Quotes related to (Organizing) Creativity

“I got nothing.”
common quotation

One of the few things I really miss in the second edition of “Organizing Creativity” are the boxes with quotes about creativity which were present in the first edition.

Don’t get me wrong, the second edition is superior in all other aspects, but still. However, one of the nice things of things being digital is that you can easily copy and paste the quotes and put them into a posting … a rather long posting (press on Read More below).

Note: Why there were in a book about organizing creativity probably only makes sense when reading them in context (they directly relate to the paragraph beside them in the book, here I have at least given them below the (sub)headings). But this context is not really necessary — after all, almost all of the quotes are interesting and stimulating in their own right.

Have fun — and if you have other quotes you really like about (organizing) creativity, leave a comment. 🙂


When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college – that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forget?”
Howard Ikemoto

“Nothing shocks me. I’m a scientist.”
Indiana Jones

“Wait a minute, Doc. Ah … Are you telling me that you built a time machine … out of a DeLorean?”
“The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”
Marty McFly and Dr. Emmett Brown in “Back to the Future” (1985)

“A reporter asked me not long ago whether I had ever expected a commercial internet to operate. ‘Yes,’ I answered, ‘that didn’t surprise me. Finding URLs in lipstick advertisements really threw me though.’”
Fred Baker, IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) Chair

“Mike dear, a present ought not to be very expensive – unless you are trying to get a girl to marry you, or something. Especially ‘something’. But a present should show that you thought about it and considered that person’s tastes. Something he would enjoy but probably would not buy for himself.”
Jill in “Stranger In A Strange Land” by Robert A. Heinlein

There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope they are organised along the lines of the Mafia.
“The Sirens of Titan” by Kurt Vonnegut


“I wouldn’t mind been called chairman of the board as long as I could be chairman of the board.”
Female manager about the gender noun debate

About the Author

I’m afraid of coaching, of writer’s classes, of writer’s magazines, of books on how to write. They give me ‘centipede trouble’ — you know the yarn about the centipede who was asked how he managed all his feet? He tried to answer, stopped to think about it, and was never able to walk another step.
Robert A. Heinlein

Aims of this Book

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

“We are not consumers, we are artists. We are not cows but enlightened beings, creators in our own right.”

Why do some people act as if making money offended their delicate minds? I am out for a legitimate profit, and not ashamed of it; the fact that people will pay money for my goods and services shows that my work is useful.
“Magic Inc.” by Robert A. Heinlein

A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint … . What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.
Henry David Thoreau

What is Creativity?

Creativity: the process of having original ideas that have value.
Sir Ken Robinson

I’d like to meet the man who invented sex and see what he’s working on now.

“I’m the science officer, it’s my job to have a better idea.”
Jadzia Dax in Star Trek DS9: “Paradise”

“Don’t you ever imagine things differently from what they are?”
“Oh Marilla, how much you miss.”
Anne Shirley and Marilla Cuthbert in “Anne”

Anyone who thinks people lack originality should watch them folding roadmaps.
Franklin P. Jopnes

My theory is that the hardest work anyone does in life is to appear normal.
“Ed TV”

“Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds … Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.”
“Sandman” by Neil Gaiman

“People envy or even hate me for my ideas, but they do not see the price I have to pay for them. … We all pay our prices. This is mine.”
Creative about his migraine episodes he associates with his creative ability

“If I have become great, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Sir Isaac Newton

With going digital photography has entered its golden age.

“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”
Albert Einstein

“There are many hypotheses in science which are wrong. That’s perfectly all right; they’re the aperture to finding out what’s right. Science is a self-correcting process. To be accepted, new ideas must survive the most rigorous standards of evidence and scrutiny.”
COSMOS 13 part television series – Carl Sagan

If I had found out anything, it was that they could print it faster than I could study it.
“Have Space Suit, Will Travel” by Robert A. Heinlein

The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it.
Benjamin Disraeli

The chief characteristic of the religion of science is that it works.
Isaac Asimov

I showed my masterpiece to the grown-ups, and asked them whether the drawing frightened them.
But they answered: “Frighten? Why should any one be frightened by a hat?”
My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant.
Narrator in “The Little Prince”

Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.
Samuel Johnson

But a machine that was powerful enough to accelerate particles to the grand unification energy would have to be as big as the Solar System — and would be unlikely to be funded in the present economic climate.
Stephen Hawking

“And while the soulless minions of orthodoxy refuse to follow up on his important research I could hear the clarion call of destiny ringing in my ears.”
Dr. Elias Giger in Star Trek DS9: “In the Cards”

Misconceptions About Creativity

“Being weird isn’t enough. Originality with no purpose in mind, is not creativity. It is insanity but not art. Original, but not useful.”

Not only must we be good, but we must also be good for something.
Henry David Thoreau

Damien Hirst’s response to those who said that anyone could have done this artwork was, “But you didn’t, did you?”.

Buying a Nikon doesn’t make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner.

“If you want to be smart, be smart in the shower.”
Gene Buckley, President of Sikorsky Aircraft

Making fun of Zootoday is like shooting fish in a barrel; it’s morally wrong, but it’s still fun.

A “critic” is a man who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative men. There is logic in this; he is unbiased — he hates all creative people equally.
Excerpt from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long in “Time Enough For Love” by Robert A. Heinlein

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight and never stop fighting.
e.e. cummings

Up to a point a man’s life is shaped by environment, heredity, and movements and changes in the world about him. Then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be. Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune, or the quirks of fate. Everyone has it within his power to say, “This I am today; that I will be tomorrow.”
Louis L’Amour

Working hard does not mean that you are doing something wrong or have no talent, it does mean that you are putting effort in your work.

An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied.
Arnold Glasow

If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem wonderful at all.

(About Newton) Nature to him was an open book, whose letters he could read without effort.
Quoted in G Simmons Calculus Gems (New York 1992)

The Egg of Columbus is a story of how to make an egg stand on end. The story is used to illustrate the notion that it takes genius to discover something new but that once it has been shown to others then anyone can do it.

“Arthur Schopenhauer said that all truth passed through three stages: First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. But that does not mean that just because they ridicule and oppose you, your idea has any merit, nor does this mean that it is a truth or even self-evident. Most likely you’re just wrong.”
Daniel Wessel

“… when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”
“The Relativity of Wrong” by Isaac Asimov

Advantages and Disadvantages of Creativity

Some architects are tying to become immortal not by ‘freezing music’ but by coating their structure in ice, prohibiting any change of tune, no matter how times’ requirements or tastes have changed, until all there is left is a ruin which no one likes to use.

“Don’t be disappointed, Aunt Hilda. Pop has to work; it’s his nature. Me, too. Work is necessary to us. Without it, we’re lost.”
“Well … yes. But working because you want to is the best sort of play.”
“The Number of the Beast” by Robert A. Heinlein

“You know what Michelangelo used to say? That the sculptures he made were already there before he started, hidden in the marble. All he need to do was remove the unneeded bits. It wasn’t quite that easy with you, Data. But the need to do it, my need to do it, was no different than Michelangelo’s need.”
Star Trek TNG: “Brothers”

There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or a corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back, for their private benefit.
The Judge in “Life-Line” by Robert A. Heinlein

Obscenity is whatever gives the Judge an erection.

