spottie ottie

19 October 2006 3:46 AM (creation | hamming)

on creation

I believe the way to write a good play is to convince yourself it is easy to do -- then go ahead and to it with ease. Don't maul, don't suffer, don't groan till the first draft is finished. A play is a phoenix: it dies a thousand deaths. Usually at night. In the morning it springs up again from its ashes and crows like a happy rooster. It is never as bad as your think, it is never as good. It is somewhere in between, and success or failure depends on which end of your emotional gamut concerning its value it approaches more closely. But it is much more likely to be good if you think it is wonderful while you are writing the first draft. An artist must believe in himself. Your belief is contagious. Others may say he is vain, but they are affected.

5 October 1941, Tennessee Williams. (Via Harper's.)

What a delicious and beautiful quote! I've been thinking about creation lately, specifically with reference to that uncomfortably direct talk from Richard Hamming, You and Your Research. It's a favorite among scientists, but if you haven't seen it, the best/worst of it is this: Hamming, a respected scientist, would try to sit with different people at lunch at the lab he worked at. After a week with the chemists, say, he'd ask one of them what the most important problem in his field was. They'd fumble for a while, come out with a few answers. Hamming then asks, "Why aren't you working on it?"

As he tells it, the tactic didn't exactly make him lots of friends. It is an uncomfortable question, most so when you ask it of yourself. Why am I not doing the most important thing I could be doing with my life? Something like the "What have you people done lately?" question that taunts art historians (via Kathy Sierra).

Well, why not? If the answer is no, and you rationally attempt to justify your existence, I can think of a few answers that Hamming does not mention. Maybe you are cultivating a beautiful love affair, an undeveloped talent in carpentry, a child, a martial art. In some sense you still answer to Hamming's imperative, but with "I can't yet but I am on the path".

But there are excuses and excuses. "Because I am working 50 hours a week to pay my mortgage and I don't have time" is a terrible one. There are situations that can force you to answer this, at times, but necessary evils are necessarily evil. They dull the desire to the rhythm of a copy machine.

on not breaking and entering

10 minutes after getting back home last night after a month of holiday, I lock myself out of the house. Clever! Very clever! The jan-jaime apparatus took pity on me and let me sleep with them. On their extra bed I mean. (Thanks guys.)

Finally in my own bed asleep tonight, when the cops rang all of the doorbells in my building. I don't know the cause but the effect will be a sleepy me at work tomorrow.


There's a businessy edge to work that hasn't been there in a while. Good to swing the pendulum every now and then.


Boards of Canada suits the grey skies. Curious yet subdued.

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