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Rita Dove

Former Poet Laureate of the United States

Hemingway once said that more writers fail from lack of character than lack of talent. You know? It is not a question of sitting down under a tree and having inspiration come down. If you wait for inspiration, inspiration's going to go away and look for more fertile ground to work with. There's a lot of work involved in it too. There's a lot of feeling that you're almost there, but you don't even know how to get to that point in the poem, and then you just simply keep working. You keep writing, you keep re-writing. And to know that everyone goes through that -- and that's part of the process and it's actually a fun part of the process -- is very important too.
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Freeman Dyson

Theoretical Physicist and Author

Freeman Dyson: My life's been more or less divided in two parts: I mean, the first half as a scientist, the second half as a writer. They're surprisingly similar in a way. I mean, in both cases you're just using a skill to do all kinds of interesting things. So as a scientist I used my skill in mathematics to solve puzzles in many different areas. And each time you solve a puzzle, of course it's exciting. It's hard work and you work terribly hard, groping around in the dark trying to find a way to attack a problem. I would sit at the desk and scribble. My way of thinking is just by scribbling equations on bits of paper, so I would scribble a hundred pages worth of equations. And then when the time is ripe you suddenly begin to see the pattern and you begin to see how it's going to work. And then that's of course when all the blood, sweat and tears finally pays off, and then it takes only a couple of hours then actually to figure out how to do it. And then after that it's fairly easy then to fill in all the details. So then you have a problem solved, and you go and write it up for a paper to go into a professional journal, and you begin making speeches and you suddenly become useful. You've done something that other people can make use of. So that's a great life as a scientist. It's like building a cathedral: you put in a brick here and there and gradually the cathedral grows. That's the feeling you have in science, that it's a communal enterprise. It's exciting because things do change, and they do grow, and you finally end up producing something very great and beautiful, but my contribution is quite modest. But still it's part of the big picture. So that's very satisfying.
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Freeman Dyson

Theoretical Physicist and Author

I have the advantage, of course, of this short attention span, so that I didn't ever get obsessed with a problem in a sort of pathological way. I have had a number of failures. I published several papers that actually turned out to be wrong. That's very depressing, when one of your colleagues calls up and says, "Look, that's all wrong for the following reasons " And you think, "Oh, I'm absolutely no good. I've lost it." But after a week or two you recover. That's happened to me several times. I have the good fortune not to take myself too seriously. I know what I can do, and when I make a mistake it's not a tragedy. Luckily people have short memories too.
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Sylvia Earle

Undersea Explorer

Sylvia Earle: At various points along the way, the fact that I was a woman was held up to me as a reason why I couldn't do this or that or the other thing. The earliest recollection that I have was when my older brother got to go to the World's Fair, and partly because I was a little bit younger than he, but mostly because I was a little girl, I was told, well, you know, he's a little boy, and he's older than you, and he can go. And I thought, well so? I'm a little girl. So what? That was my first recollection of kind of being rocked back on my heels with that kind of awareness. Although I'm sure that all through school, the role models are pretty well established. You will become one of three or four things. You will become a wife and mother, or you will become a teacher, or a nurse, or maybe a stewardess on an aircraft. Or you could type, you could become a secretary. And there aren't very many other options that are held out. They weren't to me as a child, growing up. But it never occurred to me that was all I could be.
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