Sunday, March 15, 2009

The OSI Interview: Colleen Wainwright

Colleen Wainwright is a writer-speaker-illuminator who started calling herself “the communicatrix” when she hit three hyphens.

She spent 10 years as an award-winning TV copywriter crafting ads for brands like Wheaties®, Gatorade® and Jell-O®, and another 10 acting in them for cash money. Since deciding she’d blow her brains out if she had to sit through one more meeting about which way the bears danced around the cereal box, Colleen spends her time teaching other creative souls how to talk about what they do in a way that wins them attention, work and satisfaction.

Currently, this translates as speaking to groups about non-sucky usage of social media, consulting with solopreneurs about how to get their message out there and creating content for an alarmingly large number of online outlets.

What else? She is one hell of a woman. Tough, warm, funny, irreverent, kind and with more ideas in one little finger than are contained in the entire body of most other humans, Colleen is one of my local heroes. Give her all of your business and money as soon as you possibly can.

1. In the context of your work, which bits of minutiae matter most?

I'm tempted to say that my work is all about the minutiae. I try to carve out great swaths of time for myself to take in and sift and putter so that the tasty morsels get trapped in my web. (How many metaphors did I just butcher with that? Five? Six?)

Anyway, if I had to narrow it down, I'd say that in my writing, close attention to the thin, thin line dividing using the personal to illuminate the general and self-diggery is the most important thing. In my consulting work, finding the thread that allows a client to hang onto something after we're off our call and she's into navigating the sometimes murky waters of marketing possibilities by her lonesome. In my speaking work, it's literally slowing down and enunciating so that I'm understandable. I spent 18 months of my two years in Toastmasters on that one, and it still trips me up.

2. Which bits matter least?

I've found that if you provide people with the help they need with cheerfulness and relative alacrity, they're amazingly forgiving about things like late invoicing, follow-up emails to clarify stuff, and general disorder. Things that would not be tolerated in one's accountant or attorney are fine and dandy for me. Um, so far.

3. In the context of your life, what types of minutiae once seemed important, but have since fallen by the wayside? Why?

Could you be more specific with that?


Almost all of it. Perfect punctuation. Adhering strictly to protocol. Dotting "i"s and crossing "t"s. Dress codes. Restraining myself from using foul language. Even showing up on time! Traffic is so abysmal here in L.A., people are stunned in almost a bad way when you show up exactly on time. Like you're some kind of alien replicant.

To be clear, I'm very glad I learned all that Catholic school, Miss Manners-y, upright citizen-type behavior. I know when I'm breaking the rules, and if need be, I could probably travel again in fancier circles and not embarrass myself nor whatever poor, deluded soul invited me. (Although I'd definitely need a brush up. And how.)

4. What types of minutiae, if any, have you had to train yourself to pay closer attention to?

Incomplete email replies sent too quickly. Numbers, of all things—I'm numerically dyslexic, and have learned to repeat EVERY number I'm given to the person giving it me to ensure I can actually return the call/write the check/find the address. This is a weird one, but making sure my purse isn't upside down when I pick it up, or that the lid is tightly on a jar of whatever when I go to grab it.

Most of my pecadilloes are easily handled by s-l-o-w-i-n-g down. Not that I'm ever so inclined.

5. Just for kicks -- what are your favorite bits of minutiae (personal, from a book, a piece of music, moment in a movie, etc.)?

Other than me turning 13 on Friday the 13th, they're all from Play Misty for Me [Note: Why yes, Colleen did rise even further in my estimation after I discovered that she loves Clint also, thank you for asking.], as I've seen it upwards of 100 times (although I've only watched it all the way through a half-dozen). I love that the note Jessica Walter's character has supposedly pinned on a large stuffed animal was clearly written by an old prop guy; I recognize the handwriting as the style of my grandparents. Donna Mills' character makes repeated references to the blondes who used to tempt Clint Eastwood (and drove her away); Ms. Mills is herself a blonde, and that unchanged line is a clear indicator that the writer was herself a brunette.

My all-time fave bit of minutiae from PMFM is the "set dressing" for a scene in Clint Eastwood's kitchen: an empty paper towel roll and a packet of Skotkins fancy paper napkins beside it. It screams "bachelor" pad; I swear, it could have been shot in my dad's post-divorce apartment.


Thank you, Colleen!


persephone said...

"making sure my purse isn't upside down when I pick it up"

I might love this woman.