Chase, Chance, and Creativity

Beautiful book on research. The allure of doing it, what it takes to do it, and how to become better at it. The theme of chance runs throughout the book — once you have the basics down, a large part of your progress comes down to chance (in the way the book defines it).

Highly recommend the first 2 sections of the book for a great personal account into how someone did research throughout their career. Would love more reads like this — please send them my way. It’s rare to get such a deep inside view into people doing their work — there were parts where I could relate super heavy, and parts which made me rethink the way I do things — especially the strong idea of movement, and serendipity.

Good things come when you’re moving — things come when you’re moving in general. You must seek out novel stimuli, and do things for ideas to appear. Ideas often do come when you take a break from things, but you must have something you’re taking a break from in the first place. Being passive for too long kills motivation and progress.

The word meandering was used a lot, to describe moving in a somewhat interesting direction of research playfully. I’ve been thinking about this a bit: I think I really enjoy meandering, but at some point, also love exploiting. Like enough exploration, time to get this to the real world — and these two things often conflict a lot, and build up to a bunch of tension. Not sure how to balance the both of these things.

And when serendipity does bring something good to you — you must be able to recognise it. The way this book has taught me to look at chance is essentially as a trigger for ideas: to recognise this trigger, it helps to broaden the kinds of things you can think about, and the experiences you have. Basically: doing different things helps.

The third section wasn’t as illuminating — even though the overlap isn’t exact, I think Paul Graham’s How to do great work essay is a better next step after the first 2 sections.