Nobody Cares But You #3

Not-quite-a-newsletter about growing up and beyond by Nicole Michaelis

How do you balance output for you and output for others?

I don’t know how many times I attempted to write this newsletter this month and failed. But that’s also the reality of selling your time as a creative — sometimes there is no magic sauce left for your own projects, the projects that often have the highest return on investment when it comes to well-being and energy.

Thanks, brain. I take the hint. So I decided to write about exactly this: how do you balance output for you and output for others (indirectly for you too, as it usually — you know — pays the bills). I find this to be one of the most challenging parts of working as a creative. And as you can tell from my opening paragraph, I have yet to master it myself. I do, however, have some techniques that have helped me tackle this in the past. Here are some of them.

Focus thrice — every month, every week, every day

I’m a big fan of journaling as my journaling sessions usually spiral into planning and help me magically focus on the things that matter most to me. But — I’ve come to the realization that I need to do this more than I originally expected.

While I do some planning for the next month at the end of every month and also recap this on a weekly basis to make room for changes (there are always a ton of changes), I manage to make the most time for my own projects when I do it daily. Ideally, first thing in the morning.

I’ll look at my agenda for the day and just decide that I will make time to write a chapter of my novel, a poem, or to play around with some graphic design. It’s a decision that for some reason only ever works on the day. If I try to plan for the same thing a couple of days in advance, it doesn’t work. I often end up skipping the me-creativity time and end up doing extra client work instead. Why? I have yet to figure that out.

Remember what got you there

This sounds dumb but is a super-powerful move. What got you into the creative scene in the first place? What landed you your first client? What fuels your passion? Chances are the answers to those questions go way back and started with you drawing, doodling, scribbling, pasting, dancing or singing. Most of us discover our creative side when allowed to play. And when we first try to make a living off our creative brain, it’s exactly that which gets us business: personal projects, experiments, things we taught ourselves or did out of our own free will. And even now that we may have dozens of paid client projects in our portfolio, this hasn’t changed. Personal projects still show incredible initiative and passion. They add to our narrative. They make us more than our work. And even though they don’t pay, they are totally paying off as part of our creative capital.

Sometimes saying goodbye to a client project for the day so I can write my own stuff is as simple as reminding myself of exactly that —what got me there started only with me.

Go out and play.


We need to talk about Seasonal Depression

The days are getting shorter and while we may enjoy the coziness and the increased carb intake (cinnamon buns, anyone?) it’s a scary season for those of us who get affected by darkness mentally. Seasonal Depression is no joke, and chances are someone around you is suffering. Here’s some quick inspiration on what you can do to help:

Autumn is terrifying

Book Sneak peek: The opening poem

Most of you know my first book is coming out in less than 2 months. It’s a poetry collection centered around the same themes as this newsletter — growing up and beyond. So why not share the first poem in the book right here? It’s called Heavy Heart Syndrome.

Winds blowing in from the East

I pull the baker boy hat a little bit lower

Maybe if you hadn’t given me Joni or Janis when I was thirteen

things would be different now

No sipping black coffee waiting for line after line to come

I’d haul heavy shopping bags home

I’d be cooking meals

Dancing? Only on Fridays

Singing? Never, really

Instead, I focus all my energy on

holding my body upright

due to this heavy heart syndrome

that plagues me

And I fantasize about

Simplicity

Loving people more and ideas less

How it’d feel to get obsessed

with your concept of happiness

Freedom is just a fancy way of saying

there’s nothing left worth chasing

But you know I lie when I say

I’m free now, the tears are dry, I’ve found my place

It’s funny really

how I crave the sun so much

and yet shy away from the light

cover myself in words of wisdom

longing for an endless night

the final revelation

I lead a foolish life

Book of the month

I felt a strong urge to position myself as more intellectual and recommend a non-fiction book this month. F that. The book I enjoyed most during the past 4 weeks was Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. It was a quick read. In fact, I read it in one day. And while it isn’t the world’s deepest plot, it’s written in such an impressively reflective way, that it feels like you’re almost experiencing every scene together with the narrator.

Things and people moved around me, taking positions in obscure hierarchies, participating in systems I didn't know about and never would. A complex network of objects and concepts. You live through certain things before you understand them. You can't always take the analytical position. - Sally Rooney, Conversations with Friends


That’s it for October. Now leave your desk and chase some autumn sun.

Thoughts? Opinions? Feedback even? Please share by replying to this email or coming @ me on TwitterInstagramMediumLinkedin or via email.

Thanks for reading!

Never truly yours,

Nicole

P.S.: Wanna pay me without spending money? Skim through this quick read to see all the ways you can support me and your other writing friends.

