Pete Doctor is Pixar’s chief creative officer. Recently he sat down for an interview with economist Steven Levitt. On his People I (Mostly) Admire podcast, Steve asked Pete one of my favorite, but ridiculous interview questions. What live advice would you give the 20 year old Pete Doctor, knowing what you know now?
An excellent interview for all you drawers out there. Listen in full here.
Dana Gioia snapped my synapses when he shared this definition of the novel:
It’s hard to think of a novel that doesn’t follow this idea. I’m sure there’s some experimental four hundred pager out there, but the novels I truly know all exhibit this tension between the characters inner and outer life.
In Tolkien’s The Hobbit – Bilbo duels between his craving for comfortable Shire life and his Took instincts for adventure.
In Jeff Smith’s Bone – Fone Bone longs to return to Boneville, but harbors a secret love for Thorn who could never follow him there (Graphic novels count too right?).
Or in Jhumpa Lahiri’sThe Namesake – Gogol’s divided between the need to honor his parents and his traditional Indian heritage, and the allure of American success.
Irony threads through all of them. And novels will no longer read the same to me.
Russ Roberts and Dana Gioia’s conversation was inspiring throughout.
Before he served as the second President of the United States, John Adams was an ambitious young lawyer. To help master the craft of law, he kept a “literary” commonplace book. In it he copied passages of books he admired.
But after attending several sessions of the local court, he felt himself “irresistibly impelled” to the law. In the meantime, he was reading Milton, Virgil, Voltaire, Viscount Bolingbroke’s Letters on the Study and Use of History, and copying long extracts in a literary commonplace book.
But according to Founders Online, Adams didn’t collect quotations in his commonplace book:
Adams did not collect quotations in his Commonplace Book, but what appear to be abstracts of pertinent passages drawn either from his reading in legal works such as Doctor and Student, Instructor Clericalis, and the reports, or from the notebooks of others at the bar.
Dr. Sacks describing his meeting with the Noble Prize winning physical chemist Gerald M. Edelman:
While Edelman’s drive and single focus is admirable. Sacks goes further, admitting his envy for Edelman. Sacks recognized that while Edelman’s abilities were desirable, there was a freedom in his less “focused” life.
Sack’s intellectual work, a combination of working with patients, writing books, traveling, love for cephalopods, taking piano lessons in his seventies wasn’t “focused”. But it was rich.
Dr. Sacks opens the chapter – Voyages with a reflection on his father’s work ethic and subtle career advice.
After reading this passage Paul Graham’s essay How to Do What You Love came to mind. In that essay, Graham argues one should build a career (I’d argue a life) based on genuine interests, rather than prestige.
Sack’s father intuitively understood this. A neurologist does hold a higher status in society than a general practice doctor. And certainly more than a general practice doctor making house calls. But it was in that general practice, meeting the needs of his fellow man, that Sack’s father built a meaningful life.
I wonder if Dr. Sacks (sr.) had chosen Neurology, would he have had the same enthusiasm and stamina to continue working into his ninety’s?
I love how Bobbito not only kept his off season workout sheet (written by coaching legend Morgan Wooten) into adulthood, but also published it in his book – Where’d You’d Get Those?
Coach Wooten’s off-season workout regimen is a reminder of the importance of practice. Remove the word “basketball” if needed and replace it with painting, forklifting, clarineting, YouTubing…
Whatever skill or hobby you’re wanting to improve at, creating a specific practice routine will help accelerate your progress.
1. BALL HANDLING (15 minutes)
A. Pound the ball both hands
B. Finger tip drills
C. Pass ball around your mid section
D. Single leg circle - both legs
E. Around legs and body both ways
F. Figure 8 both ways
G. Figure 8 and drop both ways
H. Crab run both ways
I. Side catch
J. Front catch
K. Spin ball on finger
By drawing. By drawing cartoons. Before I could read or write I used to draw comics at school and at home. The funny thing is that I now realize that when I was in high school I had the reputation of being a writer, though I never in fact wrote anything. If there was a pamphlet to be written or a letter of petition, I was the one to do it because I was supposedly the writer. When I entered college I happened to have a very good literary background in general, considerably above the average of my friends. At the university in Bogotá, I started making new friends and acquaintances, who introduced me to contemporary writers. One night a friend lent me a book of short stories by Franz Kafka. I went back to the pension where I was staying and began to read The Metamorphosis. The first line almost knocked me off the bed. I was so surprised. The first line reads, “As Gregor Samsa awoke that morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. . . .” When I read the line I thought to myself that I didn’t know anyone was allowed to write things like that. If I had known, I would have started writing a long time ago. So I immediately started writing short stories. They are totally intellectual short stories because I was writing them on the basis of my literary experience and had not yet found the link between literature and life. The stories were published in the literary supplement of the newspaper El Espectador in Bogotá and they did have a certain success at the time—probably because nobody in Colombia was writing intellectual short stories. What was being written then was mostly about life in the countryside and social life. When I wrote my first short stories I was told they had Joycean influences.
Of course, Gabriel García Márquez’s writer’s origin story begins with drawing cartoons.
What is it about drawing that fuels other creative pursuits?