43 Folders

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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Lunch Poems

Guest post from our pal, Brian, on how one of my favorite poets of the 60s captured interstitial time to make art. —mdm

At the late late party after party we were talking about how you know if you're a writer. I suggested that actually writing routinely was the tip off. Then someone had a better idea: that writers are those who feel guilty about not writing. A first-world problem, to be sure, but if you know any working writers, one of their most beloved hobby horses is that they just don't have time to write. Students, money, speaking engagements, lint, bacon, the Cubs, morning sex. So many things between them and great sentences.

Frank O'Hara didn't seem to have this problem. read more »

Making Time to Make: The Job You Think You Have

This article is Part 2 of a 3-part series about attention management for people who do creative work called, Making Time to Make.
Previously: Part 1, Bad Correspondence
Finally: Part 3, One Clear Line

Photo of Former Beatle, Maker, and Non-BlackBerry Carrier, John Winston Lennon (1940-1980) If you're a publisher, journalist, author, blogger, musician, artist, designer, cartoonist, or any other sort of person whose job it is to connect with people by communicating ideas, it's natural and wholesome for people who are interested in what you do (and many of whom are certainly makers-of-stuff in their own right) to develop a relationship with your work and to want a way to participate in it, add to it, and build upon it. It's equally great to reciprocate in a way that's collaborative, fun, and useful. God knows, it's anybody's dream to have people interested enough in what you do to find that they want to reach out to you. Talk about a first-world problem.

read more »

Making Time to Make: Bad Correspondence

This article is Part 1 of a 3-part series about attention management for people who do creative work called, Making Time to Make.
Next: Part 2, The Job You Think You Have
Finally: Part 3, One Clear Line

Over the years, novelist Neal Stephenson (wiki), has had at least a couple different pages where he's explained why he's chosen to limit the access he provides via email, interviews, and phone calls. It appears to be something he's given a lot of thought to.

Via Jessamyn, here's an Archive.org mirror of an older version of his page where he explains his introversion and need to stay focused on his work, alongside FAQs that answer many of the questions he typically has to field. Read it all though. It's pretty good. Stephenson's bottom line?

I simply cannot respond to all incoming stimuli unless I retire from writing novels. And I don't wish to retire at this time.

And here's another well known piece, Stephenson's "Why I am a Bad Correspondent", in which he lays out more details about why he's chosen to create an expectation based on guarding his attention so slavishly:

read more »

Delicious.com Relaunches with 1,000-Character Notes Fields

Oh happy day — the new Delicious is here

In the years since del.icio.us was acquired by Yahoo! it’s been hard to get why it remained such a red-headed stepchild. Despite an unbelievable lead in both mindshare, functionality, and ease-of-use (yeah, it’s been my preferred bookmarker for years), del.icio.us seemed to sit there while a dozen social bookmarking sites lapped it with fancier designs and (mostly superfluous) new features. Yay, Yahoo.

Today Y! revealed a beautiful new version of the site, redubbed Delicious.com. You’ve probably read way too much about this, but I want to highlight exactly one new feature: big, 1000-character notes fields.

read more »

Carrots, Sticks, and the Paradoxes of Motivation

Shankar Vedantam - When Play Becomes Work - washingtonpost.com

Shankar Vedantam discusses research on motivation which points to the schizophrenic role that rewards can play in our perception of a task.

A host of experiments have shown that when threats and rewards enter the picture, they tend to destroy the inner drives. Paychecks and pink slips might be powerful reasons to get out of bed each day, but they turn out to be surprisingly ineffective -- and even counterproductive -- in getting people to perform at their best.

Add the right incentive, and you can encourage better output; add the wrong incentive and you risk removing the natural motivation people feel to do something for the intrinsic value they get out of it.

read more »

Obama on Firewalling Time to Think

Obama on Vacationing and Time to Think - NYTimes.com

I like this snippet of accidentally-captured conversation between Barack Obama and British MP, David Cameron. Cameron asks Obama if he will be taking any time off for a vacation this summer:

Mr. Cameron: Do you have a break at all?

Mr. Obama: I have not. I am going to take a week in August. But I agree with you that somebody, somebody who had worked in the White House who — not Clinton himself, but somebody who had been close to the process — said that should we be successful, that actually the most important thing you need to do is to have big chunks of time during the day when all you’re doing is thinking. And the biggest mistake that a lot of these folks make is just feeling as if you have to be ...

Mr. Cameron: These guys just chalk your diary up.

Mr. Obama: Right. ... In 15 minute increments and ...

Mr. Cameron: We call it the dentist waiting room. You have to scrap that because you’ve got to have time.

This encourages and inspires me. If people as busy as these two guys (or Bill Gates, for that matter) can make time to rise above the noise, it's hard to imagine why each of us wouldn't want to occasionally unchalk our diary enough to try something similar.

[via Mrs. Mann]

read more »



An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »