the world according to my heroes – Isaac Asimov, part 1

For those not familiar with this series: I extrapolate quotations from those who influence me strongly to apply to playwrighting and theater.  And life.

[on why bother] The true delight is in the finding out rather than in the knowing.

[on having standards] To test a perfect theory with imperfect instruments did not impress the Greek philosophers as a valid way to gain knowledge.

[on research] While knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.

[on structure] Science can amuse and fascinate us all, but it is engineering that changes the world.

[on MFAs] Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.

[on theater magic] Surely no child and few adults have ever watched a bird in flight without envy.

[on feedback] Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.

[on backstory] In life, unlike chess, the game continues after checkmate.

[on technique] I am not a speed reader. I am a speed understander.

[on my pet bugaboo, artists who diss scientists as not being creative] How often people speak of art and science as though they were two entirely different things, with no interconnection. An artist is emotional, they think, and uses only his intuition; he sees all at once and has no need of reason. A scientist is cold, they think, and uses only his reason; he argues carefully step by step, and needs no imagination. That is all wrong. The true artist is quite rational as well as imaginative and knows what he is doing; if he does not, his art suffers. The true scientist is quite imaginative as well as rational, and sometimes leaps to solutions where reason can follow only slowly; if he does not, his science suffers.

[on not self-editing in a creation phase] A subtle thought that is in error may yet give rise to fruitful inquiry that can establish truths of great value.

[on not expecting a finished product too early in the game] Experimentation is the least arrogant method of gaining knowledge. The experimenter humbly asks a question of nature.

[on writers] From my close observation of writers … they fall in to two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.

[on playwrights, metaphorically] A scientist is as weak and human as any man, but the pursuit of science may ennoble him even against his will.

[on technique] To succeed, planning alone is insufficient. One must improvise as well.

[on instinct] All humanity could share a common insanity and be immersed in a common illusion while living in a common chaos. That can’t be disproved, but we have no choice but to follow our senses.

[on rewrites] Finished products are for decadent minds.

[on knuckling down] Boasts are wind and deeds are hard.

[on interesting character traits] The closer to the truth, the better the lie, and the truth itself, when it can be used, is the best lie.

[on the prevalent use of guns in modern plays, screenplays, teleplays] I consider violence an uneconomical way of attaining an end. There are always better substitutes, though they may sometimes be a little less direct.

[and my current favorite] It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety.


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