Creativity Life & Philosophy Writing

Maria Popova talks about writing for herself, creativity, and more on the Tim Ferriss Podcast

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.”

Susan Sontag

On writing

  • “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.”

On creating

  • You don’t have to have a mental illness to be creative. That’s bunk. Yet without art, you may suffer even more.

On reading

  • “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.

On inspiration:

  • Thoreau’s journals are timeless: “Those who work much do not work hard.”

Listen: Podcast: Maria Popova Hosts the Tim Ferriss Show


It all works out in the end, at least in creative writing.

As Sonny says:

“Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not yet the end.”


Copying to create your own work

The Internet is the world’s biggest copy machine. All it takes is a right click to replicate someone else’s work. As long as you give credit to the source you’re in the clear.

But copying someone’s idea and personalizing it is a different kind of copying, the one that enables you to get started.

The reason I started the weekly reading recommendations is because I saw the format on Om Malik’s blog. The reason I started my music blog Silem Davis was because I liked Maria Popova’s “Literary Jukebox” concept. The reason I used the Paper Fifty Three Tumblr blog template was because I liked the way it displayed art. One of the reasons I blog daily and in short succinct paragraphs is to ape the style of Seth Godin. These are just some of the more recent examples where I copied a concept to express my own work.

There’s literal copying in the form of plagiarism and then there’s inspirational copying where you see a concept or idea and emulate it your own format, words, and discoveries. There’s no harm in the latter.

Copying is the process of learning and combining ideas that fit your style.  The baton of influence just keeps getting passed on to inspire others to create their own work.  After all, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”


Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
Annie Dillard, The Writing Life


Stefan Sagmeister  (via Brainpickings)
Stefan Sagmeister  (via Brainpickings)