Here’s How Maria Popova of Brain Pickings Writes

Here’s How Maria Popova of Brain Pickings Writes

Reader Comments (39)

  1. hi Kelton

    It’s incredible how Maria grew her brand, her numbers are amazing; more amazing I believe it’s her relationship with readers and subscribers… “reader first” as she says 

    It’s interesting she mentions… that she’s a reader who writes… this implies she understands her target audience, and the way she connects two unrelated things or topics, is incredible! This reminds me of a similar approach I have to writing, for e.g. in one article I talked about Donald Trump and social media…

    I have one question for Maria, is she sees this, hope she’ll answer… If research and writing is your life, what would you say is the most challenging part of your blogging/business at the moment, and why?

    Plus, when did you start to build your “tribe” (mailing list, mainly) and what did you learn back then?

    Thank you!

  2. It is great that Maria gives credits not only to people from literature and writing world, but also from music world that shows her versatile personality. No wonder that she is cross=disciplinary and intelligent in writing getting together different fields such as design, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology and others.

  3. I give thanks for this site every single day! I also contribute to it ( and suggest all others who love it do also) as it comes across my screen without anything blinking, talking, or those take-no-prisoner display ads. It is a joy to see the diversity of topics and links to original material on a daily basis. How she does it, I do not know, but I just hope she can keep on doing it. Her site celebrates creativity and her own is embedded in how we all are allowed to consume this diversity in such a quiet but inspiring way.

    • Ditto Jani’s comment…Ms. Popova is a true artist who creates because she must. My admiration for her ethos is best expressed in someone else’s words: “We learn to do by doing.” ~ Aristotle. Thank you Kelton.

    • Thank you for tuning in to the series. And I firmly agree with you. Maria’s single-pointed intention is inspirational and intimidating.

  4. Thanks for the insightful interview. I follow Maria on Twitter and I’m in awe of her productivity and creativity.

    I was beginning to think her site was a “Huff Po”- like empire of writers but I’m amazed to find out she produces 3 articles of such quality and depth every day.

    Very inspiring indeed.

    Note to self. Get off Facebook. Get off Twitter. Start writing….

  5. I read Brainpickings obsessively. Brainpickings makes me feel like a student all over again, in the best way possible. And her writing breaks down the most complex subjects into a language we can all appreciate and understand.

    This interview helps me get to know the author better. Feeling inspired!

  6. Maria, did you move to the US as a small child or when you went to college? I suppose your knowledge of the English language comes from learning by doing?

  7. This series is like The Paris Review’s “The Art of ___________” series. _________ being fiction, poetry, theater, what have you.

  8. Brain Pickings is one of my favorite “newly founded” websites. And I really appreciate the twitter feed.

    Though my reading is mostly confined to blogs, I have a thirst for learning that I relate to in her. She’s a thinker and I really enjoy how she combines different ideas.

    By the way, Big Sur is one of my favorite places. The air is clean there and the smell is heavenly. Unfortunately, I’ve never been to the Henry Miller Library.

    This was a great blog post and I think it needs to brew a bit in my mind.

  9. Excellent Interview. She brings so much interesting things to us. She is a treasure. She has made dead authors, artists and intellectuals very famous.

  10. “We’ve created a culture that fetishizes the new(s), and we forget the wealth of human knowledge, wisdom, and transcendence that lives in the annals of what we call “history” – art, literature, philosophy, and so many things that are both timeless and incredibly timely.” – soo true! Excellent talk, thank you!

  11. Maria and Kelton, wonderful piece here! I resonate with working, long, and persistently. Genius develops over many hours, over many years. I also vibe with her general idea of being observant.

    I create 50 to 60 minute-long videos each day and post to my blog. Ideas hit me frequently because I practice observing, being aware of all happening in my life, here and now.

    By being aware, I can create 5 videos after being inspired by this post. Easy, really, and it becomes easier if I practice looking deeper and deeper into the moment, to make connections between the stories in my life today and the online business world.

    Spot on interview with some real gems.

    Thanks for sharing guys!


  12. I recently discovered Brain Pickings and appreciate this post!

    I was surprised by following:

    “Maria religiously publishes three posts a day…”

    This seems counter-intuitive to those who advise writers to post once a month, twice a month, or three times a month. Maybe there isn’t a right or wrong number of posts you need to post. Perhaps you should just stop listening to others and do your own thing. Follow your inner guidance.

    Thanks again for the insightful interview.

