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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.


Guest post: Scott Andrew on "Productivity for the Practicing Musician"

Some time back, mathowie poked me about talking to our pal, Scott Andrew, about some of the productivity mojo he uses to keep his one-man acoustic pop army in line. Turns out that, in addition to being a terrific singer/songwriter, Scott’s got a mature system for booking gigs, promoting his work, and maintaining a lively relationship with his many fans.

Although there are tips here that will be useful to everybody (keep it simple; fear not lofi; provide great customer service), the musicians, artists, and other performers out there will most especially learn from what Scott’s got going on; as my friend Sean is fond of saying (in a booming, fakey showbiz-guy voice): "It's not music 'friend'; it's music business!"

Productivity for the Practicing Musician

by Scott Andrew

When Merlin approached me about writing a sort of “Getting Music Done” piece, I initially thought: buh? I’m probably the worst model for artistic productivity. After mulling it over, it occurred to me that I’m probably a very typical model. I have a day job. I have rent. I write songs on a used thriftstore guitar and record them when I can scrape enough gig money together. I spend my creative life in that emotional DMZ between self-assured, passionate DIY ferocity and vague, nagging career dissatisfaction. In other words, I’m just like most aspiring musicians. Perfect! So don’t please look on this article as advice from someone who’s “been there” — I’m still getting there.

I once read a rant by a punk musician who complained that if he had the time and ability to do all the stuff needed for a rewarding music career, he wouldn’t need a record deal. Well, yes. The unsexy truth is that some days you’ll feel more like a Post Office than a rock star. This pisses off some people who’d rather be working on, like, music, instead of bookings or publicity. But that’s okay, because the worst that can happen is: nothing happens. Eventually you get tired of nothing happening, and you resign yourself to the “business” side of the music business. Sigh.

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Scarlet Letters: Creative tips for artists

the Scarlet Letters: Notes on Making Art

This is a terrific bunch of notes on hacking your creative process, especially as it applies to visual art.

I really love the idea of not getting hung up on your failures and trying always to make rather than judge as the process is underway. It reminds me favorably of what Anne Lamott says about fearlessly producing your “shitty first draft.”

A few of the points I especially enjoyed:

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How do you get creative with your phonecam?

Your mobile phone camera can be more than a fast way to send your kitty photos to Grandma Pearl. Like a lot of people, I use mine as a ubiquitous capture device, recording ephemeral information and visual documentation wherever and whenever it’s needed.

I’m mostly curious to hear how other folks are using their phonecams (open comments below), but I’ll get the ball rolling with a few ideas, old and new:

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Prompts to start you writing

Roy Peter Clark has distilled the concept of “writing as carpentry” down to twenty simple techniques for tightening up your work.

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Having a job _and_ a creative life

Ideas for keeping your creative life alive while you pay the bills.

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Tools for generating new ideas

This is a huge collection of models for thinking about and generating fresh ideas. Seems focused on product development, but there’s good stuff here for most any interest or creative purpose.

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TOPICS: Creativity, Tips

Roger von Oech's 'Creative Think' home page

Cool home page for Creative Think. Oblique Strategies-like tips. Reload for more.

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Park on a downhill slope

Jeffrey Windsor shares a great tip for making it easy to start work in the morning—by always leaving your work at a point where it will be easy, intuitive, and interesting to pick things back up. Instead of grinding away until you're drained and out of enthusiasm, quit while you're on a roll.

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Mentat: Wiki on becoming a better thinker

Cool wiki full of memory tricks, mnemonic systems, and other mental parlor tricks.

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Anne Lamott on index cards

Lots of people had been suggesting I read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (subtitled “Some Instructions on Writing and Life”) becaues she mentions how much she loves and relies on index cards for more than just composition.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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