Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.
Catching Up: 3 Interviews from a Cooling Crucible
Merlin Mann | Mar 17 2010
After almost a year of hand-wringing, fretting, and occasionally even writing the odd string of English words, I've finally started turning into the home stretch with the first draft of my Inbox Zero book.
If it hasn't been obvious, or you couldn't just guess, this book project's been a big rock for me. Given the effort it's taken (read: most every hour I'm not sleeping, working, or pushing my daughter in a swing), it's also the primary reason why updates to 43 Folders have been so scarce over the last few months. The spirit was willing, but the brain--insanely sick of thinking about these very topics--was weak.
Yes, as it turns out, writing a book does require an extraordinary expenditure of both attention and time. And, in my own case, I'll confess that this often meant working even more than four hours a week. But, who knows? Maybe that's just a consequence of my slow typing and abject lack of lifetrepreneurship.
Thing is, this has also been a fantastic and exhilarating time for me. Despite the pressure, the stress, and the alternating tickity-tock of both clock and keyboard, in the end, performing the architecture and masonry required to build such a large project demanded that I gather a lot of seemingly unrelated material, choose the most promising ingredients, and then heat it all up in a deadline-fueled crucible. Sure, it's been mostly good pressure (who the hell complains about having a book deal?), but it's still been real pressure.
Fortunately, with much relief and abundant gratitude, I can say that I'm really satisfied with the emerging artifact. And, of course, I really hope you guys feel the same way when the book comes out. Probably some time in the fall of 2049.
Coming Up for Air
I mention all this here because, if you follow any of the stuff I do and say elsewhere, you'll have noticed a recent uptick in the number of appearances I've been making around the web. That's the happy confluence of my (finally) coming up for air, combined with my determination to (finally) make good on endless months of snoozed and punted and re-re-re-scheduled interview requests from some very cool people, publications, and podcasts. (Thanks to everyone who's asked and, if I missed you, please ask again.)
So, today, I beg your indulgence to share three recent interviews with me that I like quite a lot.
While all three are profiles of me and what I've been doing and thinking about as I work on this infernal book business, they also each bear directly on the topics that I know mean a lot to you guys, too. Especially, if you're one of the band of brothers who've stuck with me and courageously kept this XML-enabled null space in your feed reader since my much-discussed shift away from productivity pr0n.
Thus, by way of inarguably self-involved catch-up--and as an informal reintroduction to how I truly believe you can "find the time and attention to do your best creative work"--here's three recent interviews:
I really hope you'll like them.
The Pipeline, ep. 7; with Dan Benjamin
My longtime hero, Hivelogic's Dan Benjamin, recently invited me onto 5 by 5's flagship podcast, "The Pipeline." While it was intimidating to know I'd be standing alongside such august (and superior) talent as Zeldman, Haughey, Coudal, and Inman, I was honored to be asked, and I'm extremely happy with the results.
We cover a lot of territory in less than 40 minutes, but we basically hit on almost every major topic that means a lot to me right now, including, the power of voice, the challenges of knowledge work, the perils of the Lizard Brain, the primacy of action, the seeming unavoidability of Buddhism, and the hidden dangers of following herds, chasing dumb traffic, and aping the "success" of others.
Thanks much for this opportunity, Dan. You're a real pro.
Mac Power Users, ep. 23; with David Sparks and Katie Floyd
Averse as I am to promoting productivity pr0n for its own sake, this tour de force podcast should be a lot of fun to anyone who's interested in Mac and iPhone workflows.
Because, believe it or not, I am besieged with daily requests for details on how I actually work. And, if you have even the vaguest passing interest in how I currently sew together OmniFocus, Notational Velocity, TextExpander, Pastebot, Pinboard, Instapaper, Simplenote, Scrivener, MultiMarkdown, Quicksilver, and more, more, more, prepare for your head to explode multiple times. There's a lot here, so don't miss Katie's exhaustive show notes for a full run-down.
But, like I said, please do take all this in doses. This is something I've evolved over years, so you certainly don't need to stop what you're doing to try to implement all of this.
Still, I have to say, this podcast lays out an empirically nerdtastic workflow which even the dorkiest Mac fanboy will find something new and awesome in. And, yes, there's loads of non-tool-fetish advice on how to do the actual work. I promise.
Thanks so much to David and Katie for putting up with 90 minutes of me talking very quickly about the most embarrassing details of my encompassing Mac dorkery.
MaxFunCon Podcast, ep. 12; "Keep Moving"; with Jesse Thorn
I'm an unapologetic fan of everything Jesse Thorn does, including The Sound of Young America, Jordan Jesse GO!, and, of course, his annual conference celebrating all things awesome, MaxFunCon. In fact, you may remember the talk on "Getting Started" that I presented at MFC last year.
In this admittedly rambling (but hopefully charming) interview, Jesse and I talk about what makes MaxFunCon so special, as well as how a person who's as--to use Jesse's parlance--"ADD-addled" as I am can actually put a 50,000-word book together. Along the way I profess my love for Maria Bamford, Jonathan Coulton, and Chris Hardwick, as well as extol the virtues of drinking vodka from a glass skull with John Hodgman.
Silliness aside, we talk frankly about the pants-be-crapping fear of performing (and the more profound terror of sucking at performing) that dogs anyone who's ever decided to get up in front of a bunch of strangers and try to be entertaining. It's hard. So hard. Which is kind of why I love it.
Alas, MaxFunCon 2010 is now way sold out, but you can claim your spot on the waiting list by writing to maxfuncon at gmail. It is, as I've repeatedly said, easily the best conference I've ever attended. Ever. Even more than DB/Expo '97.
Thanks for your patience with this one, and sorry in advance if this seems all me-me-me.
But, if anything, 43 Folders is a site that started and still exists for me to share what has and hasn't worked for me along the road to trying to make great stuff.
I hope all three of these interviews will be of interest to anyone who walks that same road, stumbles onto those same shoulders, and shares my cardinal interest in always dusting yourself off, stepping back on the path, and plodding toward whatever comes next.
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