Two Essays All Creative People and Engineers Should Read

Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, 1647, by Rembrandt. Photograph: Roy Hewson/Edinburgh Art Festival 2018

I recently read two essays by the computer scientist, painter, and tech entrepreneur Paul Graham. Mr. Graham is the founder of YCombinator, one of the worlds most successful tech incubators based out of, where else? — — — — Silicon Valley.

The first essay is a very famous essay in tech circles and it is entitled, “Makers Schedule, Managers Schedule.” It’s fundamental insight is that creative people need long uninterrupted blocks of time, what Cal Newport branded as Deep Work. Of course, he only popularized it, it’s been known about by great artists, engineers, and creatives for millennia. We are just living through ADHD times, we had to be reminded of common sense practices, and it’s good we were reminded.

The makers schedule stands in stark contrast to the managers schedule which doesn’t require long uninterrupted blocks of time, but short blocks to deal with people and projects vis-a-vis meetings, phone calls, and long drunken lunches (just kidding, not really, anyone ever see the show Mad Men? or ever close a business deal in China or Japan or Wall Street? There’s typically a lot of drinking. Not condoning or condemning, just noticing the Managers Schedule has a lot of physical demands on it, all in the name of socializing, but alas, that’s the price of power and command).

The second essay is less famous, but equally important, and resonated with me because I enjoy hacking as well as painting. This essay is entitled, “Hackers and Painters.” It’s a longer essay, and it delves into the clear relationship between computer hackers and painters. And these are the original gangstas of computer hacking, not the guys trying to steal your credit card info or identity, but the guys trying to build beautiful software, think Wozniak with the Apple II and you have the right notion of an OG hacker. I think this essay is really great at revealing the hidden roots underlying all creative work. Whether you’re painting a portrait, or coding together an open source piece of software, or writing a novel, or composing music, or inventing a new machine, there is an act of creation in all these activities. And more magically, there is an underlying intelligence operating in all these domains. It is the same intelligence expressing itself in a million different ways.

Creativity is quite mystical. We don’t really know where it comes from. But these two essays will help demystify certain aspects of creativity and put you well on your way to being a Creative God!!!

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