The Pace of Productivity - how to master your creative routine.
For years Lady Doyle was his constant companion, accompanying him on all his travels. It was to her the dying novelist spoke his last words.
“You are wonderful,” he said with a smile.
The original New York Times obituary for Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, born on May 22, 1859, who died of a heart attack on July 7, 1930.
Honor him with a wonderful read on how to think like Sherlock Holmes.
If there ever was tragically visceral evidence of how remix culture fuels creativity and copyright hinders it, it is this: Despite – or perhaps because of – millions of views in less than a week, The David Foster Wallace Literary Trust has filed a copyright claim against the wildly popular YouTube version of the wonderful short film adaptation of Wallace’s timeless 2005 commencement address, This Is Water. (Luckily, you can still watch the film on Vimeo – but that’s beside the point.)
Here is an example of a project made out of love, the existence of which harms the estate in no way, financial or otherwise, but serves the public good by way of cultural preservation and celebration of Wallace’s spirit and legacy, extending his message and allowing it to touch more lives. That the estate finds any of this harmful is gobsmacking, at once an aberration of the law and a complete failure of cultural duty.
The Russian-born novelist’s writing habits were famously peculiar. Beginning in 1950, he composed first drafts in pencil on ruled index cards, which he stored in long file boxes. Since, Nabokov claimed, he pictured an entire novel in complete form before he began writing it, this method allowed him to compose passages out of sequence, in whatever order he pleased; by shuffling the cards around, he could quickly rearrange paragraphs, chapters, and whole swaths of the book. (His file box also served as portable desk; he started the first draft of Lolita on a road trip across America, working nights in the backseat of his parked car — the only place in the country, he said, with no noise and no drafts.) Only after months of this labor did he finally relinquish the cards to his wife, Vera, for a typed draft, which would then undergo several more rounds of revisions.
Where the inspirational figure is selected for us, and the gap between their life and ours is too great, the effect is not one of encouragement but of disillusionment - especially if their story is told in terms of personal qualities like bravery or persistence.
Knowing a famous person has the same impairment as you can be reassuring, but only in the vague way that hearing of a successful distant relative is reassuring.
Most of us will never scale Everest, compete for our country at sports or have a showbiz career. This doesn’t mean we’ve failed.
For BBC’s Mental Health Awareness Week, Mark Brown questions the value of glorifying role models who share our own disabilities and pathologies.
A flipside of the same coin to consider is the perilous “tortured genius” myth of creativity, which implies that depression, addiction, and other mental health issues that plagued some successful creators were central to their genius. The human antidotes to this mythology are worthy role models.
The questions I am often asked about my career tend to concentrate not on how one learns to code but how a woman does.
Let me separate the two words and begin with what it means to become a programmer.
The first requirement for programming is a passion for the work, a deep need to probe the mysterious space between human thoughts and what a machine can understand; between human desires and how machines might satisfy them.
The second requirement is a high tolerance for failure. Programming is the art of algorithm design and the craft of debugging errant code.
Now to the “woman” question.
I broke into the ranks of computing in the early 1980s, when women were just starting to poke their shoulder pads through crowds of men. There was no legal protection against “hostile environments for women.” I endured a client — a sweaty man with pendulous earlobes — who stroked my back as I worked to fix his system. At any moment I expected him to snap my bra. I considered installing a small software bomb but understood, right then, what was more important to me than revenge: the desire to create good systems.
I had a boss who said flatly, “I hate to hire all you girls but you’re too damned smart.” By “all” he meant three but, at the time, it was rare to find even one woman in a well-placed technical position. At a meeting, he kept interrupting me to say, “Gee, you sure have pretty hair.” By then I realized he was teaching me a great deal about computing. It would be a complicated professional relationship, in which his occasional need for male dominance would surface.
So, on that day of my pretty hair, I leaned to one side and said, “I’m just going to let that nonsense fly over my shoulder.” The meeting went on. We discussed the principles of relational databases, which later led me to explore deeper reaches of programming, closer to operating systems and networks, where I would find my real passion for the work. My leaning to one side, not confronting him, letting him be the flawed man he was, changed the direction of my technical life.
Pioneering software engineer Ellen Ullman, author of the fascinating Close to the Machine, on how to be a ‘woman programmer.’ Also see the letters of the women who helmed the tectonic cultural shift of the era Ullman describes.
So great: A soundtrack for Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America, Jon Mooallem’s sublime meditation on wilderness and what it means to be human.
You go into it because there is something that, when you learn about that stuff, just gave you a little bit of a fever. And you wanna give that fever to somebody else.
How to make great radio – fantastic behind-the-sciences look at Radiolab, who have ushered in a new era of media at the intersection of science and storytelling.
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