• FAIL HARDER: Thoughts on Creativity, Writing, Anxiety and Fear

    I woke up to an email from a family friend whose daughter has major college-bound angst due to chronic procrastination habits when it comes to writing. She asked if I ever struggled with that. Turns out I had a lot to say…

    I am a terrible procrastinator, and it goes back to elementary school. Without hesitation, I would scrap any progress on a project I worked on all weekend and start over Sunday night at 9 p.m with a bigger, better idea. For example, a short story assignment evolved into a nine-part visual treasure hunt starring my troll doll, Mae, named after Madonna’s character in A League of Their Own. Part of the habit may have been established because my creative mojo didn’t always kick in until hours after I’d been mulling over the problem. But that was back when I was fearless. 

    As I got older, my mounting anxiety fueled a quest for positive feedback and perfection. I didn’t want to write a sentence on the page unless it was flawless. There was an upside to waiting until 1 a.m. to start a paper due in the morning: I was so fucked that the angst somehow vanished and I shifted into get-shit-done mode. This wasn’t a solution. Operating this way, I didn’t have the opportunity to play with or develop ideas. Also, there’s no way my brain ever retained a 2 a.m. reading of The Republic.

    fail_harderThese days, when it comes to the personal projects of my dreams, a fear of failure cripples my goals in the form of indefinite suspension. At work I can produce nearly a dozen pitches a day, but when it comes to the features I’d like to write on nights and weekends, I haven’t sent one single pitch to the editors in my network. I often stare at a John Burroughs quote scrawled on a creative director’s wall at the office: “The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.” Intellectually, I understand I don’t have to write a masterpiece to earn a writing assignment; still, I’m struggling to believe that giving myself permission to suck is more nobel than not trying at all: “FAIL HARDER” demands the note card I recently taped to my desk. I think it’s starting to sink in.

    So, here are some thoughts on the intersection of creativity, writing, fear and anxiety that I would instill into my 18-year-old self if I could.

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  • Birthday Invites: A Retrospective! Plus, the Appropriation of Dr. Zizmor and Cats

    I had been an earnest member of the workforce for about a year when I started writing “slice of life”-type stuff for a publication’s e-newsletter. In one blurb, I wrote about how my cats took advantage of my black-out-y Sunday morning hangover haze by draping themselves across my immobile legs—something I’d never let them do otherwise. (Obviously I followed up the story with 87 Surprising Tips for Flat Abs.)

    One dear reader (let’s call her Dorothy) would have none of this. She promptly penned an email lambasting my choices, and, even worse, shunning my surprising tips. Anyway, inexplicably, I worked this all into a birthday invite using the rudimentary Microsoft Paint program, which would only save files as a PDF. Thus, the annual Birthday PDF was spawned and paved the way for other weird PNGs and JPGs that tricked people into spending time with me on my big day. Check it out after the jump. (“After the jump”—I’ve always wanted to say that!)

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  • No Filter Photography | Gradations: On the Spectrum

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    Had the beach sunset to myself in Boca Raton. © 2013 Deanna Michalopoulos.

  • No-Filter Photography: Quechee Is Full of Hot Air

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    Checking out the hot air balloons released from the 34th Annual Quechee Hot Air Balloon and Craft Festival. © 2013 Deanna Michalopoulos.

  • You Guys, I Contacted a “Nice Guy” on OKCupid Today! (Oops)

    Here is this Nice Guy broadcasting the most charming words to the OKStupid community, and there I go, Shallow Girl, messaging him to mirror his saccharine sentiment. God, I ruin everything! Poor guy was probably just seeking some comfort from Hot Chicks begging to prove him wrong, right? I mean, I get his point. It’s different when he comments on our bodies; I don’t even have to explain why, it just is, OK? And it’s pathetic when, in return, a woman needs a man to pack some muscle tone in those skinny jeans. Girls, stop being so Shallow and be Nice to the Nice Guy!

  • Brooklyn Stumps: Christmas Tree Edition

    My maiden cab ride into Manhattan was speeding (and often curtly braking) to a two-bedroom Avenue A apartment I’d share for three months with four other Medill magazine interns. There was a lot to see from that cab’s dust-crusted windows, but the very first thing I noticed about New York City was the death of Christmas. It was the start of 2004, and dried out firs, pines and spruces were unceremoniously heaped into evergreen tombstones along the curbs. Branches once reverently adorned with lights and glass now snapped under the weight of errant taxi tires, foot traffic and trash bags.

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  • Having an Argument With Myself Reading Men’s Health Magazine

    Everyone stand up. Click on this Men’s Health feature and read it. Now sit down if you’re offended. (This construct kind of worked for Tina Fey in Mean Girls, and I’ve been meaning to try it out.) In all honesty, I do want to talk to those still standing because I’ve been having a point-counterpoint discussion in my head since I first read Lindy West’s thoughtful Jezebel essay shredding it to pieces. The write-up in question is an aggregation of research™ illuminating the 11 qualities that stack up to the “Perfect Woman.” (Spoiler: She’s stacked.)

    She is also a tall brunette with tiny feet. She smiles a lot and laughs at her dude’s jokes. She’s “adequately” educated, and my favorite part, she’s particularly smokin’ when she’s successful — “but not TOO successful.”

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  • Tickets to Batman: Worst Date Ever

    Dread begins pooling in my gut following an uncomfortable email exchange in the hours leading up to my fourth date with Jeremy. It is too late to cancel, so I decide to give it the ol’ Protestant try — sweep stomach-gripping reservations under the rug long enough to keep the evening as tension-free as possible. If it doesn’t go well, I can end it the next day with a phone call from another burrough.

    To be fair, he meets me at the subway station, a rare chivalrous gesture in New York City, and he holds my hand as we walk several blocks to a restaurant uptown. I make the obligatory complaints about the sweltering heat before my hand goes limp and I let go.
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  • Rustic Chic (and Cheap!) Christmas Tree Ornaments

    Let me just say that this tree is my spirit animal. Wait, what? We’re not saying that anymore? Fine, but still, the tree is awesomely rad. Thanks to my burgeoning skills in free association, this Frasier fir is named Kelsey Grammar (a lady though, due to her lovely pear-shaped form), and she’s objectively majestic in stature and fragrance. The charm, however, dangles from metallic accoutrements my friend Logan and I picked up on Black Friday, when we scoured Bed Stuy’s dollar stores and Home Depot’s hardware aisle in search of inexpensive (but inspired) tree trimmings. A stiff budget seems to result in a burst of creativity, so I wanted to share the fun cross section of farm, industrial and gilded ornaments that add up to a silhouette for the ages. Or at least for the next month.

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  • No-Filter Photography: Cross Section Skyline


    From residential Bushwick to the twinkling Freedom Tower downtown, this is Thanksgiving. © 2012 Deanna Michalopoulos.