. . . whether he knows it or not, the intellectual workman forms his own self as he works toward the perfection of his own craft; to realize his own potentialities, and any opportunities that come his way, he constructs a character which has at its core the qualities of the good workman.
What this means is that you must learn to use your life experience in your intellectual work: continually examine and interpret it. In this sense craftsmanship is the center of yourself and you are personally involved in every intellectual product upon which you may work . . .
Imagination is often successfully invited by putting together hitherto isolated items, by finding unsuspected connections . . . I do not know the full social conditions of the best intellectual worksmanship, but certainly surrounding oneself by a circle of people who will listen and talk – and at times they have to be imaginary characters – is one of them . . .
There is an unexpected quality about [imagination], perhaps because its essence is the combination of ideas that no one expected were combinable . . . There is a playfulness of mind back of such combining as well as a truly fierce drive to make sense of the world, which a technician usually lacks. Perhaps he is too well trained, too precisely trained. Since one can be trained only in what is already known, training sometimes incapacitates one from learning new ways; it makes one rebel against what is bound to be at first loose and even sloppy. But you must cling to such vague images and notions, if they are yours, and you must work them out. For it is in such forms that original ideas, if any, almost always first appear . . .
Thinking is a struggle for order and at the same time for comprehensiveness. You must not stop thinking too soon – or you will fail to know all that you should; you cannot leave it to go on forever, or you yourself will burst. It is this dilemma, I suppose, that makes reflection, on those rare occasions when it is more or less successful, the most passionate endeavor of which the human being is capable.
Be a good craftsman: Avoid any rigid set of procedures. Above all, seek to develop and to use the . . . imagination. Avoid the fetishism of method and technique. Urge the rehabilitation of the unpretentious intellectual craftsman, and try to become such a craftsman yourself.
– C. Wright Mills (1959)