists), fear of destitution. You get the idea. If you were playing along, you either recognized one of these or another popped up. Feel free to share it in the comments.

Because I’m here to tell you, you are free. That thing you want is gettable. Maybe not in the exact way you’re picturing it right now, but trust me, no matter how excellent a picturer you are, you cannot begin to imagine the multifarious ways the universe can imagine things. The universe will put your shit to shame.

Just go do the one thing. You know. The one thing that would move you one step closer. And then the next day, do one more thing. At some point, tell some people what you’re doing, slowly, carefully, because you want to make as sure as possible you’re going to get help, not hindrance.

Stuff is ending all around you. Your ability to recall things and your ability to eat whatever you want with impunity and your 40s, if you’re me. Something else if you’re you.

Let it end, and open your arms to embrace the magnificent next thing. You must do it for yourself. You must do it for the world.

The new year is not so new anymore. This 21-Day Saluteâ„¢ is over, too. And that’s a good thing.

Because without it ending, you’d never get to see what’s next…


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