My advisor, Zach, likes to say that you shouldn’t read papers when you begin working on a project. His reasoning is that if you focus on what other people are doing you’ll get distracted from the thing you’re building; you’ll worry too much about making sure it’s unique. Sometimes—well, all the time—there is high value in the action of building something even if it’s already been built before. At the very least, you’ll understand it as thoroughly as anyone ever has. More likely than not, you’ll do something interestingly different in your implementation.
However, I really don’t need encouragement to not read, because, well, I already barely do. These thoughts are moreso about pushing yourself through the fear of reading. I feel that fear frequently, for a number of identifiable reasons (and many, I’m sure, that I can’t identify):
- I despair in the thought that there’s too much to read, and so, why even bother starting. Well, in the niche field I’m in, that’s definitely not true—I could fairly easily catch myself up with the most important papers.
- I also fear that someone will have done what I want to do—what Zach warns against. I believe that, for me, I should attack that possibility head-on. I would rather know upfront, and consciously focus on not letting it affect my exploration.