This course includes videos from:
Salman Rushdie, award-winning novelist
Carson Tate, consultant and author (Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style)
Angie McArthur, CEO of Professional Thinking Partners
Barbara Oakley, professor of engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, MI
Note: This course was produced by Big Think. We are pleased to host this content in our library.
Skill Level Beginner
(cool music) - I've only ever wanted to be one thing in my life, which was the best writer I was able to be. The writer that you are, is defined by all kinds of aspects of your character in your experience, which are not completely in your own control. You can only be one kind of writer, I can't suddenly become John Grisham, and I'm obliged to be me because of all the things that make me myself. And so once you understand that, there's nothing to do except to go on doing the books that you have it in you to do. And if you try and do anything else, first of all that's self censorship. And secondly, you almost have to do something bad. (cool music) I don't show my work to people when it's work in progress, because I think unfinished work, half made work is very fragile, very vulnerable. And if people respond to it badly, it can be very damaging to the project. But it as if I know that the work is just like a early draft and it's not there yet, and I give it to you to read and you say, well, it's not there yet. Well, I get depressed. So (laughs) and I knew that anyway. So I did need to ask you. So what I try and do is to bring the book to a point where I think I can't make it any better. Part of that is exhaustion. Part of that is just you feel a kind of creative exhaustion, where you can't think of anything else that would make it better. It doesn't mean you think it's perfect, but you just think I've made it as good as I could make it. At that point, I become extremely interested in what other people have to say and then I do show it to a few trusted friends and of course, publishing editors and so on. And what I'm looking for is not necessarily praise so much as problems. I'm looking for people to say, I got confused here. Or this went on too long and I got bored. Or I wanted to know more about her, I wanted a little less about him. And you want people to actually tell you that much more than to just say it's great. Because it's great doesn't help me. It's comforting, but I'm much more interested in people putting their finger on areas where they had problems. And then I don't always do what they say, but but it's really helpful to know where I should pay attention. And if three or four people all point to the same thing, then they're probably right. And then I go see what I can do to fix it. And, the great publishing editor is always characterized by his or her ability to tell you where the problem is, but not to tell you how to fix it. I've had that help a number of times with a number of books where people would say here, there is difficulty here. And then I go away and think of how to solve it. But just to have it pointed out is useful. (cool music) You get to this age, you realize that there are people who will not like what you do no matter what you do. So I know that I could write the best book I've ever written and there will be some people who just won't would like it. And that's fair enough. That's why there are many different kinds of books in bookstores. People can choose what they like but so I don't bother with that too much. I really don't bother with critical response. I also think you get to a point when you've written a number of books, where you become quite clear about the direction you want to go in. So my view is, I'd like to go this way at the moment, and I really hope that you'd like to come along. And I really hope that you would enjoy the journey and so on and so on. But if you for whatever reason, can't come along on that journey, then I'm still going this way. And then you just take what comes? I think on the whole, I've had a pretty even break. I can tell you usually in advance, where I'm going to get trashed at. I've usually right (laughs). So I think you have to just keep at it doesn't matter, lots of writers. I'm not the first writer in the history of the world who have been attacked for what you wrote. Dostoevsky faced a firing squad, and was only pardoned at the 11th hour and 59th minute. That was before he wrote Crime and Punishment and so on. But he managed to recover from extreme trauma, to become a great writer. So writers are very obstinate creatures. And part of the obstinacy comes from knowing that who they are as writers obliges them to be a certain kind of writer. you don't have it in yourself to be another kind of writer. So you might as well just go on and be the writer (murmurs). (cool music)