Nobody Cares But You #2

Not-quite-a-newsletter about growing up and beyond by Nicole Michaelis

It was a fine late August morning and I was biking to work. A painfully long commute, prolonged even more by fellow bikers, trucks on the bike lane, and those damn e-scooters laying all over the place like the world doesn't have any rules. I was concentrated on surviving, while listening to the Goop podcast (hello, cliché). I glanced to the side and noticed my reflection in a shop window. I actually looked...happy.

Even though I had a full workday ahead of me that I was only partly looking forward to, I felt pretty great. Good things were happening all around me. Friendships tightening. Fun projects developing. Dreams coming true (like literally, did you hear I'm publishing a book yet?). The present and the future looked bright. I felt excited. And even the small things that went wrong, barely clouded my mind's blue, blue skies. I was genuinely looking forward to what was coming. Wait...did this mean...I had become an optimist?

Shock. Disbelief. A wrinkled forehead. I, Nicole, an optimist? No friggin’ way. Except yes.

Life’s pretty great, I’ve come to realize. Especially if you make it through hardships. It’s all about letting the right people in, doing things you care about, and being…you know…you! And trust me, I know that’s not always easy. But this month’s newsletter is about that. Being happy to be you. So maybe you too, will end up finding your inner optimist.

It took me almost 30 years to train my mind to be more optimistic. Here’s what worked (and what didn’t).

First of all, I want to shoutout all my super optimistic friends. I’m really happy that you’re happy, but telling me to stop looking at stuff so negatively has probably been the most annoying thing about this entire journey. We all have reasons for looking at things the way we do. No matter if it’s depression or other mental issues or if we’re just generally going through a hard time. Sometimes things suck. And sometimes even ok things appear to suck in someones head. Be cool with that. Besides that, yes please keep telling us how much better things are on the optimistic side. We may seem annoyed at first, but your positivity will find its way into our cold, cold hearts eventually.

Things that helped me be more optimistic

  1. I’m pretty awesome. You know me, I’m extremely honest. So I’m not gonna lie: it helped to be super successful. Yup. I said it. I have no problem admitting that things have been going well for ya girl and if things go well for a while, you start seeing the world in brighter colors. But I’m not here to rub in that your life maybe sucks if stuff isn’t going well for you right now. I want to mention it because I’ve also been there: shattered, lost, scared, no idea in hell what I was even doing (and why), and I made it through. It took time and dedication, but I did make it. So you can too.

  2. Chasing summer. Living in Scandinavia but really anywhere you have proper winters means you’re gonna have a shit time for a couple of months, usually between November and March. I personally get extremely affected by darkness so here’s what I do: before taking a new gig/job, I already tell the employer that I won’t be available on-site for at least four weeks during winter. This gives me the time to book a trip somewhere warm and sunny. And it made all the difference for me the past two years when I actually left to go somewhere sunny for 3+ weeks. Good news, most employers actually did let me work remotely and were very understanding. So just make it part of your plan and go chase some sun. Sun = more optimism. It’s science.

  3. Be brutal with your focus. It’s hard to stay focused on the things that really matter when you’re living in a society that constantly bombards you with things to want, do, create. You may have gotten that promotion you wanted, but you still can’t afford that thing you crave or that fancy Bali vacation. You may have written a great poem, but what if nobody every reads it? You may have gone to the gym four times this week, but Dolores still looks so much skinnier. The point is: there’s always more to do, make, want, create. It’s capitalism, baby. How I beat it? Disciplined goal setting at least three times a week. I take my notebook, I sit myself down, I write down all the things that I kind of want and then I reflect on their importance and rank them. Surprisingly enough, while writing down often more than 10 things in the beginning of the exercise, I’m rarely left with more than two that actually matter in the end. This is a powerful way to set focus. If you’re just getting started with this, I suggest this as a Sunday evening activity. How it works? By focusing on things that truly matter, you actually achieve them faster and also don’t care about all the things you may not be achieving. It basically tricks your FOMO and helps you focus on the successes. Great, eh?

  4. Stop comparing yourself. Get off of Instagram or Linkedin or wherever you go to fuel your hate for yourself. We’re all different and that means everybody’s journey is different. Repeat after me: it doesn’t matter what X does because X is not you. You are you.

  5. Stop following the news. I deleted all my news apps, including Twitter, on New Year’s Eve. My husband is now my source for weather updates. This sounds scary, but has impacted my ability to be optimistic by tenfold. Yeah, I rarely know what’s going on but I also care less (and get to focus on the things I actually can affect). Nine months into no news I can honestly say: they make everything worse. Horrible images paired with constant panic making — it’s a great way to manipulate us but it’s a bad way to live. Get rid of the news.

  6. Sleep better, sleep more. I’m deeply passionate about sleep. Improving my sleep quality, made me happier and definitely makes optimism easier. Read more.

  7. Cut yourself some slack. I mean it. You’re doing fine. No matter how it looks in the books. No matter what your mind may be telling you. If you’re being kind to others, you’re good. Be a bit kinder to yourself, will you?

