I just read an interview on Slate, conducted by Kathryn Schulz, author of the book Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. The subject of the interview—Ira Glass, host of This American Life—is also the subject of my latest “brain crush.”
Sometimes I’ll read or hear or watch or see something that just make me fall madly in crush with the ideas, thoughts, and sensitivities of its creator. Has that ever happened to you? I’m not talking about something mundane like physical attraction here… nothing along the lines of “ooh, that actor/singer/writer/painter sure is purty.” I’m talking about encountering an idea or image or something that makes your aesthetic-intellectual receptors go so tingly you just want to crawl up inside the brain of whoever created it and take a little nap wearing fuzzy jammies with feetsies like it was Saturday morning in the winter when you were three.
Anyway, I get these little brain crushes from time to time. I think the first one I remember being conscious of happened after I read Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem “[you who never arrived].” Many others have followed: Billie Holiday, Odilon Redon, Vladimir Nabokov, Erik Satie, Henrik Ibsen, for example.
You should, of course, read the whole interview yourself, but let me give you a teaser here. It’s an interview about the intersections of “being wrong” and “being creative.” And it’s pure genius. Here are my five favorite quotes from Mr. Glass; I bolded my super-fave bits only to make you want to read more. To all my creative friends out there, if you can’t read the whole interview, read these at least and meditate on their brilliance.
#1: “If you do creative work, there’s a sense that inspiration is this fairy dust that gets dropped on you, when in fact you can just manufacture inspiration through sheer brute force.”
#2: “I feel like being wrong is really important to doing decent work. To do any kind of creative work well, you have to run at stuff knowing that it’s usually going to fail. You have to take that into account and you have to make peace with it.”
#3: “In my experience, most stuff that you start is mediocre for a really long time before it actually gets good. And you can’t tell if it’s going to be good until you’re really late in the process. So the only thing you can do is have faith that if you do enough stuff, something will turn out great and really surprise you.”
#4: “I had this experience a couple of years ago where I got to sit in on the editorial meeting at the Onion. Every Monday they have to come up with like 17 or 18 headlines, and to do that, they generate 600 headlines per week. I feel like that’s why it’s good: because they are willing to be wrong 583 times to be right 17.”
#5: There are definitely lots of things that I don’t want to be wrong about and will fight to the death over, and I’m totally obnoxious about it all the time. But I also feel like there’s a kind of discovery that you’re wrong that, in a safe situation, can be a real pleasure. Do you know what I mean? Like when you’re arguing with someone you love and you realize, “I’m wrong, you’re right,” and you come together in that moment. It’s such a relief. To me it’s so obvious that some kinds of being wrong are OK.
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Okay, and I know this is completely inappropriate and hardly original, but…
I love how Rachel Maddow and Ira Glass look like they could be related.