“Science must be innovative. It brings change. That’s why science and bureaucracy fight a constant war.”
Dune Vol. 6: “Chapterhouse Dune”

New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not common.
“An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” by John Locke

If Thomas Edison invented electric light today, Dan Rather would report it on CBS News as “candle making industry threatened”.
Newt Gingrich, US Congressman and House Speaker, 1995

If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world. If my theory should prove to be untrue, then France will say that I am a German, and Germany will say that I am a Jew.
Albert Einstein

I like you, but I wouldn’t want to see you working with sub-atomic particles.

It was equally imperative that this chain of reactions should always tend to dampen, to die out. It must not build up, or the uranium mass would explode within a time interval too short to be measured by any means whatsoever.
Nor would there be anyone left to measure it.
“Blowups Happen” by Robert A. Heinlein

“I wonder what the author of that republican song thought when he saw young men walking to certain death, with his song on their lips?”
Daniel Wessel

The people will take a certain amount of reform, then they want a rest. But the reforms stay. People don’t really want change, any change at all […]. But we progress, as we must — if we are to go out to the stars.
Bonforte’s double in “Double Star” by Robert A. Heinlein


In dreams begin responsibilities.
WB Yeats

The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.
“Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations” by Isaac Asimov, 1988

“I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here: it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could and before you even knew what you had you patented it and packaged it and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it, you want to sell it!”
Ian Malcolm in “Jurassic Park”

There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.
J. Robert Oppenheimer, Life, 10 October 1949

“I did not say it was true, but you will admit that I can convince the public that you are deliberate villains. As to it being a difference of opinion … you are none of you atomic physicists; you are not entitled to hold opinions in this matter.” […] Lentz discussed it. He dwelt on the appreciation that would be due them from a grateful world. He invited them to make a noble sacrifice, and, with subtle misdirection, tempted them to think of themselves as heroes. He deliberately played on one of the most deep-rooted of simian instincts, the desire for approval from one’s kind, deserved or not.
Dr. Lentz, about his proposed campaign to make the Board of Directors of a possibly world-destroying reactor either villains or heros depending on their cooperation to transfer the plant to outer space, in “Blowups Happen” by Robert A. Heinlein

Not everything that is possible should be invented, and not everything that exists should be used.

“I didn’t say it was my fault. I said it was my responsibility. I know the difference.”
Rose Walker, in Sandman: “The Kindly Ones:4” by Neil Gaiman

“Go ahead, Giles. Do it. Tell me to kill my sister.”
Buffy, after realizing that the only way to stop the Apocalypse might be to kill the key to other dimensions, which is her sister, in “Buffy – The Vampire Slayer”

There was no doubt that whoever had shut [the door] wanted it to stay shut. Dozens of nails secured it to the door frame. Planks had been nailed right across. And finally it had, up until this morning, been hidden by a bookcase that had been put in front of it.
“And there’s the sign, Ridcully,” said the Dean. “You have read it, I assume. You know? The sign which says ‘Do not, under any circumstances, open this door’?”
“Of course I’ve read it,” said Ridcully. “Why d’yer think I want it opened?”
[Footnote: This exchange contains almost all you need to know about human civilization. At least, those bits of it that are now under the sea, fenced off or still smoking.]
“Hogfather” by Terry Pratchett

Most “scientists” are bottle washers and button sorters.
Excerpt from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long in “Time Enough For Love” by Robert A. Heinlein

What is needed to be creative?

“Daß ich erkenne, was die Welt | Im Innersten zusammenhält,”
[That I the force may recognise | That binds creation’s inmost energies]
“Faust” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Curiosity kills the cat — but it also makes her go where no cat has gone before.
Daniel Wessel

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but “That’s funny…”
Isaac Asimov

“I think success has been very important to me. I wanted it to heal some inner wound of some kind. I wanted revenge. I wanted to dance on the graves of a few people who made me unhappy, and I’ve done it.”
Anthony Hopkins

In 1583 Galileo Gallilei … a youth of nineteen attending prayers in the baptistery of the Cathedral of Pisa, was, according to tradition, distracted by the swinging of the altar lamp. No matter how wide the swing of the lamp, it seemed that the time it took the lamp to move from one end to the other was the same. Of course Galileo had no watch, but he checked the intervals of the swing by his own pulse. This curious everyday puzzle, he said, enticed him away from the study of medicine to which his father had committed him to the study of mathematics and physics. He had discovered … that the time of a pendulum’s swing varies not with the width of the swing but with the length of the pendulum.
Daniel J. Boorstin

Nature composes some of her loveliest poems for the microscope and the telescope.
Theodore Roszak

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
Calvin Coolidge

Insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting different results.
“The Fifth Sacred Thing” by StarHawk

“I’m bored. I want to watch something else.”
“I’m bored too, but I want to know what happens.”
“That’s why you have a PhD and I don’t.”
Jon and Tom

It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.
Albert Einstein

As a pupil you’ve got a five days a week job: learning.
Henry J. Wilcoxen-Ash

Get over the idea that only children should spend their time in study. Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life.
Henry L. Doherty

“Why study when you can network?”
Daria in Daria 2×08: “Gifted”

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.
Judy Garland

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise.
Seek what they sought.
Matsuo Basho

Use what is useful, reject what is useless and add what is specifically your own.

The best predictor for future behavior is past behavior. If you want to change your future behavior, forget good intentions and aspirations, change your behavior to change your attitude.

There is only one nature – the division into science and engineering is a human imposition, not a natural one. Indeed, the division is a human failure; it reflects our limited capacity to comprehend the whole.
Bill Wulf

“Yes, but what you do is hardly science, isn’t it?”
Dreaded words while working in an interdisciplinary team of scientists

What is hidden in an empty box?

If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts, but if he will content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.
Francis Bacon

To think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.
George Kneller

“… to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
Intro of Star Trek TNG

Creativity is also doing what you can do, with what you have, the way you can.

I do not like it but I can live with it, work with it, until I have solved it.

Science commits suicide when it adopts a creed.
Thomas Henry Huxley

Be open-minded, but not so open-minded that your brains fall out.
Stephen A. Kallis, Jr.

Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.

It is perfectly easy to be original by violating the laws of decency and the canons of good taste.
“Over the Teacups” by Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1891

Sometimes I think I get ideas by seeing into the future — and it scares me.

I laugh because I dare not cry.
Sharpie in “The Number of the Beast” by Robert A. Heinlein

Don’t try to be eccentric. Focus on your subject and follow your inner voice where ever it takes you, that is eccentric enough.

If to live in this style is to be eccentric, it must be confessed that there is something good in eccentricity.

Be neither a conformist or a rebel, for they are really the same thing. Find your own path, and stay on it.
Paul Vixie

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
Friedrich Nietzsche

To be dragged in the wake of the passive flock and to pass a hundred and one times beneath the shears of the shepherd, or to die alone like a brave eagle on a rocky crag of a great mountain: that is the dilemma.
Praxedis Guerrero, Regeneración, 18 February 1911

“Playing safe seems to be all the rage.”

