Month: April 2012

What’s up & what’s gone down :: April 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)

  • “Making People Love You Madly” tour for ASMP [May 3: Tucson, AZ; June 7, Seattle, WA] The last two of my “marketing in the postmodern age” talk for the American Society of Media Photographers—oh, how time has flown! This version of my core talk on marketing was customized for commercial photographers, 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!
  • World Domination Summit [July 6-8, Portland, OR] I’ll be giving the 50-minute version of “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” (aka “the 50-for-50 talk”) as a workshop at this year’s installment of the world’s most fun conference EVER in Portland. The conference has been sold out for months, but occasionally, some poor soul has to release their ticket and you can jump on it. Follow #WDS2012 and @chrisguillebeau on Twitter for scoop.

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

  • TEDxConcordiaUPortland [Portland, OR; March 31] I was beyond thrilled, honored, and yes, terrified to be presenting at this conference whose theme is “Becoming Extraordinary.” I mean, pressure much? But Michelle Jones, my friend and TEDx organizer (and 50-for-50 supporter) extraordinaire, had faith in me, so I screwed my courage to the sticking place and also, actually rehearsed. A lot. I’m pretty happy with the results, which you can watch above, or by clicking through to YouTube.
  • 3x3x365 :: I don’t really do guest posts, but when my wonderful and, briefly, exhausted friend Amy McCracken called out for help, I was able to hide my eagerness to tell a story on my favorite-est blog in the cloak of selflessness.
  • The Strictly Business Blog :: I’ve continued to write for my wonderful clients, the ASMP, on a variety of marketing and productivity-related topics. Recent contributions include a love note to Evernote and managing expectations with your very own Twitter policy.
  • Savor & Serve Blog :: To celebrate a full year of her re-branded blog, the gorgeous and talented Jennifer Louden invited a group of her friends to share how they’d savored and/or served this past year. I was thrilled to participate, mostly because this year, I finally managed to do some service! It’s a lovely, sweet, and breezy roundup.

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. Also, busy. But I continue to waste far too much time over on Facebook, who, speaking of which, have not yet ruined Instagram.


Book review: The Fire Starter Sessions

It seems like every 10 or 20 years, there’s one breakthrough book in the personal development category.

The chronological first of the How-Do-I-Get-There-From-Here? books to help me find my way was Barbara Sher’s Wishcraft. It’s gentle and playful in tone, yet still filled with the kind of useful tools and practical exercises that make a Virgo’s heart go pitter-pat.*

Next in the all-star lineup was the first I came to, Julia Cameron’s legendary Artist’s Way. Its language is a bit soft and dreamy around the edges, but structurally, the book is rock-solid. After finishing The Artist’s Way, one friend of mine followed a long-dormant dream of becoming a singer-songwriter; I finally left copywriting behind and embraced the terrifying-to-me path of acting.

Which brings us to today, and to Danielle LaPorte’s sweeping, energizing entry in the canon, The Fire Starter Sessions.

Like her predecessors, Danielle’s exercises for excavating your true self are rooted in real-life experience, emerging over time from hundreds of sessions with actual clients. Full disclosure: I attended an early Fire Starter workshop in Los Angeles, and have been a friend and admirer of the Fiery One and her spark ever since.  Further, fuller-than-full disclosure: I am reasonably sure that Danielle may count “witch” alongside other credentials on her impressive resume. She has an uncanny knack for sussing out fuzzy and/or difficult truths that training alone can’t account for.

That said, the worksheets and exercises in TFSS should prove enormously valuable in uncovering your own true self. Her core discovery tool alone (“The Burning Questions”, of course!) will shine considerable light on your key truths, but please don’t skip ahead: the book is designed to lead you through a process, and step-skippers will miss out on valuable anchoring ideas and frameworks.

While the central focus of the book is pretty clearly self-discovery, Danielle also has an excellent grasp of marketing and promotion, especially where they intersect with personal branding, and a keen sense of what stops many of us from making money (hint: usually, prior issues around money). The Fire Starter Sessions is definitely not a business book, but as with Wishcraft, the lessons you learn about how you engage with people, places, and money will impact your work life as well as your personal and spiritual lives.

Finally, if it’s not already obvious, like Sher and Cameron before her, Danielle LaPorte writes for a specific type of creative mind: searching and open, especially to the connection between mind, body, and spirit. While she is absolutely down-to-earth—her language is lively and colloquial and her practical, real-world experience abounds—as the subtitle suggests, her attitude towards change is at least as soulful as it is practical. If pressed, I’d probably describe it as woowoo-friendly, with an edge. Which is far from a bad thing, but is a very particular thing. A quick read of her enormously popular blog or a sample chapter should immediately determine if this book speaks to you.

If it does, you’re in for a real treat: The Fire Starter Sessions contains Danielle’s best wisdom on creating the life you truly desire. It’s comprehensive, wide-ranging, and packed with valuable stuff for the journey.


UPDATE 4/25/12, 10:50am: There’s going to be some kind of a Twitter party going on tonight at 6pm PT. 10 cents for every tweet marked with the hashtag #FireSS goes to WriteGirl, nonprofit beneficiary of The 50-for-50 Project. Go! Tweet!

