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✉️ Dean's List #002

Typewriters, Sleep Paralysis, Zettlekasten is Crime!, Pseudonyms, Local Pizza

Michael Dean
Michael Dean
3 min read


  • Small talk:
    Write of Passage launched this week with 364 students. The week was a blur. Amidst all the pleasant chaos, an unexpected package arrived on Friday. I forgot I ordered an Olympia SM-2 typewriter from 1956. The last few days have been a cocktail of zoom calls, playoff baseball, jazz, nursing a wounded elder, and getting acquainted with this new typing machine.

    I’m shocked by how loud analog typing is. You think mechanical keyboards are loud? Imagine a keyboard hooked up to a guitar amp with a fuzz pedal. I seriously wear ear plugs when I use it. 95 decibels. Your Apple Watch will warn you of hearing damage, and my wife is looking into sound-proofing.

  • Thank you:
    For two odd years, I’ve been writing on my website and collecting emails, but drawing no attention to myself. On Saturday, I sent one of these to a few hundred people like you. Each reply triggered giddy excitement. Last week signaled a big shift for me, from writing in relative privacy, to suddenly appearing in everyone’s inbox. I appreciate you reading this. Don't hesitate to reach out or recommend.

  • The Green Machine – My first hand-typed essay gets meta. How does a typewriter alter the creative process? Hint: this one went through seven rewrites. “Like a band rehearsing on loop, each march forward generates accidents and epiphanies that get carried from cut to cut.”

  • Logs | October 2022 – 35 new ideas to check out. I cover pseudonyms, exclamation marks, acronyms, editing, the tension of being a teacher that experiments, Fernando Pessoa, doomsday satire, the salary of the world’s top racquetball player, and how writing affects memory. My favorite log is about the out-of-body experience I had a few hours after I sent last week’s edition. Sleep paralysis is spooky.

  • The Epiphany Swamp: A Manifesto for Unorganized Notes – I’ve been sitting on this one for a while. Probably because I recognize the potential it has to piss off my friends and students. Writers are tribal, near-religious, when it comes to their note-taking system. I know from experience. At one point, my whole life was organized through relational databases in Notion. Now, I embrace a lo-fi system that bans all forms of structure and linking. Zettlekasten is crime! /s. I’m sharing a Google Doc to gather comments and feedback. Please jump in. Open to ‘amens’ and sharp refutes.


Here are three logs from October. I appreciate your reactions and questions from last week. Your replies help me double-down and expand these ideas into essays.

  • FAQ: Why do you write under a pseudonym?
    I tried writing without one, and my writing was black and white. Knowing my co-workers and family could Google my name, I made sure not to include anything that could burst their mental picture of me. The words were middle-school-dance-nervous. Embarrassingly intellectual. A new writer's past-life-identity is baggage. It’s a slug-suit schlepped around for 20 or 50 years, molded by other people. Ironically, your real name is less you than the first name you pick for yourself. The mask of a pseudonym lets your subconscious spill onto the page, with no one else’s judgment but your own.

  • When the Pizza Place Knows Your Name
    Some people strive to get on a first-name basis with their local restaurants. It’s never been a goal of mine, but it happened at the pizzeria and my wife is jealous. She’s been coming here her whole life and is invisible to them. But whenever I walk in they go, “Mike! Buffalo Chicken?” It’s merely a feature of me ordering the exact same thing every time. There’s a funny lesson in here for writers (one that makes me slightly uncomfortable): Thematic consistency gets remembered.

  • Expression vs. Positioning
    At a certain point, you have to accept that a fair number of people might have the completely wrong impression of you. No piece of writing is a full representation of you. Each essay is a shard of a mosaic. Individual pieces might be professional, angry, artistic, absurd, idealistic, paranoid or anything. The number of people who care to put together the whole puzzle is low. Strategic creators aim to reduce this 'brand confusion' through consistent positioning. This is both a wise decision and a betrayal of the self. What if the ambiguity and mystery behind a creator isn't a bug, but a feature? How could someone position 'the full human?'


I’m going to experiment with sharing new music I find each week.
Spotify or YouTube? Songs or a playlist?

  • Effervescing Elephant (1970)
    Syd Barrett (ex-frontman of Pink Floyd)
    A children’s tune about jungle chaos (NSFC)

Let me know what you’re up to,



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