The reward for conformity was that everyone liked you except yourself.
Rita Mae Brown, Venus Envy

Everyone has a natural born right to be whoever they wish, to love whoever they wish, if they can just survive the pressure from the ignorant.

“I don’t know.”
Albert Einstein

“He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.”
Chinese proverb

Our wretched species is so made that those who walk on the well-trodden path always throw stones at those who are showing a new road.

All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions.
Adlai Stevenson, speech, Princeton, 1954

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
Scott Adams

If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
Vincent Van Gogh

Don’t make enemies by accident.

Many great ideas have been lost because the people who had them could not stand being laughed at.

If A equals success, then the formula is: A = X + Y + Z, where X is work, Y is play, and Z is keep your mouth shut.
Albert Einstein

If you want to have a million dollars and be an artist, start with two.
James Bauerle

An artist creative enough to produce good art, should be creative enough to find money to support it. A scientist creative enough to develop good experiments, should be creative enough to find money to support it.
Daniel Wessel

“It’s not a stone, it’s a spaceship.”
Child at play

“In the discussion of your work, don’t write that your sample is too small. It always is and we all could do better if we had more participants.”
Psychology Professor about the discussion section in a diploma theses

Runners just do it — they run for the finish line even if someone else has reached it first.

“Don’t play the saxophone. Let it play you.”
Charlie Parker

Perhaps imagination is only intelligence having fun.
George Scialabba

“When I was 12, I used to think I was a genius and nobody had noticed. If there such a thing as a genius, I am one, and if there isn’t, then I don’t care.”
John Lennon

“Intelligence is great, I have it too, but to be creative you need more than that …”
Comment on a Mensa Meeting

“I just bought a Mac to help me design the next Cray.”
Seymoure Cray (1925-1996), when was informed that Apple Inc. had recently bought a Cray supercomputer to help them design the next Mac.

“No, I’m not unemployed. Actually, I’m a writer.”
Some guy in a cafe

“I want the praise of the cash customer, given in cash because I’ve reached him — or I don’t want anything. Support for the arts — merde! A government-supported artist is an incompetent whore!”
Jubal Harshaw in “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert A. Heinlein

“An honest-to-God artist who can paint — and works at it. One who doesn’t spend his time sopping up sauce or blowing weed, and talking about the painting he’s going to do. Joe paints. He’s a craftsman as well as an artist. Well, maybe I don’t know what an artist is but I know what a craftsman is and I respect craftsmen. Too few of them in this decadent world.”
“I Will Fear No Evil” by Robert A. Heinlein

“I was sorry to hear about Mr. Edgars passing away like that. He was a good man. A visionary.”
“He was a nut, and he was a control freak.”
“Well, these days, only a nut and a control freak would completely fund research into pure science.”
Dr. Bryson and Garibaldi in Babylon 5: “The River of Souls”

Creativity and Organization

Why Organize Creativity?

“You’ve spent so much mind juice just trying to get to the next step, you forgot little pieces of your idea (or even the whole thing) in the process.”

How do you remember everything from different books when you are still writing the HP series?
As obsessive fans will tell you, I do slip up! Several classrooms move floors mysteriously between books and these are the least serious continuity errors! Most of the fansites will point you in the direction of my mistakes. But the essentials remain consistent from book to book because the story has been plotted for a long time and it is clear in my mind.
J.K. Rowling in an FAQ

I’ve been reading Barbara Sher’s Refuse to Choose. She talks about having a dedicated “idea journal” and using it to flesh out ideas whether or not they immediately seem viable. She makes the point that the idea should be explored even if it doesn’t immediately seem like something you would ever really do, because exploring ideas is actually the way people like us have fun. Wow – it’s true!
geminica, August 25th, 2006 at 1:19 pm, in a web forum

Copy from one, it’s plagiarism; copy from two, it’s research.
Wilson Mizner (1876-1933)

Nichols: “It’s about that rip in space-time that you saw.”
Hawking: “I call it a ‘Hawking Hole’.”
Fry: “No fair! I saw it first!”
Hawking: “Who is The Journal of Quantum Physics going to believe?”
Futurama: “Anthology of Interest I”

“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”
Albert Einstein

Creativity without Organization?

I never did anything worth doing by accident; nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.
Thomas Alva Edison

“He was the kind of inventor who drew the plans after he build the whole damn thing.”

“No more amateur level crap.”

How to Organize Creativity

“Is there something?”
“There’s a whole list, but let’s start with how you knew about the Lazarus project.”
“Some people … collect coins or art. I collect secrets: black projects, conspiracies, secret organizations. They fascinate me.”
Garibaldi and Sheridan in Babylon 5: “Spider in the Web”

“It’s like a finger, pointing at the moon. If you stare at the finger, you miss all the heavenly glory.”
Bruce Lee in “Enter The Dragon”

Changing your behavior is easy, it’s keeping it up that’s hard. Everyone can do it for a day. Most can do it for a week. After a month you can start to clap but it will take a year until I would believe you that you have achieved a change of behavior.

Organize Yourself

The Person from Porlock was an unwelcome visitor to Samuel Taylor Coleridge who called by during his composition of the oriental poem Kubla Khan. Coleridge claimed to have perceived the entire course of the poem in a dream (possibly an opium-induced haze):
“On awakening he appeared to himself to have a distinct recollection of the whole, and taking his pen, ink, and paper, instantly and eagerly wrote down the lines that are here preserved. At this moment he was unfortunately called out by a person on business from Porlock, and detained by him above an hour, and on his return to his room, found, to his no small surprise and mortification, that though he still retained some vague and dim recollection of the general purport of the vision, yet, with the exception of some eight or ten scattered lines and images, all the rest had passed away like the images on the surface of a stream into which a stone has been cast, but, alas! without the after restoration of the latter!”
Kubla Khan, only 54 lines long, was never completed..
However, this story is by no means universally accepted by scholars. The poet Roger McGough suggested in one of his own poems: “I think he got stuck”. This may have just been a joke, or maybe, as a poet himself, he knew the feeling.
Wikipedia (slightly rewritten)

“I am not Superman, so respect my fortress of solitude.”

“That’s it? Man. You don’t own much stuff, do you?”
“Too many material possessions, and they start to own you — I like to live light.”
Chastity Comic

Night time is really the best time to work. All the ideas are there to be yours because everyone else is asleep.
Catherine O’Hara

“I do my best thinking — without fail — on the elliptical at 6:30am, also known as perhaps the least conducive situation during which to record ideas.”

Generating Ideas

The Creative Process

For every problem, there exists a simple and elegant solution which is absolutely wrong.
J. Wagoner, U.C.B. Mathematics

A Case for Hard Work

If Newton did not have all the knowledge he had to work so hard to acquire he would have thought: “Hey, free apple.”
Daniel Wessel

“The only way something comes out of nothing is via a big bang.”

Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.
Sam Ewing

“No prizes for predicting rain. Prizes only awarded for building arks.”

