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E. L. Doctorow

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Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.
--
The New York Times (1985-10-20)

 
E. L. Doctorow

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You see, some people have a talent for programming. At ten to thirteen years old, typically, they're fascinated, and if they use a program, they want to know: “How does it do this?” But when they ask the teacher, if it's proprietary, the teacher has to say: “I'm sorry, it's a secret, we can't find out.” Which means education is forbidden. A proprietary program is the enemy of the spirit of education. It's knowledge withheld, so it should not be tolerated in a school, even though there may be plenty of people in the school who don't care about programming, don't want to learn this. Still, because it's the enemy of the spirit of education, it shouldn't be there in the school.
But if the program is free, the teacher can explain what he knows, and then give out copies of the source code, saying: “Read it and you'll understand everything.” And those who are really fascinated, they will read it! And this gives them an opportunity to start to learn how to be good programmers.
To learn to be a good programmer, you'll need to recognize that certain ways of writing code, even if they make sense to you and they are correct, they're not good because other people will have trouble understanding them. Good code is clear code that others will have an easy time working on when they need to make further changes.
How do you learn to write good clear code? You do it by reading lots of code, and writing lots of code. Well, only free software offers the chance to read the code of large programs that we really use. And then you have to write lots of code, which means you have to write changes in large programs.
How do you learn to write good code for the large programs? You have to start small, which does not mean small program, oh no! The challenges of the code for large programs don't even begin to appear in small programs. So the way you start small at writing code for large programs is by writing small changes in large programs. And only free software gives you the chance to do that.

 
Richard M. Stallman
 

Most of the writers I know come from a variety of backgrounds: history, journalism, engineering, physics. The common element here is not what you study, but the fact that you learn how to study, to do research, and to synthesize new ideas out of old. The soul of science fiction, and perhaps even all fiction, is to look at a situation and ask, “what would happen if….” Change some variables and see how that makes people react to the situation. So, getting yourself a good grounding in any field of study will supply you with a great background wealth of material to use to build your stories. Then you really just need to start writing and keep writing. Writing is a skills-based endeavor and there is no easy way to become successful at it. Writers write.

 
Michael A. Stackpole
 

I write from instinct, from inexplicable sparkle. I don't know why I'm writing what I'm writing. Usually, I sit and I let my hands wander on my guitar. And I sing anything. I play anything. And I wait till I come across a pleasing accident. Then I start to develop it. Once you take a piece of musical information, there are certain implications that it automatically contains — the implication of that phrase elongated, contracted, or inverted or in another time signature. So you start with an impulse and go to what your ear likes.

 
Paul Simon
 

My favourite memories involve the actual process of writing sketches - just a few guys lounging around in a room talking nonsense, until suddenly an idea would start to coalesce, and you'd start nudging it toward fruition. I've never laughed so much before or since. Also, there were those very, very few nights where you'd be on a stage and some strange contract developed between performers and audience, and everything you did was funny. That was magical - and a direct visceral experience that you never really get from writing prose.

 
Michael Marshall Smith
 

We wanted to start a magazine, and Allison Wolfe and Molly Neuman from the band Bratmobile had started a little fanzine called Riot Grrrl and we were writing little things for it. I'd always wanted to start a big magazine with really cool, smart writing in it, and I wanted to see if the other punk girls in D.C. that I was meeting were interested in that. So I called a meeting and found a space for it, and it just turned into this sort of consciousness-raising thing. I realized really quickly that a magazine wasn't the way to go. People wanted to be having shows, and teaching each other how to play music, and writing fanzines, so that started happening. It got some press attention, and girls in other places would be like "I wanna do that. I wanna start one of those."

 
Kathleen Hanna
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