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

Patterns for Creativity

Twyla’s Box: It’s Where Everything Goes

Self-Reliant Film » Blog Archive » Twyla Tharp: Getting Things Done (with Boxes)

This post by Paul Harrill is a great take on what I've been saucily referring to as, "Twyla's Box." (Yes, again with the Twyla Tharp book.)

I'm sharing it here, because in addition to delivering a thought-provoking slap at the self-abuse of productivity pr0n ("Certainly if you find yourself reading productivity book after productivity book you’re missing the point" [ouch]), it includes a canny synthesis of the overlap between (the best, non-fiddly parts of) GTD and those patterns that seem to help folks like Twyla Tharp to keep making for decades. Nice work, Paul. Loved this (and sorry for arriving so late to the party; I am now subscribed).

So, first a quote from Paul's post, followed by (forgive me) a long-ass re-quoting of Tharp's chapter, "Start with a Box", which I've lovingly copied straight from Paul's swell post. Paul said:

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The Problem with “Feeling Creative”

If your mall's bookstores look anything like mine (and it's probably safe to assume that they do), you'll find numerous sections devoted to helping writers, painters, musicians, and other aspiring artists to become successful in one way or another. There are books chock full of tips on finding an agent, on painting like the masters, and on composing and selling a hit song.

There are also dozens of books on "creativity" itself. Guides that are meant to help you access and unlock the artist within and to see the world in more creative ways. How to "be" creative, how to generate ideas, and how to learn to think "laterally."

Some of these books are just terrific, many are atrocious, and, at least in my anecdotal experience, only a handful challenge their readers with a fundamentally unmarketable premise:

Creative work only seems like a magic trick to people who don't understand that it's ultimately still work.

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Making Time to Make: One Clear Line

This article is Part 3 of a 3-part series about attention management for people who do creative work called, Making Time to Make.
Previously: Part 1, Bad Correspondence
Then: Part 2, The Job You Think You Have

Tick tock.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.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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