  13. I was inspired by Popova’s comment that she schedules her reading far in advance—what a great idea, and a great push-back against the “presentism bias” that she mentions.

  14. Amazing interview, there was a lot of insightful advice. Loved the quote “An expert is a man who has stopped thinking because ‘he knows.’” I will definitely remember that as I’m writing.

  15. This was my favorite.

    I love the idea that you can’t procrastinate if you don’t have time. It’s rather a kick in the pants to the rest of us. If you find you’re wasting time, clearly you have too much of it. Give yourself more to do.

  16. Readers First the very first and the last tool for smart content. I couldn’t but agree what tips and advice Maria has stated. Quite engaging and informative questions asked by Kelton. Thank you for this honour.

  17. I’ve been reading Brain Pickings for a few years now and it always delights me.

    The sheer depth of information, gorgeous illustrations and textured writing is a joy to read.

    Maria’s focus and hours of work every day are astounding.

    Loved this interview – great questions and really pleased you interviewed her – she deserves all the coverage she gets.


  18. To me, the most impressive thing about Maria is not her creativity. She’s certainly creative in the way she pulls ideas together and meshes them in new ways, and that’s tremendous. Yet ultimately her ideas come almost exclusively as reactions to books that she reads.

    Where she really astonishes me is in her productivity. That ability to process so much input and then churn out thoughtful, well-written, and plausible interpretations is amazing.

    We all know it can take hours to produce a really good post. I can’t keep up with all of her content but she actually produces it.

    I guess I’ve learned from her that there are ways to organize and be incredibly productive.

  19. I just fell in love with this woman.

    You have inspired me to read more. Just when I thought I was doing enough.
    You come along and raise the bar.

    Thank you for being transparent and sharing.
    Now I have a circle of reading

  20. I can’t thank you enough for publishing this post. It was an eye-opener. It is great to know what writers out there are actually doing with their lives; how they are contributing and adding value by publishing great content.

    This series is valuable. The timing is just right. Just what the doctor order. You are performing a noteworthy service.

    Another writer you may want to interview is Ali Luke of Aliventures fame. She is darn good at what she does and knows it. She has been active in the blogging community for years and has been featured on your blog as a guest writer several times too.

    Ali can contribute to our knowledge about what makes for great commercial writing as well as creative writing. I think your readers and subscribers would welcome your decision to feature her. Please consider Ali. Thanks. Cheers.

    • Sorry, I forgot to mention: Maria’s blog, namely, Brain Pickings, is one I came across recently. If memory serves, I followed a link provided by a writer. Instantly, I enjoyed reading her work. Today, I count myself as one of her fans and subscribers. Thanks for your contribution. Please keep up the great work. And here’s wishing you all the best in your life. Cheers.

  21. What a great and inspiring article. As much as I would like to commit as much time to writing, most business owners are also busy managing their businesses. What is important is to find a balance.

    Even with all the automation tools available, I can’t commit as much time as I’d like to creating content. The key for me has been to take the time to decide what tasks I can delegate to other team members. I’m kind of a control freak but I’m getting better.

  22. Great interview and wow! What a writer! I’m a full-time teacher and only have time to write a few thousand words per week. But to write a few thousand every day? Amazing. I noticed that we share the same tools: A Macbook Air and an iPad Mini. It makes writing and blogging very portable.

  23. Amazing inspiration and ideas for any writer. When I see the writing schedules and her momentum for reading and writing it gives a tremendous motivation produce more and more content for social web.

  24. Thanks for this! Very inspiring and just what I needed to read today.

    I’ve long admired Brain Pickings and if possible, after reading this interview I’m an even bigger fan.

    Thanks again for all the inspiring and helpful things you share,

  25. I was reluctant to read this at first. Some of the others were disappointing, so I was not keen on reading it. I am so very happy I did.
    To find someone who likes both Henry Miller and Anais Nin!
    She is obviously a writer who values and loves words. This was informative, entertaining and insightful. Every reply was proof of her giving/sharing/celebrating information, without self-praise or self-pity about this writers’ life we share. I am going immediately to all the links, in “search”…

  26. Fantastic article! Maria Popova had a keen mind and I enjoy Brain Pickings every chance I have to do some reading other than research and other writing resources. Thanks for highlighting her writing life.

  27. Writer Files is one of those that I look forward to reading.

    Not only am I learning from different kinds of writers, but they inspire me as well with their life stories. And although I am unfamiliar of Maria Popova(I am seriously sad), I am amazed with her story especially with her philosophy.

    Thank you for this frequent dose of inspiration. 🙂

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