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neal stephenson's USENIX keynote

Scott Rosenberg on Neal Stephenson's recent USENIX keynote:

Some fascinating notes on a Neal Stephenson lecture about his approach to writing, with parallels to programming: "A good writer (and a good programmer) does not work by distilling good ideas from a large pool of bad and good ones, but by producing few if any bad ideas in the first place. It is important to give ideas time to mature [in the subconsciousness] so only good ideas percolate to the conscious level."

This is most definitely how it works for me. I am rarely able to create a lot of ideas and then improve them incrementally; I might spend a lot of time doing (apparently) nothing and then write everything down, something that just seems to work (both for programming and writing). All of this closely linked to that state of mind we call flow. Stephenson apparently didn't mention much about editing though, which is also crucial, and it exists in both cases (though, for programming, we call it debugging). Editing/debugging is not part of the creative process per se, but an important component in polishing up details, clarifying concepts, or removing small inconsistencies that are always introduced in the process of transfering thought "down" to any medium.

Posted by diego on July 17 2003 at 8:55 PM

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