Lois McMaster Bujold on writing

>From the omnibus collection, “Young Miles”:

“I’ve described my usual writing process as scrambling from peak to peak of inspiration through foggy valleys of despised logic. Inspiration is better – when you can get it.”

“The fundamental substance of a book, if you are writing a real book, in your own blood, is not optional. The thematic vision often cannot be communicated – or even realized, if (as in my own case) the writing itself is a process of self-discovery – in partial sections. The whole must be present to become greater than the sum of the parts. Test readers, however useful in some areas (spelling! grammar! continuity! O please yes!) can become a hazard when they begin, on the basis of incomplete information, trying in all good faith to help you write some other book than the one you intend…. Zelazny’s dictum, “Trust your demon”, meaning, follow your own inner vision, eventually became a mantra for me.”

>From the ombibus collection, “Cordelia’s Honor”:

“… thus accidentally discovering my first application of the rule for finding plots for character-centred novels, which is to ask “So what’s the worst possible thing I can do to this guy?”. And then do it.”

“The book had now acquired the opposite problem from that of mid-winter, of being too short; it was now getting longer, but not getting any closer to the end… Since it was apparent that this really was going to be a book, and not just another false start in life, marketing considerations began to come into play.”

“It turned into the book it always should have been, a real book, where plot, character, and theme all worked together to make a whole greater than the sum of the parts. It turned out to be about something, beyond itself. It’s a bizarre but wonderful feeling, to arrive dead center of a target you didn’t even know you were aiming for.”

“All great human deeds both consume and transform their doers. Consider an athlete, or a scientist, or an artist, or an independent business creator. In service of their goals they lay down time and energy and many other choices and pleasures; in return, they become most truly themselves. A false destiny may be spotted by the fact that it consumes without transforming, without giving back the enlarged self. Becoming a parent is one of these basic human transformational deeds. By this act, we change our fundamental relationship with the universe – if nothing else, we lose our place as the pinnacle and end-point of evolution, and become a mere link. The demands of motherhood especially consume the old self, and replace it with something new, often better and wiser, sometimes wearier or disillusioned, or tense and terrified, certainly more self-knowing, but never the same again.”

Aristotle on excellence

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Usually attribted to Aristotle; I looked it up once, but couldn’t find it.

In my opinion, this quote sheds some light on the fact that much good advice is rather banal and obvious, but still difficult to internalize and then consistently follow. Good habits are hard to acquire, and harder to keep.

Categorized as Quotations

Understanding mathematics

John von Veumann:

Young man, in mathematics you don’t understand things, you just get used to them.

My favourite mathematical quote of all time. It exactly captures the flavour of so many things, not just in mathematics, but also in life.

Categorized as Quotations

Quote: Einstein on science and epistemology

Found via Mr Happy:

The reciprocal relationship of epistemology and science is of noteworthy kind. They are dependent upon each other. Epistemology without contact with science becomes an empty scheme. Science without epistemology is – insofar as it is thinkable at all – primitive and muddled. However, no sooner has the epistemologist, who is seeking a clear system, fought his way through to such a system, than he is inclined to interpret the thought-content of science in the sense of his system and to reject whatever does not fit into his system. The scientist, however, cannot afford to carry his striving for epistemological systematic that far. He accepts gratefully the epistemological conceptual analysis; but the external conditions, which are set for him by the facts of experience, do not permit him to let himself be too much restricted in the construction of his conceptual world by the adherence to an epistemological system. He therefore must appear to the systematic epistemologist as a type of unscrupulous opportunist: he appears as realist insofar as he seeks to describe a world independent of the acts of perception; as idealist insofar as he looks upon the concepts and theories as the free inventions of the human spirit (not logically derivable from what is empirically given); as positivist insofar as he considers his concepts and theories justified only to the extent to which they furnish a logical representation of relations among sensory experiences. He may even appear as Platonist or Pythagorean insofar as he considers the viewpoint of logical simplicity as an indispensable and effective tool of his research.

Categorized as Quotations

Quote: Vicki Wilson

If you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

Australian netballer Vicki Wilson, as quoted by Rugby League coach Wayne Bennett in “Don’t Die with the Music in You”.

Categorized as Quotations

Quote: Ralph Waldo Emerson on independence

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

– From “Self-Reliance” in Emerson’s first series of essays

Categorized as Quotations