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Colleenby Colleen Wainwright | The Communicatrix

What to do on your Winter vacation

There’s no getting around it: things get slow this time of year for most of us in the entertainment industry. You can slack off, of course—there’s nothing wrong with a holiday—but investing a little time this month can pay off big over the next 12. Here’s what I’d be spending at least part of my holiday time doing, were I in your character shoes.

Review this past year carefully, dear actor!

As I mentioned last year around this time, the thing you want to do before moving forward is figure out where you’ve been. Review last December’s column, and do yourself a little brain-dumping, list-making and serious reviewing. It may be helpful to gather a small group of friends for this, or maybe just find yourself an accountability partner. My friend, Havi Brooks(whom it wouldn’t hurt you to read, by the way), has a great trick for this: using Twitter, she DMs someone and just says, “Hey! I’ll be spending the next hour doing thus & such.” No need for them to do anything in response; they just serve as a silent accountability partner. I’m totally going to try it myself!

If you’d like some structure, there’s a great exercise in my favorite goal-setting book, Your Best Year Yet, you can use to do this. My friend, Chris Guillebeau, world traveler and serial entrepreneur has a marvelously detailed essay describing his own annual review and goal-mapping technique online for free, and includes an Excel spreadsheet template so you can conduct your own.

And if you really, really want help making 2010 an extraordinary year, I invite you to check out my friend, Peleg Top’s second annual Create Your New Year Retreat, which is happening on two separate dates in January. He’s smart as hell, artist-friendly (i.e., not icky-corporate-scary) and truly dedicated to making sure you’re addressing your growth from all three perspectives: body, mind and spirit. But it won’t be namby-pamby: you will be working, baby! Spots will fill fast, if they haven’t already, so jump on it.

Fill your driving time with stuff that makes you smarter

I am a huge fan of the Adam Carolla podcast for two reasons: first, it’s brilliantly executed hilarity from a performer at the absolute top of his game; second, because I gain valuable insight, information or inspiration from almost every single episode. Five days a week, Carolla sits down to talk with one of his many friends in entertainment, or invites someone he’s never met before to come by the studio to chat about a project that’s caught Carolla’s interest. Tons of great lessons about perseverance, working for free and the perennial fave, 10-year “overnight” successes.

If you’re just discovering Carolla, you’ve got almost a whole year of interviews to dig into, you lucky dog. Some of my favorite episodes with really juicy stuff for artists are the ones with Bryan Cranston, Dave Thomas, Bobcat Goldthwaite, Artie Lange, Mike Birbiglia and Christoph Waltz. But really, you can learn a ton from almost any episode, and especially the ones with people from the entertainment industry.

Warning: there’s a lot of swearing on the podcast, and adult-oriented topics. Hopefully, as a performer, you’re down with that, but I feel it’s my duty to warn you!

Fill your brain with stuff that makes it smarter

If you have not read every one of these books, get crackin’. Seriously.

If you want to mix it up a little, read some great books that aren’t about acting, but that will make you a smarter actor. (And here’s a bonus list for you speed-reading types.)

Don’t forget to read up on marketing, while you’re at it! Here’s a starter list of great marketing types you should be following if you want to learn how to run your business like a business.

Have a great, safe, fun-filled and/or relaxing holiday, and I’ll see you in 2010!

Next month: Kicking off the new year the right way!

Want a little more help wrapping your head around this stuff?

Sign up for my (free) newsletter! Every month I send out a free missive about how to promote yourself without being a tool, and connect with people in a way that makes them love you. It’s not about acting explicitly, but since you’re a smart actor, that shouldn’t scare you. Check it out, then sign up.

Email me your questions: If you’ve got stuff you’d like to see addressed in a future column, do email me. But please, check the archives, first!

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BOOK(s) OF THE MONTH: With multiple demands on your attention (not to mention the stress of family gatherings, crowded stores, and Mass Holiday Fever), this time of the year can be tricky for reading. My suggestion is not to stop, but to adapt: enjoy a collection of engrossing (no pun intended!) interviews with actors and other artists; pick up a  book of short stories; or re-read an old inspiring or engrossing favorite you haven’t picked up in a while. Just don’t give up—reading makes you smarter and keeps you saner!

Colleen Wainwright is a writerspeaker-layabout who started calling herself “the communicatrix” when she hit three hyphens. She spent a decade writing commercials and another decade acting in them for cash money. Now she uses her powers for good instead of evil by helping creatives learn how to strut their stuff in a way that makes the world fall madly in love with them.