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Stephen Jay Gould

Evolutionary Biologist and Paleontologist

Any profession has a vast amount of tedium attached to it. There's no sense not admitting it. If you're passionate about it, tedium can be -- not exactly a joy -- but can be perfectly tolerable. The tedium of a pianist is 10 hours of practice a day or whatever, not all of which is inspirational. The tedium of an experimental scientist is calibrating the machines and doing it over and over again. The tedium of a paleontologist is poring over a microscope, or using a dental pick to chip away the sand grains from the fossil, or looking at the statistical figures in the columns of a computer printout. Every profession has massive tedium, that's certainly true. You cannot be a successful professional (without it). But I think if you're committed to it, as they say, it goes with the territory. It's part of the work. It's a necessary accoutrement to anything that's exciting.
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John Grisham

Best-Selling Author

A Time to Kill and The Firm, those books were written over a five-year period, back-to-back, from about 1984 to about 1989. The bulk was written at five o'clock in the morning, from five 'til seven in the morning. I'd get up and go to the office that early. And again, it wasn't any fun, but it was a habit. It got to be part of the daily routine. And I remember several times being in court at nine o'clock in the morning, really tired, because writing takes a lot out of you. It's draining. And I would do it for an hour or two in the morning, and get ready for court, and go to court. Be standing, waiting for the judge, and be really tired.
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John Grisham

Best-Selling Author

When A Time to Kill was published, it was an unknown author, unknown book, unknown publisher. There was no money for promotion, so I tried to sell the book myself. And I went to a lot of book stores in the Memphis, mid-South area and a lot of them had no time, you know? They didn't want a new author, especially one with a publisher they'd never heard of. But there were a handful who opened their doors and said, "Sure, come in. We'll try to sell some books, and we'll have a party, and we'll invite all of our customers."
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David Halberstam

Pulitzer Prize for Journalism

I went where I knew no one, and I put myself at risk in that sense. I gave up the pleasures of my life for four or five years, knowing that I wanted to have this apprenticeship. And it worked very well for me, because in 1960, November, when I joined The New York Times -- five and a half years after graduation from college -- when I joined the Times, I was really a good reporter. I not only was a good reporter. I had utter confidence in my ability. I had done it. I had been in the toughest story in America, the civil rights story. I had been out in dangerous things, and I'd covered it, and I had an inner toughness of mind that I knew worked for me. So I was absolutely sure of my abilities, and when the Times very quickly sent me overseas, first to the Congo and Vietnam, I did not doubt my ability. I was really trained. I was young, but I was a very professional, skilled, experienced young reporter.
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David Halberstam

Pulitzer Prize for Journalism

I went out and I tried to have this career where I would learn how to do the apprenticeship, to be better, to figure out what my weaknesses as a journalist were, doing legwork or whatever, make myself better, bring that up to speed. I did that very deliberately, and then once I had done that, I really was confident, and I was always willing to bet on myself. I had an inner confidence which I would want anybody young going in to have. Don't go out there soft. Don't go out there unsure. Before you take on a really good assignment, go out and do a real apprenticeship and know that this is what you want. I mean, it is not for everyone. It is a very tough profession. It's demanding. You have to give up a normality of existence. I mean, you work weird hours, but it's very rewarding because you're paid to learn. I have been out of college almost 40 years, and even now when I do a book, each book is a university. I end up, intellectually, being able to grow constantly.
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David Halberstam

Pulitzer Prize for Journalism

I think you want to be part of a public arena where you believe, as I do, that an informed society is a better society, can make better judgments, and I think that helped in Vietnam and later with a book I did on the competition from Japan. I think you do it for those reasons. You do it, but there are so many other values. Doing something that you like, something that you value, something that -- even though it is not as, say, sexy as being a television reporter or makes as much money -- remains with a resonance within the society, allows you to feel good about yourself, pride in your craftsmanship that you're serious and that you can still learn. It is a very, very satisfying life. I can't imagine anything more satisfying. I can imagine careers that would make more money, but I can't imagine anything that would make me feel better about myself.
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