Wednesday, April 05, 2006


And who doesn't need some? Particularly for folks near enough the end of the semester to feel the fatigue, but not quite near enough to begin to feel the surge of adrenaline that fuels that last sprint to the deadline.

It's an essay by Paul Graham called "How To Do What You Love" -- something we all aim to do, but few of us find our way there. Here's a snippet:

That's what leads people to try to write novels, for example. They like reading novels. They notice that people who write them win Nobel prizes. What could be more wonderful, they think, than to be a novelist? But liking the idea of being a novelist is not enough; you have to like the actual work of novel-writing if you're going to be good at it; you have to like making up elaborate lies.

Oh yeah! And here's a bit that drew my attention:

Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That's the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn't suck, they wouldn't have had to make it prestigious.

Sound familiar? He does however tip his hand as a science geek who can see no use in the liberal arts:

Math would happen without math departments, but it is the existence of English majors, and therefore jobs teaching them, that calls into being all those thousands of dreary papers about gender and identity in the novels of Conrad. No one does that kind of thing for fun.

He doesn't understand that the same drive to understand fuels literary analysis, too, "dreary" papers or no (says the literary geek). But personal prejudices aside, the general points are still valid.

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