I remembered a time when my grandmother had asked me to explain television to her — the guts, not the funny pictures. There are things which cannot be taught in ten easy lessons, nor popularized for the masses; they take years of skull sweat. This be treason in an age when ignorance has come into its own and one man’s opinion is as good as another’s. But there it is. As Star says, the world is what it is — and doesn’t forgive ignorance.
“Glory Road” by Robert A. Heinlein

Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back.
Chinese Proverb

It’s so hard when I have to, and so easy when I want to.
Annie Gottlier

The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.
Arnold Toynbee

“It takes long practice, yes. You have to work. Did you think you could snap your fingers, and have it as a gift? What is worth having is worth working for.”
“His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman

He who waits to do a great deal all at once will never do anything.

“Get the best education, early on.”

The eagle never lost so much time as when he submitted to learn of the crow.

Don’t waste time learning the ‘tricks of the trade.’ Instead, learn the trade.
Attributed to James Charlton and H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.
Peter Drucker

Many have marked the speed with which Muad’Dib learned the necessities of Arrakis. The Bene Gesserit, of course, know the basis of this speed. For the others, we can say that Muad’Dib learned rapidly because his first training was in how to learn. And the first lesson of all was the basic trust that he could learn. It is shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult. Muad’Dib knew that every experience carries its lesson.
From “The Humanity of Muad’Dib” by the Princess Irulan in “Dune” by Frank Herbert

“We delude ourselves if we believe that skilled behavior is easy, that it can come about without effort. We forget the years of tuning, of learning and practice it takes to be skilled at even the most fundamental of human activities: eating, walking, talking, reading, and writing. It is tempting to want instant gratification — immediate expert performance and experiential pleasure — but the truth is that this primarily occurs only after considerable amounts of accretion and tuning.”
“Things that make us smart” by Donald A. Norman

An amateur practices until he gets it right.
A professional practices until he never gets it wrong.

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”
Michael J. Fox

He who has imagination without learning has wings but no feet.

The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.
Attributed to both Vidal Sassoon and Donald Kendall

We are fast with out answers because we were in the same situation before, heard the same question before. But we should make sure that it is still the same answer.

I was still reading about the evolution of stars when Professor Perry suggested that we go to lunch. We did but I made some notes first about types of mathematics I wanted to study. Astrophysics is fascinating – but you have to talk the language.
“Friday” by Robert A. Heinlein

If it can’t be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion.
Excerpt from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long in “Time Enough For Love” by Robert A. Heinlein

Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.
Isaac Asimov

Impara l’arte, e mettila da parte.
[Learn the art so that you can forget about it.]

Name the greatest of all inventors: Accident.
Mark Twain

If you invent by accident you are going to have an accident.
Daniel Wessel

A Case for Time

“I thought about it all the time.”
Sir Isaac Newton, on how he discovered the law of gravity

Don’t count the days, make the days count.
Mohammed Ali

He who devotes sixteen hours a day to hard study may become at sixty as wise as he thought himself at twenty.
Mary Wilson Little

You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.
Charles Buxton

Talents are best nurtured in solitude; character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Secret to success: Stay away from TV. “I haven’t watched TV for 20 years. At 5 hours a day, this works out to 36,500 hours. Need I say more?”
“Studmuffins of Science” Calendar

When people say to me: “How do you do so many things?” I often answer them, without meaning to be cruel: “How do you do so little?” It seems to me that people have vast potential. Most people can do extraordinary things if they have the confidence or take the risks. Yet most people don’t. They sit in front of the telly and treat life as if it goes on forever.
Philip Adams

Much may be done in those little shreds and patches of time which every day produces, and which most men throw away.
Charles Caleb Colton

Pick a savage so far back in the jungle that they don’t even have installment-plan buying. Say he has an I.Q. of 190 and Peewee’s yen to understand. Dump him into Brookhaven Atomic Laboratories. How much will he learn? With all possible help?
He’ll learn which corridors lead to what rooms and he’ll learn that a purple trefoil means: “Danger!”
That’s all. Not because he can’t; remember he’s a supergenius – but he needs twenty years schooling before he can ask the right questions and understand the answers.
“Have Space Suit will Travel” by Robert A. Heinlein

Do what you must, but remember that everyone will leave this earth with items still on their to-do list and no one went to the grave wishing they spent another hour at the office.
“People First, Then Technology” by P.G. Daly

“I’d rather walk.”
Henry J. Wilcoxen-Ash

When inspiration does not come, I go for a walk, go to the movie, talk to a friend, let go… The muse is bound to return again, especially if I turn my back!
Judy Collins

If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.
Raymond Inmon

The isolated, social inept researcher or artist is just a very devoted researcher or master with different priorities than the rest of his immediate society. If he appears to be absent-minded it’s because he is, he is thinking about a project that means more to him then the current company and when he reacts strangely, it’s because you just pulled him out of a depth of 20,000 miles without decompression.
Daniel Wessel


“Can you believe it? Me — a muse, for God’s sake! I sit down in front of the typewriter, and what do I get? Nothing. Blank page. I can’t even write a grocery list.”
“What about what you did with Jay and Silent Bob? You inspired them.”
“That’s the cosmic joke. I can give out a zillion and nine ideas a second, but I can’t keep any for myself. Her quirky sense of humor.”
Serendipity, an ex-Muse suffering from a writers block, and Bethany in “Dogma” (1999)

Techniques and Tactics

“You can’t force creativity.”

Mostly it’s a question of knowledge, skills and time.

“Genius doesn‘t work on an assembly line basis. You can’t simply say, ’Today I will be brilliant.‘“
Kirk in Star Trek TOS: “The Ultimate Computer“

Under normal conditions the research scientist is not an innovator but a solver of puzzles, and the puzzles upon which he concentrates are just those which he believes can be both stated and solved within the existing scientific tradition.
Thomas Kuhn

Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.
“Winnie-The-Pooh” by A.A. Milne

Chance favors the prepared mind.
Louis Pasteur

The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents and the ocean was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.
Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers

If “everybody knows” such-and-such, then it ain’t so, by at least ten thousand to one..
Excerpt from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long in “Time Enough For Love” by Robert A. Heinlein

Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.
Thomas Henry Huxley

“The past is over.”

Trust that little voice in your head that says “Wouldn’t it be interesting if …” And then do it.
“More Joy of Photography” by Duane Michals

“If you want to get ahead, you have to take chances … stand out in a crowd … get noticed.”
Star Trek Quotations

“When it rains, let it pour.”

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Flight to Arras, 1942

Don’t take laws as laws, what we see might not be the whole truth and laws might change.

“First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement, so I must do nothin’. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the Pirate’s Code to apply, and you’re not. And thirdly, the Code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner.”
Captain Barbossa in “Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man adapts the world to himself. All progress, therefore, depends upon the unreasonable man.
George Bernard Shaw

If a tree falls in a forest, and no one hears it, does it make a sound?
Yes, it does make a sound, because a sound is defined as mechanical vibration traveling through the air or another medium at a frequency to which the human ear is sensitive. So a falling oak makes a pretty serious sound, even without an ear around.

