I have always liked Steven Soderbergh’s moves and Guided by Voices’ music. Today’s NY Times had a nice article about the collaboration between Robert Pollard and Steven Soderbergh: NY Times (
I suspect that the link will go away thanks to anonymous, a permanent link). Anyway, I think this quote is a good one to keep in mind for writing papers:
“He has that magpie eclecticism that I really respond to and appreciate,” Mr. Soderbergh said. “He and I are alike in that we’re just not very precious. We both feel like, you just do it and it shouldn’t be a big hassle.”
In my experience, the PhD students who view their thesis as a really important project often get stuck. And that’s also true in my own research: if it’s too important, I don’t write anything because it’s not good enough. If I obsess over perfection, no output. Nothing to revise. Far better to give it my best shot, submit it, and then get on to the next thing. Sometimes you lose. But keep moving.
The work has to be good; I’m not saying do like those students whose homework is done the night before the due date, written in a spiral notebook, ripped out, and then handed in (often unstapled).
I guess that’s why I admire Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Robert Pollard, Steven Sonderberg, Woody Allen, Paul Westerberg, Los Lobos, Yo-Yo Ma, and many, many other artists—they keep going. They finish the project in reasonable time, and then get on with it. Sometimes the project turns out well, sometimes not. But they keep going. It helps that they are talented, but I suspect that for Bob Dylan, a song is a song. Finish it, and then write the next one.