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In Praise of Brain Picker

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Maria Popova shows how to move forward

If you are a fan of Brain Pickings and Maria Popova (if you are not you should be), do yourself a favor:

  1. Sign up for her blog
  2. And tweets (@brainpicker).
  3. Read for a week and then…
  4. Read this article from Mother Jones. You won’t be able to appreciate this article until you experience for yourself Ms. Popova’s prodigious output.

If you are unfamiliar with Brain Pickings, it is a resource-heavy blog that pulls together the oddest assortment of topics that will mesmerize and pull you deep into some of the most creative minds our species has produced. From creativity to music to authors to architecture to, well, the list is long. In each post—and she posts three times a day!—she identifies diverse resources and pulls them together with enough depth to change how you think about your work this very day.

The effect is breathtaking. I subscribe to a lot of blogs but Ms. Popova’s posts all require further, eager reading. Much of my Instapaper account is filled with ideas, authors and links that started with a post from Ms. Popova. The Mother Jones article gives more detail about how she accomplishes what appears to be a team effort, but isn’t. Along with working a regular job, she reads 15 books a week, posts three times a day, and tweets every 15 minutes (that’s right, four times an hour: 56,096+ tweets gathering 222,195 followers). Ms. Popova is motivated by “combinatorial creativity”:

But even before I knew what that was, I always believed that creativity is just, sort of, our ability to take these interesting pieces of stuff that we carry and accumulate over the course of our lives—knowledge and insight and inspiration and other work and other skills—and then recombine them into new things.

Her vision for curation is compelling:

…you enrich people with creative resources, and over time, these Lego bricks that end up in their heads eventually build this enormous, incredible castle. And I don’t think that’s an original idea at all—it’s something a lot of people intuitively understand, and a lot of curatorial projects are born out that vision.

When I teach copywriting at Northwestern College, we spend a fair amount of time thinking, reading about and practicing combinatorial creativity. This kind of creativity is at the heart of any good copywriting practice, but it also has the capacity to open hidden vocational doors.


Written by kirkistan

August 23, 2012 at 8:51 am

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