Below are some of the highlights of Maria Popova from her interview on the Tim Ferriss podcast. Some of the topics discussed include how to be interesting, on doing the work, and what makes a person creative.
On being interesting
“The key to being interesting is being interested and enthusiastic about those interests.”
When Kurt Vonnegut wrote “write to please just one person” what he was really saying was write for yourself. Don't try to please anyone but yourself.
Content implies an “external motive” for advertisement. Nobody does content from the joy of their soul. Write because it's personal and you love it.
Summary: Write for yourself. Stay interested. Don't call your writing content.
“Love words. Agonize over sentences. Pay attention to the world.”
“Becoming” is a life long process. You never stop evolving so what you want to become is never done.
The most important aspect to work is consistency. All successful authors are consistent about their work. They show up and do it.
The formula for greatness: “Consistency driven by the deep love of the work.”
You don't have to have a mental illness to be creative. That's bunk. Yet without art, you may suffer even more.
“Literature is the original Internet. Every footnote, every citation, every reference, is a hyperlink to another book.” Read books, not just tweets, to find other compelling content.
“I read to make sense of life. The writing is a record of the reading.” Moments of time, place, weather, etc impact what you read. As long as it helps make your life better and richer in moment and long run, read it.
Thoreau's journals are timeless: “Those who work much do not work hard.”
It comes as no surprise that bad work begets good work — the more you create, the more you have to play with.
People mistakenly believe that successful artists excelled all along. But what you see as the viewer is mostly the result of trial and error.
What I enjoy about the internet is that you can show your work. Anyone can put their art out into the world and get immediate feedback, even if the latter is crickets. Dead silence may inspire you to be more expressive, in some cases, intensely provocative.
“It is a joy to behidden, and a disaster not to be found.”– D.W. Winnicott
It takes a lot of time and a ton of practice to recreate what you consider good taste. It also takes a lot of courage to be one of the crazy ones trying something new. But the artist can't combat convention until they master the basics first.
From emulation to originality, the entire creative process seems to happen slowly and shimmers when it thinks you're ready. Until then, cultivating talent is a game of inches.
Leonardo was a true Renaissance man, fascinated with everything — the mechanics of flight, architecture, engineering, botany, artillery and human anatomy — but one of his favorite private pastimes was to draw faces, either as scribbles in the margins of his notebooks or as fully conceived sketches later used for paintings.
People confuse busyness with productivity. Answering emails all day is mostly a waste of time, as is instant messaging co-workers. Doing something — typing into little boxes all day — fulfills the human desire to feel useful.
Similarly, people often perceive what artists do is an unnecessary use of time. But creativity is a fancy version of productivity.
When it comes to painting, songwriting, and any other artistic vocations, nothing gets wasted. Scraps and shitty rough drafts lead to the best answer.
Sensible work gets us paid. Yet, when we photograph everything, we look at nothing. Without propelling the imagination and putting work on the canvass, we are just waiting for the next rebound under the basketball hoop rather than looking how to score.