43 Folders

Back to Work

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

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

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


Matt Jones: "Get Excited and Make Things"

Get Excited and Make Things

Don't keep calm and carry on. by moleitau

Apart from noting that I adore Matt and want to acknowledge his inspiration for this, I have nothing to add.

This, my friends, is the thing.

Re-Potting with Resources: What Would You Make?

Security Building

Leo Interviews Merlin Mann of 43 Folders

The beginning of a blood-curdling recession hardly seems like the time to ruminate about fantasy resources, I'll grant you that. But, I want you to think about something. Really think about it.

If, tomorrow morning, you had 60% of the time and resources you needed to start making anything you wanted, what would it be? And, what would you do first?

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Driving Around the Buffalo

It's purely coincidental that today is my 42nd birthday, right? Eh. Maybe.

Still, seems like as good a day as any to tell you what I've been thinking about, so, here's a little present to myself.

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How to Use 43 Folders

A very simple guide to leaving here quickly so you can get back to making something awesome.

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Whining, Blue Smoke & the Mechanics of Getting Unstuck

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."

  • Hack your way out of writer's block - "Literally. Put five completley random words on a piece of paper. Write five more words. Try a sentence. Could be about anything. A block ends when you start making words on a page."
  • Solve problems by writing a note to yourself - "Seriously, open up your email program, type in your own email address, then choose a brilliant subject line that perfectly encapsulates your particular problem."
  • Do a fast "mind-sweep" - "And as long as you let that stuff accumulate as chunky deposits on the edges of your perception, it’s very unlikely it’ll get done since — well — they won’t get done until they’re been captured and properly started, right?"
  • Cringe-Busting your TODO list - "Per cringe item, think honestly about why you’re freaked out about it. Seriously. What’s the hang-up? (Fear of failure? Dreading bad news? Angry you’re already way overdue?)"
  • Patching your personal suck - "Every patch that fails teaches you a little something that might come in handy some day. Mistakes, as they say, can be a buddhist gift."

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.

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Creative Constraints: Going to Jail to Get Free

A Brief Message: No Resistance Is Futile

For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn

Paul Ford has been posting six-word Twitter updates for a few weeks, and now he's also created the magnum opus of six-word criticism: sexological reviews of the 763 mp3s in this year's SxSW torrent.

Writing on (the 200-words-or-less site) A Brief Message, Paul talks about how the constraint changed his approach and his thinking:

Now when I face a new writing project, I open a spreadsheet. I want a grid to keep track of sources and dates, or to make certain that the timeline of a story makes sense. The grid imposes brevity. Relationships between sentences are exposed. Editing becomes a more explicit act of sorting, shuffling, balancing paragraphs. In this spirit, I'm rewriting some blog software to read directly from Excel. We'll see how that goes.

Yes. Constraints. As Paul shows, constraints get you thinking about the creative process in a whole new way.

Me? I ♥ constraints. 30 seconds. 5 things. Less than 140 characters.

In fact:

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:"

It reminds me that all I have to do is to write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being.

Well put. (And only 17 characters north of the Twoosh.)

The Question to You

Got a good example of a creative constraint at work?

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Motivate yourself with "loss aversion"

NPR: Put Your Money Where Your Girth Is

I really enjoyed this Morning Edition story on "Prospect Theory," or the idea that loss aversion can be an effective motivator in goals related to health improvement like weight loss and smoking cessation:

"What we know about incentives is that people work a lot harder to avoid losing $10 than they will work to gain $10," explains Ayres. "So something that's framed as a loss is really effective at changing behavior."

Related to that question I was asked at Macworld: I wonder if a gym membership might be even more motivating if you received a daily email updating you on the wasted dollars you'd spent by not working out in the last n days.

When I started paying most of my own college tuition, I remember realizing that every class I skipped was equivalent to throwing away about a day and a half of the money I'd earned from waiting on tables. It was very motivating for me, and I started missing a lot fewer classes as a result.

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More from Peter Walsh on clutter, quality of life

Oprah's Clutter Man: "It's Never About the Stuff"

Clean Sweep's Peter Walsh (previously) has a new book out, and Mediabistro had the chance to chat with him while he was out promoting it.

While I wish Peter had held out for a more cromulent title ("Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?" Ouch.), I so admire this guy's grip on what clutter does to your mind. Or at least what it does to mine.

Typically swell quote:

Our show was never about the stuff. I told the producers early on that you can only organize so many closets and garages before people lose their minds... We all have stuff. What we had to do was tell people's stories through their stuff, and see them realizing what their relationship to the stuff had become.

and, later:

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Snow Day Hobbies

It snowed almost a foot here in Chicago last night, and looking at all that white stuff made me think about junior high, when my school was out an entire week for snow. I built most of the eastern seaboard in SimCity 2000 that week, on a 33 MHz PC no less. I was a nerd. It was awesome.

I thought about how fun that sounded today after I finished shoveling, and considered digging around for an updated copy of SimCity online. Then I reminded myself that the last thing I need is another hobby involving the computer. I use a computer for work. When I'm finished working, I screw around on the internet. When I'm tired of that, I read books, which isn't a whole lot different, if a little easier on the eyes and attention span.

Pardon me while I get out the nostalgia hankie, but I miss the days when my hobbies had nothing to do with staring at a glowing screen. When I was a kid, I could sit down in my room over an unopened wax box of Topps baseball cards and completely tune out the outside world until four hours later, when my mom called me to dinner, handed me a napkin, and told me to wipe the drool from chewing 36 sticks of gum off my chin.

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The Economy of the Heart

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.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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