Lessons from 10 years of Brain Pickings

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss the Brain Pickings website…

I’ve longtime been a fan of the website Brain Pickings — what owner/curator Maria Popova describes as, “a one-woman labor of love — a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why.”

Her posts, which are invariably thoughtful and insightful, appear regularly on my Facebook feed, but I also subscribe to her newsletter so that I don’t risk missing a single one. Frequently she writes about writing, focusing on such well known authors as Susan Sontag, Virginia Woolf and Oliver Sacks.

I’m focusing today, however, on her 10th Anniversary post, in which she presents 10 learnings from her own years of researching and writing. It’s well worth taking the time to read all 10 lessons, but here is the one that spoke most acutely to me, in her own words:

Don’t just resist cynicism — fight it actively. Fight it in yourself, for this ungainly beast lays dormant in each of us, and counter it in those you love and engage with, by modeling its opposite. Cynicism often masquerades as nobler faculties and dispositions, but is categorically inferior. Unlike that great Rilkean life-expanding doubt, it is a contracting force. Unlike critical thinking, that pillar of reason and necessary counterpart to hope, it is inherently uncreative, unconstructive, and spiritually corrosive. 

I admire Popova’s attitude, which is both deeply thoughtful and outright spunky. She clearly demonstrates that fine writing is not just about the writing, it’s also about the thinking….

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