Book design by Maria Elias. Author photo by Sherri Koop.

*One stellar example? The woowoo-friendly version of that time-tested accountability wonder from the business world, the master mind group. Scher calls hers “Success Team”, and if you’ve been put off by Napoleon Hill’s early-20th-Century, male-centric prose, it might be the thing that finally saves you.

Book review: Design Is a Job

design is a job and mike monteiro is GREAT at his job

There are all kinds of myths surrounding the arts, especially where they intersect with commerce. Myths about working when the muse strikes, as opposed to working to increase the odds that she will. Myths about success (“It’s a mysterious mystery come by mysteriously…plus Twitter!”). Enough myths about money to keep the stick-shaking brigade busy for a thousand billing cycles.

But after almost 30 years of circulation in the worlds of copywriting, performance, and design, I believe the most pernicious myth of all is that artists cannot learn to be good business people. Because we absolutely can if: (a) we’re willing to make what may be some uncomfortable changes to our outlook and operating style; and (b) we find the right conduit for the information on how to do it.

When you’re ready to embrace that first condition, Design Is a Job brilliantly provides the how-to. Written by Mule Design principal and co-founder Mike Monteiro, it contains a no-bullsh*t framework for building a successful creative business, covering everything from what design is (hint: not decoration) to how to keep your pipeline full of the kind of jobs you actually look forward to working on (hint: it does not involve cold calling, begging, or excessive retweeting). Networking, contracts, presenting, and management—it’s all in here, in a compulsively readable 130 pages. Because no one knows better than Mike Monteiro that the real secret to getting the job done is doing the job, not reading about it.

While it is specifically written for designers, like The Elements of Content Strategy, a similarly outstanding entry in A Book Apart’s series of “brief books for people who design websites,” it is absolutely civilian-friendly.* If you’re a creative artist who needs to get paid for your creative artistry, there’s something here for you—writers, illustrators, and yes, even you, my lovely actors. You may have to put on your translator headphones here and there, but I guarantee that if you do, you will come away with invaluable insight in how to be less of a goofy creative and more of a goofy creative who gets paid.

Few things are more wonderful than being paid to do work you’d do for free—and few things will grind you down to a grim nub of misery faster than failing to treat that work as a job. Design Is a Job clearly, simply, and often hilariously outlines the steps for actually making a profit doing the work you love.


*UPDATE: And lo, A Book Apart feels similarly about the synergy between these two books: you can buy them in a bundle!

Book design by Jason Santa Maria.  Author photo by Ryan Carver.

Embracing the tiny, Day 21: Small finales

I began this series because I was having trouble beginning. (If that ain’t the sound of one hand clapping, I don’t know what is.)

I thought that if I kept things small, I could keep things going—I could keep beginning, every day. And damned if it didn’t work, until about two-thirds of the way through, when my well-meaning, deeply toxic brain started off-gassing “should”s.

You should end it with a BIG finish—something grand and profound to wrap it all up with majesty. And symmetry! Or maybe irony!

You should compile these into a book, create a Tumblr blog, buy a URL, start a mailing list. 

You should have a plan. You should have HAD a plan. Or gotten a plan. You should have figured out some way to keep it going, to monetize it, to Grow the Brand.

And you know what? It’s possible. It’s possible that I should have done many things, and it’s definitely possible that I could have done them. What I needed to do when I began this, though, was to begin. And then to keep on beginning, right through to the end. (At which point, of course, I am free to keep beginning.)

So at the end of this beginning, I tell myself this: You looked up at the trees, and saw them a different way. You slowed down, you fixed your gaze on thing after tiny thing, and saw their stories. And that is enough.

I am starting to think endings only seem big, and also that they only seem like endings. And, in the same way, that small things only seem tiny. There is so much there; there is the whole world in that one tiny thing, if you want to see it. Each tiny thing, a door into the whole, wide world.

And the only thing you should do, in the end, is know that you always, in any moment, have the chance to begin again.


This is Day 21 of a 21-day series. For more scoop on the who/what/why, go here.

Embracing the tiny, Day 20: A bit of sunshine

a sliver of PDX sunlight

While I’ve been away from it quite a bit this past year, Los Angeles averages 186 days of sunshine per year.

On the other hand, my second-favorite city, “the People’s Republic of Portland”, gets a measly 68 days of sunshine per year.

This is as much of a reason to visit as any: never, ever do I appreciate a ray of sunlight the way I do when I’m in Portland. (And never, ever do I move as quickly or with as much purpose to capture it on camera.)

For a while after I arrive, the appreciation bleeds over into other areas, too: coffee tastes blacker; inside seems cozier; time spent with friends feels more buoying. The strongness of these sensations tapers off after a week or two, and my pansy-frail constitution begins to wilt under the relentless pressure of gray skies and mud underfoot.

Still, even when I am days—or hours, or weeks—from my crazy, California desert, along will come a slice of sunshine, a spray of crazy-colored buds, an elfin patch of moss, to give me a wee smile.

Good cheer, they whisper, and don’t forget to thank the rain.


This is Day 20 of a 21-day series. For more scoop on the who/what/why, go here.