And that’s all. Optimism is hard, but you can get there if you let go of most of the crap and focus on what you truly care about.


Should artists be humble?

Are you (a) creative? Then you’ve probably pondered this question before. Being humble is a virtue many believe important, but does it really make sense for artists and other creatives?

Read my thoughts

The Chair

A short-story about that chair we all have, you know the one that has all the not-quite-dirty-enough-for-laundry clothes?

Read the story

Book of the month

The German title of this book is Hobos, Zen, and High Mountains, which I personally find about 31 times better than the original English title The Dharma Bums. But title aside, this is a slow, relaxing read. Jack Kerouac, who of course is famous for challenging how society chooses to live and advocates for a simpler, more zen life (he basically was me if I would practice what I preach, but no, here I am ordering a 200€ necklace from some online store…), takes the reader on a journey across the US. Very little happens, but there’s a lot of hidden philosophy in between the nothingness. The perfect read for a sunny park bench in the early autumn.

The silence was an intense roar. - Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums


That’s it for September. Thoughts? Opinions? Feedback even? Please share by replying to this email or coming @ me on TwitterInstagramMediumLinkedin or via email.

Thanks for reading!

Never truly yours,

Nicole

P.S.: Wanna pay me without spending money? Skim through this quick read to see all the ways you can support me and your other writing friends.

Nobody Cares But You #1

Not-quite-a-newsletter about growing up and beyond by Nicole Michaelis

That's what I decided to call my monthly newsletter. Because I've learned a lot of things from working with dozens of clients in the past year alone. But the main learning was exactly this: nobody cares but you. Make a small mistake? You'll fix it. Face rejection? You'll get over it and so will your boss. Having a bad day? Tomorrow will be better.

We worry too much about unnecessary things. What for? What should have been, is. 

But Nobody Cares But You is about more than just reminding yourself to take it easy and worry less. It's also about having to face the reality that (almost) nobody cares about your happiness and well-being. If you're working in a toxic environment, you have to get out. Nobody will save you. If you're overwhelmed by work and constantly struggling, you have to speak up and find a solution. Nobody will hand it to you. If you hate everything about the way you look, you need to learn to accept your body. Nobody can accept it for you.

That's what Nobody Cares But You is about. And if you're up for the ride, I'll send you an email like this once a month. I'll share some personal reflections and (hopefully) learnings along with some articles, stories, poems, or essays I published. 

Thanks for reading. And I'd be forever grateful for your support in any of these ways.


My one-great-idea-process

I follow this 4-step-process pretty much on a daily basis when I need to come up with ideas or creative solutions. And now, you can too.

Force yourself.

A simple exercise I find myself doing quite regularly is forcing myself to come up with as many ideas as possible for one purpose. Let’s say I want to write an article but don’t know what to write about. I’ll take about 3 minutes to write down any possible topic I can think of.

Don’t judge.

While doing this (or any kind of creative exercise) it’s important to not judge your ideas. Just let them flow out of you, then look at them as a whole when they’re all out there.

Feel into it.

Once I have a bunch of ideas, I try to feel into each one of them. In the case of an article I want to write, I will imagine myself writing it. Will writing about this topic excite me? Would I feel energized by reading research about it? You can play with the kind of questions you ask yourself. By using your intuition, your mind will guide you towards the right ideas.

Try for 10 minutes.

Let’s say you’ve chosen an idea. Now it’s important to test it out. When I choose a topic I want to write an article about, I set my timer to 10 minutes and try to come up with a really brief draft — usually consisting of the key-points I want to write about. After the 10 minutes have passed, I again try to evaluate how I felt about this. Did I feel good writing about this topic? Did it come easy? If the answer is no, it’s not the right idea for today.

Repeat until you hit a sweet spot. You’ll be surprised how quickly you become better at spotting good ideas and developing new ones.


Read more


Came here for the copy?

Sure. What about learning how to never write bring copy every again? ...unless your client wants you to, of course. You’ve come to the right place.

My ebook on copywriting


More into artsy reading?

Read my short story about the last months of a relationship. First published in October Hill Magazine — and rejected by The New Yorker with a personal letter (this is a major complement). Not for the faint-hearted.

Read 'Putting it down'


Book of the month

My friends love me for my often beautiful, sometimes disturbing book tips. This month, I’d like to recommend a true classic. Hermann Hesse’s fairy tales is the perfect book if you want to feel calm and intellectually stimulated at the same time. Plus, I swear it gives you crazy dreams.

Meaning and reality were not hidden somewhere behind things, they were in them, in all of them - Hermann Hesse


That’s it for August. Thoughts? Opinions? Feedback even? Please share by replying to this email or coming @ me on TwitterInstagramMediumLinkedin or via email.

Thanks for reading!

Never truly yours,

Nicole

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