Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.
Merlin Mann | Aug 6 2008
This article is Part 3 of a 3-part series about attention management for people who do creative work called, Making Time to Make.
Could an email recluse like Neal Stephenson just cowboy up by agreeing to a monthly chat session or the occasional visit to a fan forum? Sure, he could. Could a volunteer intern scan Neal’s email once a week for particularly wonderful notes? You bet. Could he even conceivably just drop all the blast shields, open a chat room, “livestream” from his desk, and then spend the rest of his life answering questions from people with nothing better to do? Maybe. Sure. But, probably not. He’s already told us as much, hasn’t he?
The point, from my perspective, is that Stephenson possesses the man-sized pant stones to declare precisely what the people who enjoy his work should expect from him. And, in so doing, he has drawn a clear line that some might find hard to love, but that is very easy to see, understand, and respect. No, he didn’t hire someone to answer his email, or get a kid to pretend to be him on Twitter, or install a Greasemonkey script that “autopokes” people on Facebook (I’ll leave you to guess which two of these I do).
Neal Stephenson essentially said, “Listen, gang, here’s what I’m going to make for you: novels.” And then, he went back to typing. To working. On work.read more »
Brian Oberkirch | Aug 6 2008
Merlin Mann | Aug 5 2008
This article is Part 2 of a 3-part series about attention management for people who do creative work called, Making Time to Make.
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 »
Merlin Mann | Aug 5 2008
This article is Part 1 of a 3-part series about attention management for people who do creative work called, Making Time to Make.
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?
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 »
Merlin Mann | Jul 7 2008
Merlin Mann | Apr 10 2008
I've been working on a bunch of (non-43 Folders-related) stuff lately, but I started feeling that hankering to come back and write something new here. To get the engine started, I went through some old posts and turned up a few (oddly self-inspiring) ideas that I want to re-share. The topic? "Getting unstuck."
I guess all I'd add -- since it's on my mind today -- is that I'm learning how much it pays to listen whenever you hear yourself mentally whining.read more »
Merlin Mann | Mar 24 2008
Yes. Constraints. As Paul shows, constraints get you thinking about the creative process in a whole new way.
Twitter's making me a stronger writer. I think harder about how to say more using fewer and shorter words. Nothing beats hitting the Twoosh. (140 chars)
Let's close with a favorite quote on creative constraint from Anne Lamott's wonderful Bird by Bird. She explains that she keeps a one-inch-square picture frame on her desk to remind her of "short assignments:"
Well put. (And only 17 characters north of the Twoosh.)
The Question to You
Got a good example of a creative constraint at work?
Joel Johnson | Jan 28 2008
I’m not a Christian anymore. Perhaps I got a raw deal when God was passing out churches—mine was shaken apart in my late teens by a pastor who got busted for sneaking a few hundred thousand out of the offering plate to buy Nazi war memorabilia, not to mention banging a few dozen women who came to him for marriage counseling—but I’ve made my peace with the Prince of it.
One particularly Christian principle has apparently stuck with me over the years. It wasn’t until recently that I rediscovered it. (Not animal sacrifice, which I never abandoned.) And whether Jesus of Nazareth existed as a real meat person or was the product of a coterie of desert sci-fi novelists, one thing he taught has been helping me a lot lately.
It’s awfully nice to forgive.read more »
Brian Oberkirch | Jan 11 2008
"Inspiration is for amateurs. I just get to work." -- Chuck Close
It may be that I like hearing about the work habits of writers and artists I like almost as much as I like their work. How do you force yourself to do work no one (really, like, no one) is clamoring for, in addition to doing the long apprentice work you need to do to build your chops? As most of our work gets less structured and more creative, it might prove helpful to take a look at how artists get their stuff done.
And, sorry, all those romantic notions you have of absinthe spoons, manic episodes and Kerouac-like rambling on a long roll of butcher paper really aren't operative. Creative work is mostly showing up every day and enduring a million tiny failures as you feel your way to something a bit new.read more »
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