by Kieran Healy on September 23, 2010

The application you’ve been looking for:

While some so-called environments that are less free of distraction may display one, three, or even more lines of text—all at the same time—we understand that if you could only achieve the theoretical removal of all theoretical distractions, you would finally be able to write something. And we want ū— to help you almost do that.

I think what makes Merlin Mann compelling is that he knows he has something important to get across about work and creativity, but what he has to convey is a kind of non-demonstrative non-formula, and trying to say it more than once puts him in the same business niche as a legion of people he rightfully despises. He is quite aware of this, so you see him constantly tuning his anti-pitch and sharpening his anti-advice to make sure he doesn’t find himself, late one night, naked on a bed in a motel in Omaha watching himself deliver an infomercial. It’s the problem of trying to teach something that needs to be shown, or of trying to theorize a craft — the way that critics of postwar critical theory used to say that the trouble with those guys was that they had succeeded in unifying theory and practice, in theory. His advice is excellent, but the act of delivering and listening to it subverts the point of the message, or is an example of the problem that needs solving.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to tweak my citation format. I’ve nearly gotten it just right.