Let us suppose that an ichthyologist is exploring the life of the ocean. He casts a net into the water and brings up a fishy assortment. Surveying his catch, he proceeds in the usual manner of a scientist to systematize what it reveals. He arrives at two generalizations:
(1) No sea-creature is less than two inches long.
(2) All sea-creatures have gills.
These are both true of his catch, and he assumes tentatively that they will remain true however often he repeats it.
Sir Arthur Eddington

There seemed to be one quality of mind which seemed to be of special and extreme advantage in leading him to make discoveries. It was the power of never letting exceptions go unnoticed.
Francis Darwin, on his father, Charles Darwin

I felt silly adding “Brainy” — but there had been a row between Pop and him, and years earlier my best teacher had said, “Never neglect the so-called ‘trivial’ roots of an equation,” and had pointed out that two Nobel prizes had derived from “trivial” roots.
“The Number of the Beast” by Robert A. Heinlein

No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail.

I think perhaps the most important problem is that we are trying to understand the fundamental workings of the universe via a language devised for telling one another when the best fruit is.
Terry Pratchett

A good catchword can obscure analysis for fifty years.
Wendell L. Willkie

“The plural of anecdote is not data.”
Roger Brinner

The temptation to form premature theories upon insufficient data is the bane of our profession.
Sherlock Holmes

I abhor averages. I like the individual case. A man may have six meals one day and none the next, making an average of three meals per day, but that is not a good way to live.
Louis D. Brandies

Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.
Henry Ford

“Keep it simple; as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
Albert Einstein

“I don’t care about what something was designed to do, I care about what it can do.”
Gene Kranz in “Apollo 13”

“I’ve always prided myself on seeing things the way they truly are,” Thufir Hawat said. “That’s the curse of being a Mentat. You can’t stop analyzing your data.”
“Dune” by Frank Herbert

There is only one way in which a person acquires a new idea: by the combination or association of two or more ideas he already has into a new juxtaposition in such a manner as to discover a relationship among them of which he was not previously aware.
Francis A. Cartier

The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA. Without this special attribute, we would still be anaerobic bacteria and there would be no music.
Lewis Thomas

You have the capacity to learn from mistakes. You will learn a lot today.

“I remember my father once told me that nature is very powerful, but sometimes even nature needs help.”
“Shadowrun – Who Hunts The Hunter”

“It is wonderful to work in an environment with a lot of smart people. It challenges you to think and work on a different level. If you play with better players, you learn a lot: perspectives, intellectual arguments, new ways of thinking about things.”
Marissa Mayer, Vice-President of Search Product and User Experience at Google

“The people around you can make or break you. I have wasted too many precious years in the company of idiots who tried to keep me down.”

The web does this amazing thing. There’s an instant community. The isolated wacko can become part of this international movement.
Michael Bellesiles, Associate Professor of History

“I don’t do brainstorming — it’s my brain, I just knock and they let me in.”
Henry J. Wilcoxen-Ash

Always listen to experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done, and why. Then do it.
Excerpt from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long in “Time Enough For Love” by Robert A. Heinlein

I have friends in overalls whose friendship I would not swap for the favor of the kings of the world.
Thomas Alva Edison

“He’s in favor of school vouchers, Dad.”
“No, Mallory. He’s really not.”
“Yes, he is.”
“No, he’s not.”
“I read the position paper.”
“It’s opposition prep.”
“Opposition prep?”
“When we’re gearing up for a debate, we have the smart guys take the other side.”
Mallory and Leo in The West Wing: “Six Meetings Before Lunch”

“One man’s brain plus one other will produce one half as many ideas as one man would have produced alone. These two plus two more will produce half again as many ideas. These four plus four more begin to represent a creative meeting, and the ratio changes to one quarter as many …”
Anthony Chevins

I asked Ring Lardner the other day how he writes his short stories, and he said he wrote a few widely separated words or phrases on a piece of paper and then went back and filled in the spaces.
Harold Ross

“Possibly nothing at all; the overflow of my brain would probably, in a state of freedom, have evaporated in a thousand follies; misfortune is needed to bring to light the treasures of the human intellect. Compression is needed to explode gunpowder. Captivity has brought my mental faculties to a focus; and you are well aware that from the collision of clouds electricity is produced — from electricity, lightning, from lightning, illumination.”
The Abbe, when asked what he would have achieved if he had not been confined to a cell for decades, in “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas

Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model.
Vincent Van Gogh

No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.
Oscar Wilde

“Take the phasers off stun. No more Mr. Nice Guy.”
Benjamin Sisko in Star Trek DS9: “Playing God”

He’d heard of this sort of thing. Great inventions sometimes did arise from dreams and daydreams. Didn’t Hepzibah Whitlow have the idea of the adjustable pendulum clock as a result of his work as the public hangman? Didn’t Wilframe Balderton always say that the idea for the Fish Tail Escapement came after he’d eaten too much lobster?
Yes, it had all been so clear in the dream. By daylight, it needed a bit more work.
“The Thief of Time” by Terry Pratchett

To sleep, perhaps even dream.

I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.
Salvador Dali

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.
Hunter S. Thompson

When you have insomnia, you’re never really asleep, and you’re never really awake.
Fight Club

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

“Don’t be afraid of your darker side, have fun with it.”
Troi to Riker in Star Trek TNG: “Frame of Mind”

If a cluttered desk signs a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?
Albert Einstein

“Every now and then I go into my own little world but its ok … they know me there”
Joel Hodgeson

“Just have lots of ideas and throw away the bad ones.”
Linus Pauling

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Thomas Alva Edison

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.
Wernher Von Braun

“If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this.”
Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M “Post-It” Notepads

Finding Problems

“I don’t go looking for trouble. Trouble usually finds me.”
Harry Potter

“If I have no more ideas, I’ll change the domain.”
Friedrich Boecking, one of the winner of the German future prize

Where, why and how do you want to live tomorrow?

Why do we use inefficient atomic steam engines to generate electricity?

A science is any discipline in which the fool of this generation can go beyond the point reached by the genius of the last generation.
Max Gluckman

“As a circle of light increases, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it.”
Albert Einstein

I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention – invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness. To save oneself trouble.
An Autobiography by Agatha Christie, 1977

Capturing Ideas

Why capture ideas?

Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable.
Francis Bacon

“I had a very good friend who was in the Stasi, he did the same thing.”
A colleague to me while I was writing down a book idea (wait, he had a very good friend who was Stasi? [note: giving his later mobbing behavior, this would make perfect sense])

“I do not have a bad memory, I just have a lot of ideas.”

I started carrying a notepad because I thought, or at least I think now, if I have these ideas and they come whenever they want to, whether I like the moment or not, the least I can do is write them down.
Daniel Wessel

“I’m rather creative than attractive or liked.”

If you record everything you produce nothing.

How to capture ideas

“Sometimes when I’m talking, my words can’t keep up with my thoughts. I wonder why we think faster than we speak.”
“Probably so we can think twice.”
Calvin and Hobbes in “Calvin & Hobbes” by Bill Watterson

There are ideas floating around everywhere, all you have to do is to write them down when they strive your mind.
Henry J. Wilcoxen-Ash

Evaluating an Idea Capturing Method

“My glorious prose, filtered through the minds of the insane? [a sudden, consoling thought] Who knows? They might improve it.”
The Marquis, using the inmates of the asylum to overcome censorship, in “Quills”

The quality of tools for capturing ideas

“Number 3 pencils and quadrille pads.”
Seymoure Cray (1925-1996), when asked what CAD tools he used to design the Cray I; he also recommended using the back side of the pages so that the lines were not so dominant.

