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.



nick s 09.23.10 at 2:45 am

He’s a recovering addict, and handling his recovery pretty bloody well.


ben w 09.23.10 at 2:53 am

He can help you simplify your life as well as your writing environment.

The ultimate in very simple text editors, both in interface and display (and therefore actually (I assume) tricky to learn well), has been around for a while: ed, the editor for people who can remember what they’re working on.


Lemuel Pitkin 09.23.10 at 3:14 am

The link, hilarious. The analysis, sound and trenchant. Dude, keep blogging: You are good at it.


Eric Rauchway 09.23.10 at 3:46 am

Don’t make me feel bad; I was just trying out iA Writer.


bad Jim 09.23.10 at 4:02 am

I think TECO has been around even longer than ed. In any event, the text editor I used throughout my professional career at first offered TECO commands from its command line interface. It was a wrench when it switched to a more C-like command language.

It may be worthwhile for some to be reminded that the device in front of you isn’t the only worthwhile source of distraction; there may actually be people down the hall who would appreciate a visit (because they’re in need of distraction as well).


Stephen Kinsella 09.23.10 at 11:29 am

Nassim Taleb has the same problem. What he’s saying is really obvious, and everybody is aware of it to the point of it being trivial. Like Merlin Mann’s rants against procrastination however, the point is to *act* on this knowledge. Write the bloody book. Don’t get so caught up on the font choice. Do your job.

Which is why, of course, I’m writing a comment on a blog at 12.30 in the day ;)


Henri Vieuxtemps 09.23.10 at 11:51 am

Sounds like something for McSweeney’s.


asdf 09.26.10 at 4:18 am

i am addicted to farmville

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