In a very real sense, research is a form of play in which ideas are our toys and our objective is the creation of new castles from the old building block set. The courage to do research comes in part from our attraction to the simplicity and beauty of our creations.
All too often, technical reports are dull third person descriptions of something far away and impersonal. Technology is not far away and impersonal. It's here, it's intensely personal, and it's great fun.
If you find something simple to explore, do not turn it aside as trivial, especially if it appears to be new.
I want to describe what it felt like to make this discovery. I had worked on the problem for some months, designing many circuits. About a week before I finally understood and was able to name logical effort, I began to sense a distinct and strong feeling that there was an important idea to be found. I can only describe the feeling as smelling the idea inside the complexity. Much as a dog is sure a bone is buried beneath the earth, I was sure there was something simple and beautiful beneath the complexity of my task; I had but to dig it out.
I have learned three tricks that make talking and writing easier. First, J. C. R. Licklider taught me to treat an unfamiliar topic by making lists of things to say. I call this kind of presentation the “enumeration special.” For example, in this paper I describe four kinds of courage: to start, to go on, to talk or write, and to stop.
It is absolutely true that the paper never submitted is never rejected, but of course, it is never published, either. I believe that it is better to be the published author of a slightly flawed document than the unpublished author of a perfect one.
My own failures of courage to talk or write do not, to me, seem like failures of courage at all. Rather, it seems to me that my ideas are unworthy, that no one would be interested, or that they are not yet well enough expressed.
There is less risk in “writing the great American novel” than in sending it to a publisher and waiting for it to be rejected.
Pride offers personal encouragement. We all have pride in a job well done. I often feel like the child learning to tie his own shoes determined to do it himself. I think, “I'll show them that I can do it,” so strongly that I must work hard at my task to satisfy my own pride. Take pride in your work.
When I get bogged down in a project, the failure of my courage to go on never feels to me like a failure of courage, but always feels like something entirely different. One such feeling is that my research isn't going anywhere anyhow, it isn't that important.
The fellowship of people in groups offers encouragement. Groups of people will even do things that single individuals wouldn't do; lynchings and riots are an extreme form of this.
Same idea in a tweetstorm by pg: https://twitter.com/paulg/status/1096344555329409024?s=21