Chuck Close would agree: “Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.” As would E. B. White: “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
Essential reading/viewing: Arianna Huffington on redefining success.
Pair with the daily routines of famous creators.
The strategy is to have a practice, and what it means to have a practice is to regularly and reliably do the work in a habitual way.
The notion that I do my work here, now, like this, even when I do not feel like it, and especially when I do not feel like it, is very important. Because lots and lots of people are creative when they feel like it, but you are only going to become a professional if you do it when you don’t feel like it. And that emotional waiver is why this is your work and not your hobby.
Edna St. Vincent Millay on the love of music – a beautiful 1920 letter.
The Pace of Productivity - how to master your creative routine.
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.
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.