You can capture a $1.000.000 idea with a 25c pencil as easily as with a $2500 limited edition fountain pen, but you are more likely to do so with the former if you do not immediately see its value.

I tried out […] the Moleskin notebooks (verdict: Hemingway, Picasso, and Chatwin? Too much pressure to be great).

The tool should never become more important than the idea.
Daniel Wessel

“Do you know what a ‘duvet’ is?”
“It’s a comforter …”
“It’s a blanket. Just a blanket.”
Tyler Durden and Narrator in “Fight Club”

Missed Ideas

There should be an elegy to ideas lost due to bad handwriting, fried hard- and compact discs, the abyss in my apartment, the lack of proper writing tools, the power of sleep deprivation, the fear to be a ridiculous fool or a genius and to thousands of other reasons why an idea died before its time.
Daniel Wessel

Ways to Capture Ideas

“Ah, the joy of having a new notepad.”

“With a notepad I can write while being drunk without breaking anything.”

Best blackboards: At Fermilab, every office has at least one that stretches from the floor to the ceiling.
“Studmuffins of Science” Calendar

“A man of your intellect not being good with names and numbers. Especially an economist of your stature.”
“It’s not intellect, it’s memory. It’s a different gift. A wonderful one. I’ve never had it.”
Mrs. Harrison and President Bartlet in “The West Wing”

Worst Cases in Capturing Ideas

“There is no right and wrong.
There’s only fun and boring.”
The Plague in “Hackers”

Backup not found: (A)bort (R)etry (M)assive heart failure?
Unknown (from DOS times)

“But I thought YOU did the backups …”

Capturing Hell is other people

“Hell is other people.”

In handling a stinging insect, move very slowly.
Excerpt from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long in “Time Enough For Love” by Robert A. Heinlein

Capturing Ideas Scenarios

“I do not know how they look at me when I write down ideas while walking, I focus on my writing, that’s more important.”

“Rain is only a problem if you don’t want to get wet.”
Old Samurai Saying in “Sin City: Sex and Violence” by Frank Miller

She patted her nightie. “I must take some notes, I’ve got my memo book somewhere …”
“In your nightshirt?”
“It’s amazing how ideas come to one in bed.”
“Guards! Guards!” by Terry Pratchett

There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.
“The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath


Collecting Ideas

Why Collect Ideas?

Having dumped ninety percent of my packing onto Gwen I tackled the hardest ten percent: my business records and files. Writers are pack rats, mostly, whereas professional military learn to travel light, again mostly. This dichotomy could have made me schizoid were it not for the most wonderful invention for writers since the eraser on the end of a pencil: electronic files.
Dr. Richard Ames in “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls” by Robert A. Heinlein

If you happen to be one of the fretful minority who can do creative work, never force and idea; you’ll abort it if you do. Be patient and you’ll give birth to it when the time is ripe. Learn to wait.
Excerpt from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long in “Time Enough For Love” by Robert A. Heinlein

Evaluating an Idea Collection

“A fast, mobile, well equipped force beats a powerful but slow army any time.”

One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.
A. A. Milne

If you want to divert a river, you do it once by changing its course as early as you can, not by building a continuous bucket-chain.

You can’t shift ink.
Henry J. Wilcoxen-Ash

Ways of Collecting

“But for such a work you must have needed books — had you any?”
“I had nearly five thousand volumes in my library at Rome; but after reading them over many times, I found out that with one hundred and fifty well-chosen books a man possesses, if not a complete summary of all human knowledge, at least all that a man need really know. I devoted three years of my life to reading and studying these one hundred and fifty volumes, till I knew them nearly by heart; so that since I have been in prison, a very slight effort of memory has enabled me to recall their contents as readily as though the pages were open before me. I could recite you the whole of Thucydides, Xenophon, Plutarch, Titus Livius, Tacitus, Strada, Jornandes, Dante, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Spinoza, Machiavelli, and Bossuet. I name only the most important.”
Dantes and the Abbe in “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandré Dumas

Expanding Ideas

It is easy to appear bright if you subtly limit the conversations to the subjects you are intimately familiar with.

Protecting your Idea Collection

I get nervous when all backups are in close proximity.
Daniel Wessel

Guillermo del Toro is famous for compiling books full of notes and drawings about his ideas before turning them into films, something he regards as essential to the process. He left years worth of notes for this film in the back of a cab, and when he discovered them missing, he thought it was the end of the project. However, the cab driver found them and, realizing their importance, tracked him down and returned them at great personal difficulty and expense. Del Toro was convinced that this was a blessing and it made him ever more determined to complete the film.
Trivia for “El Laberinto del Fauno” (2006) on www.imdb.com

Common computer technicians oh-shit-moment prelude

“As a fairish mechanic, an amateur electron pusher, and as a bloke who has herded unlikely junk through the sky, I never worry about theory as long as machinery does what it is supposed to do. I worry when a machine turns and bites me. That’s why I specialize in fail-safes and backups and triple redundancy. I try never to get a machine sore at me. There’s no theory for that but every engineer knows it.”
Zeb Carter in “The Number of the Beast” by Robert A. Heinlein

Digital: Fast and easy from the cradle to the grave.

Synching is the new backup. Spread stuff as widely as possible — that way the nuke won’t get it all.
Notes about Danny O’Briens Life Hack presentation

“I made a backup of a million files yesterday. A million. From my private computer. Have we gone this far now, that there are millions of files?”
Daniel Wessel

“The difference between a vast database of ideas and an oversized paper weight is one lightning.”
Henry J. Wilcoxen-Ash

People once believed that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul to the land of the dead. But sometimes, something so bad happens that a terrible sadness is carried with it; and the soul can’t rest. Then sometimes, just sometimes, the crow can bring that soul back — to put the wrong things right.
Sarah’s Journal in “The Crow”

“The file is fucking gone!”
Hunter Cressall in an Apple spot spoof regarding the ability to restore data on a Mac

Now cracks a noble drive.
Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels
sing thee to thy rest.
Horatio in “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare (modified)

“I lost everything.”
Danny O’Brien at his life-hacks presentation about a user who, well, lost everything due to a crash

“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”
“Fight Club”, based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk

Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.
Howard Aiken

The only system which is truly secure is one which is switched off and unplugged locked in a titanium lined safe, buried in a concrete bunker, and is surrounded by nerve gas and very highly paid armed guards. Even then, I wouldn’t stake my life on it.
Gene Spafford, Director, Computer Operations, Audit, and Security Technology (COAST) Project, Purdue University

Realizing Ideas


Death in “Reaper Man” by Terry Pratchett

How to decide which idea to realize

When you have many ideas, selection and quality become a problem.
When you have few ideas, selection and quality become a problem.

“He made endless monologues about his concept, repeating its name over, and over, and over and again and again and again.”
Course participant about a time-management workshop

Why are your stories better than my daydreams? Do they make me care? Are they surprising yet believable? Are they well thought out?

