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.


Mark Pilgrim, On *Really* Writing

Mark Pilgrim on The Setup

I'm a three-time (soon to be four-time) published author. When aspiring authors learn this, they invariably ask what word processor I use. It doesn't fucking matter!


Picking the right text editor will not make you a better writer. Writing will make you a better writer. Writing, and editing, and publishing, and listening -- really listening -- to what people say about your writing.

As I said in that interview with Seth Godin, most people are taken way aback when they unknowingly receive the advice they really need — rather than the advice that's just fun to listen to. Well, guess what, Fiddly McMaybewriter? Mark's your new coach, so get ready to run some bleachers.

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TOPICS: Writing

NaNoWriMo: A Pep Talk and a Warning

I honor any project to write something — especially to write a long piece of fiction. It's something I've always wanted to do but, like most people, I have always been too scared to attempt it.

So, kudos.

But, here's the thing: it's hard to start writing, and it's almost as hard to keep writing. Believe me, I know. And, there will be times every day when you get discouraged or you want to throw in the towel because you feel lost or depressed or useless or just plain tired. Empty. That's the word. Empty.

All I want to say is, keep at it. You can do this.

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Makebelieve Help, Old Butchers, and Figuring Out Who You Are (For Now)

Here's a video I made about a video I made. Consequently, it's also about writing a book, fake self-help, the long road to developing expertise, and the ups and downs of repeatedly asking the world to tell you who you are.

The video is long. As usual. This is how it works.

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Fake Rocks, Salami Commanders, and Just Enough to Start

MaxFunCon: Merlin Mann on Doing Creative Work (via TSoYA)

Here’s the audio from a short talk I presented a few weeks ago at Jesse Thorn’s awesome1 MaxFunCon in Lake Arrowhead, CA. The talk is subtitled, “With All Due Respect to the Seduction Community2, and it contains my typically NSFW use of, well, words, I guess.

It’s about how to get started—just started—with any project that really matters to you.

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Celtx: Powerful Free App for Script Writing, Pre-Production, and Collaboration

celtx - Integrated Media Pre-Production

QPR - CryingStore - "Cold Tulips" by merlinmann (Celtx - Project Central)

I've recently returned to using the Open Source (MPL-based CePL license) Celtx app for all the script-ish stuff I write. But it does a lot more than just collect and format drafts (which, unlike a text file or MS Word, Celtx does in a way that lets you focus solely on writing, rather than fiddly formatting). It's also an amazingly flexible and robust app for managing all the pre-production materials for screenplays, comics, audio plays, or what have you. And, again: it's totally free.

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Eric Idle, on John Cleese's Writing Process

Eric Idle, on John Cleese’s Approach to Writing

John Cleese sweated every word — to the point of exhausting collaborators like Eric Idle.

In other places, I’ve heard Cleese himself talk about his work ethic within the Pythons, mentioning how Graham Chapman might slip out early to start drinking, while Cleese would stick around and revise a sketch for another half-hour or longer. Over time, he felt the extra effort was what made the difference in the enduring appeal of his material.

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Louis C.K. on Starting Over; Carlin's Artful Process

ILIS Interviews Louis C.K. - AST Forums

Louis C.K.In 2006, Louis C.K. didn't know whether his HBO show would be renewed, but he didn't want to sit on his hands for months waiting to find out.

Instead of going conservative by gluing new treads onto old tires, he did something tantamount to suicide for a working comic; he threw out his whole set and started over.

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The Wire: Writing Into Your Arc


While this article about The Wire deliberately contains as few actual spoilers about the show as possible, it does contain numerous links to pages with information that will tell you critical spoiler information about the stories and fates of the show's characters. The article also contains language and links that are very much not safe for work. Please proceed with caution on all fronts.

In the time since I gallantly announced what makes a good blog, I’ve had time to think more about the qualities of work that endures.

Not thinking just of personal blogs here, or solely in terms of the ways that we can improve online publishing and social media —although clearly these are areas that could stand some improvement. I’m talking about the extent to which some of those qualities that I mentioned in that article relate to broader ideas around all creative work and the process behind how it gets made well and consistently by an auteur who’s only incidentally a merchant.

And it’s especially got me thinking about how any thing we choose to make today can contribute to, for lack of a better phrase, an arc.

So, naturally, I’ve been thinking a lot about The Wire.

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Deciding Whether to Read a Book: Some Wildly Reductive Heuristics

Smiles!People send me lots of books, so I have to decide rather quickly whether one should be added to the ambitious pile of stuff I already really want to finish reading.

On the off chance that you care or find it useful in developing your own filtering, here's my insanely reductive, mean-busy-guy way to make a 90-second decision on whether to read a new non-fiction book from an author I'm not familiar with.

It does not matter whether you agree with these; that's how you know they're personal heuristics. Also, they are almost uniformly unfair and unkind. So.

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Attention & Ambiguity: The Non-Paradox of Creative Work

Psychology Today: The Creative Personality

[via delicious.com/huxant, w/a reminder by Jack Shedd]

Some days, I can't decide how I feel about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (say: "chick SENT me high"). He's written some great stuff, but, sometimes, he mixes Big-Word academicspeak with anecdotal observation in a way that smells a little hokey to me.

So, although I'm trying not to audibly roll my eyes at a pop-psychology Top 10 list about creativity's "dialectical tension," I definitely am interested in one of his observations about the "paradox" of creative people.

Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility

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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. »