QoTD: Solitude and creativity

August 14, 2008

…remember that solitude has always been, in all the history of mental achievement, a requisite for great work. (…) The great poems written in lonely garrets—the masterpiece paintings conceived by the artist amid the fields—the divine harmonies first heard by the musician communing with the stars—the sublime oration which first stirred the soul of the orator as he tramped in the forest—all attest that the best comes to man when he is alone.

Note, solitude does not mean you, your computer, and your internet connection. And the whole “man” thing is sooo 19th century.

h/t Academic Productivity


E. B. White and the glory of a piece of paper

August 9, 2008

“Even now, this late in the day, a blank sheet of paper holds the greatest excitement there is for me — more promising than a silver cloud, and prettier than a red wagon.”

There are few ways to better spend time than with a good pen and your notebook, sitting at a tiny table in busy coffee shop or a park bench.

I think this applies to most folks whose job it is to be creative. My wife Debby is a compulsive sketcher, which is a good thing, as she does stuff like this for a living. Growing up in the San Francisco area, she would occasionally run into one of her heroes, R. Crumb, who once told her “Always have your notebook, and draw everything and anything.”

One pleasant consequence is that wherever we are, wherever there is a place to sit, we can comfortably spend an hour or so with our respective notebooks propped open, scribbling away.

This leads to some interesting situations. Once in a Firenze Museum, we both took up precious bench space in front of Michelangelo’s David, intending to spend some time scribbling. We couldn’t help but catch the eye of some older citizens. They first shadowed Debby, standing behind her at her end of the bench. They clucked appreciatively. (I mean, how could they not? Her drawing of David looked just like him!). They then sidled over behind me. Instead of another sketch in my open notebook, they found gridded paper covered with chicken scratch, boxes, and arrows. Their comments stretched my rudimentary Italian, but the tone was clear enough.

Here’s wishing you a half-empty notebook, a good pen, a nice spot, and some free time.

quote from Hannah Hinchman’s A life in hand: creating the illuminated journal


Happy Friday–The World of Chemistry

August 1, 2008

Watch this video and tell me if you can ever again think of organic chemistry in quite the same way.