Every idea I get I have to deny, that’s my way of testing it.
Alain, Histoire de mes pensées

The early bird gets the worm,
but the second mouse gets the cheese.

“Kill him, not me!”
“Actually, it’s not really a matter of ‘either-or’ but more of a ‘who comes first and who comes second’.”
Unknown movie quotation

Accomplishing the impossible means only that the boss will add it to your regular duties.
Doug Larson

A case for hard work (Part II)

The great composer does not set to work because he is inspired, but becomes inspired because he is working. Beethoven, Wagner, Bach and Mozart settled down day after day to the job in hand with as much regularity as an accountant settles down each day to his figures. They didn’t waste time waiting for inspiration.
Ernest Newman

Your company has invested $23.000.000 in a plane. You are about to invest $2.000.000 to finish the project when you realize that a rival company has already build a plane that is superior on every possible aspect, making it impossible that you will ever sell a single plane if you would produce it.
Would you invest the final $2.000.000?
Unknown, based on a typical scenario of escalating commitment/sunk cost fallacy — the scenario is artificial (nothing is ever so clear cut and there is always marketing), but few people are able to cut their loses and simply let a project die at this point. Even with the best argument in this scenario, the 2 million would essentially be burned.

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.
Bertrand Russell

A case for time (Part II)

“Here’s a red letter date in the history of science, November 5th, 1955. Yes, of course, November 5th, 1955.”
“I don’t get it, what happened?”
“That was the day I invented time travel. I remember it vividly, I was standing on the edge of my toilet hanging a clock, the porcelain was wet, I slipped, hit my head on the edge of the sink, and when I came to I had a revelation, a vision, a picture in my head. A picture of this. This is what makes time travel possible. The flux capacitor.”
“The flux capacitor?”
“It’s taken me almost 30 years and my entire family fortune to realize the vision of that day. My god has it been that long.”
Doc Brown and Marty McFly in “Back to the Future”

“the only thing that a writer’s room needs is ‘a door which you are willing to shut’”
Stephen King cited in “How to Write a Lot” by P. J. Silvia

“Just because I’m home doesn’t mean I’m available.”
Henry J. Wilcoxen-Ash

“… never allowing time for viewers to have their own thoughts. Unfilled time on the broadcast stations is thought to be non-productive time. Why, the viewers might have their own ideas! Horrid thought. Worse, the viewers might get bored and do something else.”
“Things That Make Us Smart” by Donald A. Norman

How to realize ideas

One Mark V ECM unit, 1000 km of Fullerene cable, one low-yield nuclear warhead.
Surprise party for foreign dignitary.”
Argosy Special Operations Requisition Form, CY 9512 in “Andromeda”

If you have eight hours to cut down a tree, it is best to spend six hours sharpening your axe and then two hours cutting down the tree.
Anonymous, on the benefits of having good tools

“What are you gonna write, worthy of me?”
J.J. Abrams about being intimidated by his Apple Powerbook

“Tools, of course, can be the subtlest of traps. One day, I know, I must smash the emerald.”
Sandman by Neil Gaiman

Realization: When abstract ideas become physical form and angels and monsters are born.

The difference between theory and practice is that in theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression. The chasm is never completely bridged. We all have the conviction, perhaps illusory, that we have much more to say than appears on the paper.
Isaac Bashevis Singer

[Dr. Bashir has tried in vain to find a medicine for a plague (the Blight) that an aggressive alien empire (the Dominion) spread on a planet]
Bashir: “There’s no cure for the Blight. The Dominion made sure of that. And I was so arrogant I thought I could cure it in a week.”
Dax: “Maybe that was arrogant. But it’s even more arrogant to say that there is no cure, just because you couldn’t find it.”
Star Trek DS9

Problems during the realization phase

“Alright, I’ll give it a try.”
“No! Try not. Do … or do not. There is no try.”
Luke Skywalker and Yoda in “Star Wars IV: The Empire Strikes Back”


“This is when I become suicidal.”

The great tragedy of Science – the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.
Thomas Henry Huxley

A Physician can bury his mistakes, an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.
Frank Lloyd Wright


Comments are the life blood of any amateur writer, the currency in which they are paid. It only takes a few minutes to send off a few lines, which is little to ask for in exchange for hours spent creating a story. So be sure to take those few minutes, it can only result in more and better stories in the future.
Author of an a.s.s.m. story

“It is better to be good than nice.”

If you need a friend, get a dog.
Gordon Gekko in “Wallstreet”

“If they do not know how to solve the problem, why did they tell me about it?”
Former colleague regarding to a criticism of an aspect of his project

“This wasn’t feedback, that was fuckback.”
Anonymous employee, about the criticism he received from a member of a disliked department

“You’re listening to me, but you’re not understanding me.”
“No, I’m disagreeing with you. That doesn’t mean I’m not listening to you, or understanding what you’re saying. I’m doing all three at the same time.”
Josh and Toby in “The West Wing”

“I’m not trying to get my father to like me.”
“Good. ‘Cause it’s never, never gonna happen.”
President Bartlet and psychiatrist Stanley in The West Wing: “Night Five”

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
Max Planck

Regarding your parents, don’t hope for constructive feedback. Hope for interest and support, if you get this you are lucky enough.

I didn’t know it was impossible when I did it.

A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to by a quip, and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.
Charlie Brower

And here I stand;
judge, my masters.

The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.
Elbert Hubbard

As Pratchett would put it, being Good and Right doesn’t make you Nice, and she isn’t. She prefers to be respected.
Wikipedia Entry about Susan Sto-Helit from Discworld

You have the capacity to learn from mistakes. You will learn a lot today.

That some good can be derived from every event is a better proposition than that everything happens for the best, which it assuredly does not.
James K. Feibleman

“Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.”
Bursar 1 – Hex 0 in “Hogfather” by Terry Pratchett

Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.
Elbert Hubbard

“It happens to everyone.”
(countless sources)

Have no fear of perfection,
you’ll never reach it.
Salvador Dali

The only person you should ever compete with is yourself. You can’t hope for a fairer match.
Todd Ruthman

“It is possible to make no mistakes and still lose; that’s not a weakness, that’s life.”
Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek TNG: “Peak Performance”

Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.

My play was a complete success. The audience was a failure.
Ashleigh Brilliant

A man may fall many times, but he won’t be a failure until he says that someone pushed him.
Elmer G. Letterman

“People don’t like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think, don’t run, don’t walk. We’re in their homes and in their heads and we haven’t the right. We’re meddlesome.”
Young River in “Firefly”

I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself: if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
“The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer (excerpt)

“I’m only gonna say this once. The guys you send to create those diversions are gonna die.”
“Yes they are. You try not to get anybody killed you wind up getting everybody killed. Get ready to move out.”
Gunn and Wesley in Angel Episode #44: “There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb”

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
Bill Cosby

Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was.
Margaret Mitchell

In the game of life it’s a good idea to have a few early losses, which relieves you of the pressure of trying to maintain an undefeated season.
Bill Baughan

“You lost today, kid. But that doesn’t mean you have to like it.”
Fedora in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”

Supposing you have tried and failed again and again. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down.
Mary Pickford

A man should never be ashamed to admit he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.

