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Some recent Merlin Mann goodness

Merlin Mann has been on a tear lately. He’s been rethinking what he wants to do with 43 Folders โ€” a site he started four years ago to think in public about Getting Things Done (and other stuff) โ€” which rethinking has resulted in a bunch of good writing on weblogs, creative work, and online media. Some links and excerpts follow.

How to blog, the best and most succinct blogging advice I’ve ever read:

Find your obsession. Every day, explain it to one person you respect. Edit everything, skip shortcuts, and try not to be a dick. Get better.

Going through my newsreader today, most of the sites I follow are written with those things in mind. Those that don’t, out they go.

Better is a short account of Merlin’s quest to remove the unpleasant and unproductive from his life. Worth quoting at length:

What makes you feel less bored soon makes you into an addict. What makes you feel less vulnerable can easily turn you into a dick. And the things that are meant to make you feel more connected today often turn out to be insubstantial time sinks - empty, programmatic encouragements to groom and refine your personality while sitting alone at a screen.

Don’t get me wrong. Gumming the edges of popular culture and occasionally rolling the results into a wicked spitball has a noble tradition that includes the best work of of Voltaire, Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde, and a handful of people I count as good friends and brilliant editors. There’s nothing wrong with fucking shit up every single day. But you have to bring some art to it. Not just typing.

What worries me are the consequences of a diet comprised mostly of fake-connectedness, makebelieve insight, and unedited first drafts of everything. I think it’s making us small. I know that whenever I become aware of it, I realize how small it can make me. So, I’ve come to despise it.

I’ve pointed to this one before…What Makes for a Good Blog?

Good blog posts are made of paragraphs. Blog posts are written, not defecated. They show some level of craft, thinking, and continuity beyond the word count mandated by the Owner of Your Plantation. If a blog has fixed limits on post minimums and maximums? It’s not a blog: it’s a website that hires writers. Which is fine. But, it’s not really a blog.

And then a pair of posts that serve as Merlin’s public declaration for 43 Folders’ new direction and as a blistering takedown of the productivity blogs industry, reminiscent of Joel Johnson’s classic takedown of Gizmodo and other gadget blogs published *on* Gizmodo. The first is Four Years:

At this juncture, I wish to apologize and formally atone for any role 43 Folders or I have had in popularizing “hack” as the preferred nomenclature for unmedicated knowledge workers dicking around with their “productivity system” all day. 43 Folders regrets the error.

And then Time, Attention and Creative Work:

If the work that really matters to you involves understanding a relationship between a handful of seemingly unrelated things and then figuring out the best way to portray, magnify, or resolve those relationships, then you’re already doing creative work. Any time you make a connection between two or more axes that hadn’t occurred to you 10 minutes ago, yes, you’ve done something creative. Seriously. This does not require your wearing a beret.

But, then โ€” and this is really important โ€” if you want to actually make something out of all that insight, and if you have the will and desire to polish and improve the execution of all the things you produce, then we’ll have a lot to talk about.

Good luck with your new direction, Merlin. I never really read 43F too much before this summer โ€” spending a lot of time reading about all those little productivity tricks and whatnot seemed oxymoronic โ€” but I’m paying attention now.