“Why put in the effort to explain why it isn’t a fit, if they haven’t done the homework to determine if it is a fit?”
– Maria Popova [1:23:00]
Maria Popova has written for amazing outlets like The Atlantic and The New York Times, but I find her most amazing project to be BrainPickings.org.
Founded in 2006 as a weekly email to seven friends, BrainPickings now gets more than 5 million readers per month (!). I read very few blogs regularly, but BrainPickings is one of the few that makes the cut. It’s a treasure trove.
BrainPickings is Maria’s one-woman labor of love — an inquiry into how to live and what it means to lead a good life. From Mark Twain to Oscar Wilde and everyone in between, Maria finds the hidden gems. She is also PROLIFIC and makes me look like a sloth.
In this in-depth conversation, we cover just about everything: how it happened, her workflow, how she writes (and workarounds to problems), how her site generates revenue, her workouts, and many more details. If you want to know the habits of a hyper-productive person, this episode is for you.
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This podcast is brought to you by 99Designs, the world’s largest marketplace of graphic designers. Did you know I used 99Designs to rapid prototype the cover for The 4-Hour Body? Here are some of the impressive results.
This episode is also brought to you by ExOfficio, which I’ve personally used since 2005 or so. They make ultra-lightweight, quick drying, antimicrobial clothing for men and women. Here’s my own ultra-light packing list (scroll down for video), which went viral.
QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received or read? Please share in the comments!
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Selected Links from the Episode
- Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman
- Wilderness Essays by John Muir
- Sam Harris’s Blog
- The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert
- Explore LJ or Maria’s Literary Jukebox
- Share-a-Draft Plugin for sharing with WordPress.org
- WordPress VIP
- Buffer for Twitter/Facebook Management
Where to Start? BrainPickings Recommendations from Maria Popova
- The Shortness of Life: Seneca on Busyness and The Art of Living Wide Rather Than Living Long by Maria Popova
- How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love by Maria Popova
- Happy Birthday, Brain Pickings: 7 Things I Learned in 7 Years of Reading, Writing, and Living by Maria Popova
Show Notes (Times Are Approximate)
- What percentage of New York Times best sellers are a result of Maria’s coverage? [4:55]
- How to live a meaningful happy life. [10:00]
- The importance of writing for an audience of one. [12:10]
- Contending with the temptation to create Buzzfeed-like content. [15:45]
- Maria Popova’s daily rituals, beliefs on sleep, distraction-avoidance habits, meditation, and exercise routines. [23:25]
- Maria Popova’s note-taking system. [31:45]
- Seneca and the time-tested challenge of presence vs. productivity. [37:36]
- Start-up opportunity? Build a note-taking tool for heavy readers/highlighters. [41:58]
- About the team behind BrainPickings. [48:45]
- Maria Popova’s process for editing within her team. [51:12]
- Self-reliance pathology and how to overcome it. [53:56]
- How to find a professional personal assistant and delegate. [56:40]
- What Maria Popova’s weight lifting regiment looks like, plus her favorite bodyweight-only exercise. [1:02:14]
- Blogging strategies [1:05:22]
- Social media strategies [1:15:00]
- How cultivate a personal inner circle, how to pre-screen book review requests [1:20:30]
- Why there are no dates on the posts on BrainPickings? [01:12:30]
- Scheduling (and automating) social media [01:22:10]
- How do you deal with friends who want you to read their books? [01:27:10]
- What donation model works best for site revenue? [01:31:45]