It is sometimes a mistake to climb; it is always a mistake never even to make the attempt. If you do not climb, you will not fall. This is true. But is it that bad to fail, that hard to fall? […] Sometimes you wake, and sometimes, yes, you die. But there is a third alternative. … sometimes, when you fall, you learn to fly.
Morpheus in Sandman: “Fear of Falling” by Neil Gaiman

“That’s nice. Would you like something to eat?”
Feedback by my mother for one of my creative projects.

“They have a pretty good idea.”
“They have a pretty clear idea, but it’s not a good one.”

Communicating Ideas

But in science the credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not to the man to whom the idea first occurs.
Sir Francis Darwin

(video narration) “What if great ideas weren’t cherished … what if they carried no importance … or held no value …”
(text) How to live in a world, where even good ideas are regarded as threatening?
Beginning of a BMW advertisement (video) and a question by the author (text) of a YouTube video regarding the problems of communicating ideas without negative effects

“And this is the only way to measure creativity!”
“Did you ever publish your results as a journal article?”
“Yes, I have written hundreds of articles in the last twenty years.”
“Any of them in English?”
“No, only in Bulgarian.”
A Bulgarian researcher being questioned at the International Conference of Psychology 2008

“Schatzi, sollen wir das machen?”
[Sweetie, shall we do this?]
Older woman to her husband, regarding the opportunity to use an electronic guidebook for a museum visit

“Ideas that spread, win.”
Seth Godin

“Technology is easy — people are hard.”

“When they explain which problem they are currently trying to solve, they don’t want to hear the solution from you when they have finished talking.”
A former colleague of mine, regarding my behavior during the meeting of our work group — apparently, having good ideas is not enough.

One man’s ‘Simple’ is another man’s ‘Huh?’
David Stone’s law

If you can’t write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don’t have a clear idea.
David Belasco

Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
unknown, supposedly from a Washington Post reader submission word contest in which readers were asked to alter a word by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter and supply a new definition.

The press can paint any picture in any color.

“Hello … hells, Glod, tell me where we are … Sto Lat! Yay!”
“Soul Music” by Terry Pratchett

There is a policeman inside our heads, and he must be destroyed.
Motto of the 1960s Yippie self liberation movement

Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.
George Bernard Shaw

“Oratory should raise your heart rate. Oratory should blow the doors off the place. We should be talking about not being satisfied with past solutions, we should be talking about a permanent revolution.”
Sam in “The West Wing”

If it was attention I wanted, I’d take off my clothes and walk into the street.
Dave Matthews Band

A bad idea does not get better online.

Worst Cases

“Don’t Panik.”
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” by Douglas Adams

A German mathematician worked on a difficult proof for some years. When he finally did it, he found out that someone beat him by a few months. He never attempted another proof.

The shoulders of Giants are full of Newtons.

All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Adam was the only man who, when he said a good thing, knew that nobody had said it before him.
Mark Twain

One bad cold and someone else beats you to the finishing line. I could have finished it first!

Alando was an internet auction house programmed by German entrepreneurs. It was second to ebay but important enough that ebay bought it for 43 million dollars. Not bad for coming second.

“Some people insist that ‘mediocre’ is better than ‘best.’ They delight in clipping wings because they themselves can’t fly. They despise brains because they have none. Pfah!”
“Have Space Suit will Travel” by Robert A. Heinlein

Other people’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality.
Les Brown

“No additional shot nor powder, a compass that doesn’t point north,” [looks at Jack’s sword] “and I half expected it to be made of wood. You are without a doubt the worst pirate I’ve ever heard of.”
“But you have heard of me.”
Norrington and Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”

There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
Oscar Wilde

“An insult is like a drink; it affects one only if accepted. And pride is too heavy baggage for my journey; I have none.”
Star in “Glory Road” by Robert A. Heinlein

“If you can’t take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It’s not safe out here. It’s wonderous with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross; but it’s not for the timid.”
Q in Star Trek TNG: “Q Who”

Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.
Henry Ford

It is a mistake to suppose that people succeed through success; they often succeed through failures.

That some good can be derived from every event is a better proposition than that everything happens for the best, which it assuredly does not.
James K. Feibleman

Wormholes were first introduced to the public over a century ago in a book written by an Oxford mathematician. Perhaps realizing that adults might frown on the idea of multiply connected spaces, he wrote the book under a psuedonym and wrote it for children. His name was Charles Dodgson, his pseudonym was Lewis Carroll, and the book was “Through The Looking Glass”.
Michio Kaku, “Visions – How science will revolutionize the 21st century”

Can build plane … Delivery about three months.
Donald Hall, Chief engineer, Ryan Airlines, to Charles Lindberg’s request for feasibility of the airplane later known as “The Spirit of St. Louis”

Ideas rot if you don’t do something with them. Don’t hoard them. I blog them or otherwise tell people.
Edd Dumbill cited in Danny O’Brien’s presentation: “Life Hacks: Tech Secrets of Overprolific Alpha Geeks”

“Let’s put it on the Internet!”
“No, we have to reach people whose opinions actually matter.”

“Before us, instinct-ridden researchers possessed a limited attention span — often no longer than a single lifetime. Projects stretching across fifty or more lifetimes never occurred to them.”
Bene Gesserit Creed in “Dune Messiah” by Frank Herbert

“What do you do if you die before finishing the full B5 [sci-fi series] storyline?”
“Well…decompose, mainly….”
Viewer and JMS, the creator of Babylon 5 (sci-fi series)

If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I’d type a little faster.
Isaac Asimov

Every word written is a victory against death.
Michel Butor

Archiving Ideas

Why archive projects?

The written word is all that stands between memory and oblivion. Without books as our anchors, we are cast adrift, neither teaching nor learning. They are windows on the past, mirrors on the present, and prisms reflecting all possible futures. Books are lighthouses erected in the dark sea of time.
Jeffery Robbins in “Gargoyles”

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana (1863-1952)

How to archive projects

“Why build one if you can two for twice the price?”

“Give him his former reviews, but only the good ones.”
Publishing editor to her secretary when one her authors has a writers block

Bill Gates purchased a notebook of Leonardo da Vinci for $28,000,000 Dollar.

Problems of Archives

With the rise of the internet, everyone has his 15 megabytes of fame.

I save about twenty drafts — that’s ten meg of disc space — and the last one contains all the final alterations. Once it has been printed out and received by the publishers, there’s a cry here of ‘Tough shit, literary researchers of the future, try getting a proper job!’ and the rest are wiped.
Terry Pratchett

Other Aspects of Archives

I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.
Chief Justice Earl Warren

Final Remarks & Appendix

Final Remarks

Your mind is filled with new ideas.
Do not let them go to waste.

Link Index

Microsoft Word can do nearly everything but nothing very well.

A short history of this book

“Writing a book is an adventure: to begin with it is a toy and amusement; then it becomes a master, and than it becomes a tyrant; and the last phase is just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude – you kill the monster and fling him to the public.”
Winston Churchill


That’s it 🙂