lessons from a quantum physicist: how to be good at what you do

14 July, 2010

Part one: attitude.

It’s about wanting to do something special, not just putting the hours in.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I suppose as a starting point it’s similar to what Paul Graham talks about in the piece I linked to a while ago, where his first question is ‘What are the most important problems in your field?’  Obviously that kind of question is slightly different in an arts context, but when I first read that piece it challenged me a lot. What is the really important stuff? What should I be writing about? What should I be attempting to do in my writing?

Then for a while (perhaps a touch pretentiously?) I started thinking that perhaps writing poetry at all is an attempt to do something special, to say something of value, just by its nature. And because it’s not a day job (nor ever will be), there isn’t this temptation to just put the hours in.

But then I got to thinking again. There’s poetry, and there’s poetry that really does provide a moment of encounter, that is heart-stoppingly beautiful, that changes the way you think about things, that delights and surprises, that changes the way you see the world. And if every time I sit down I remind myself of that possibility, and the consequent desire to do something special, then that’s got to be a good thing.

Of course it’s not as simple as sitting down and saying ‘I am going to write something special’. It’s more ‘I’m going to attempt to write something special’. And the corollary of this is that you’re going to fail lots. So just accept it, and don’t be disheartened by the inevitable.

This post brought to you by four-day weekends, swifts and Dorothea Brande, but mainly inspiring friends

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3 Responses to “lessons from a quantum physicist: how to be good at what you do”

  1. pupski said

    This is so true! It is great when you an encounter a poem like this – I read a lot but only a few poems have that properly magical quality!

  2. […] unimportant things so you can say yes to the important things. (I suppose this is related to the previous post, about trying to do interesting/special things at […]

  3. […] September, and consequently there’s not much coming my way to write about (my own reading and gems from physicists aside). Time’s running through my fingers and it’s hard not to feel […]

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