Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Monday, October 7, 2013

What Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writers about Success

Malcolm Gladwell, bestselling author of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference and Outliers: The Story of Success, among other books, was recently interviewed in Costco Magazine.

Having just re-read The Tipping Point and Outliers for the third time, I was thrilled to see that Gladwell has a new book out. It's called David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants. Wow, sounds great! Especially knowing how Gladwell takes a subject and analyzes it inside and out, writing about it in a way that makes me think of new things in new ways.

But what I really appreciated about the Costco article is how Gladwell seems to epitomize what to me is the ideal attitude for a writer's success and productivity.

What does Malcolm Gladwell know?

He knows his audience.

"I write for people who are curious and who don't mind having their beliefs challenged. If you think going to a library is an exciting event, you will probably enjoy my books."

He knows how to write what he loves.

"People sense that I'm doing things out of pure enjoyment. I'm not pandering to an audience or following a formula. I'm just writing about cool stuff that interests me, and people respond to that."

Despite his astounding success, he knows there is so much more to learn.

"The more I write these books, the less convinced I am of my own inherent wisdom. I've convinced myself that I'm pretty bad at making sense of the world and need a lot of help."

He knows that money and acclaim isn't what it's all about. He never set out to write a bestseller.

"I never had any great desire to be well-known or to sell a lot of books. I've only ever wanted to do my own thing. and all of this happened just as an accident."

He knows where he came from, who he is, and it is all just fine with him.

"Canada is a deeply unpretentious place. You can't grow up in Canada and have all kinds of airs."

Regardless of where any of us are in our writing journeys, I'd say we can all learn a lot about success from Malcolm Gladwell.


  1. Sounds like an interessting author with some good points to make. Will have to check him out. Thanks Susan!

  2. I loved The Tipping Point. I like his comment about the more he writes, the less wisdom he feels he has. I've felt that way for years.

  3. Big up for Canada!! He sounds like a most grounded writerly man!! Yay! Take care

  4. Very interesting. Hadn't heard there was a new book coming, will definitely pick it up.

    Moody Writing

  5. Malcom's enthusiasm shines through. Yes Canada is a great place, but then I'm biased :O)

  6. Strong writers are outsiders looking in, not part of the In-Crowd. Gladwell's OUTLIERS speaks to us.

    {BTW-Couldn't help but notice his surname is rife with meaning, but that's the character-namer in me ;) }

  7. Just happened by accident - yeah, I know the feeling.

  8. I have to read these books. Funny remark about being from Canada. Is that true?

    1. Susan, Yes he really is from Canada. His mother is Jamaican and father British and raised the family in Canada. Really interesting background in his family.

  9. HI, Karen,

    I like the REAL factor of this author. A writer should write for the pure enjoyment of it as well as to give a part of themselves. It's part of being human ... we need to share, learn, and grow.

  10. Hi, Karen:
    Great post about Malcolm Gladwell. I read his Tipping Point Book, too. Twice. And shared it with many others. A thought provoking book to be sure. I truly believe that writers need to remain grounded. Thanks so much, Karen, for sharing this with your readers.

  11. I've never read Malcolm Gladwell, but I do like going to the library (except when I'm doing research for my dissertation. Then I just feel stressed out.). So maybe I'll like his books too.

  12. I like a humble fella. Thanks for this succinct intro to him & what makes him cool (and successful).

  13. Hi Karen!
    He sounds very interesting. I've never heard of him or his books before, but I'm going to check them out. Thanks!

  14. Hi Karen - I've read about Gladwell - but haven't read any of his books .. and don't think I have them here - great post - really highlights the elements that he's learnt are important to being wanted to read by others ..

    Great post - thanks for posting .. Hilary

  15. Dear Karen, thanks for these Gladwell quotes, I've read the earlier book you mention and I thought there was also another book of his I read. Now I'll get my name on at the library for his latest book. And yes, the quote you use really are instructive for someone who wants to write and communicate with others. Peace.

  16. Hi Karen. Thanks for popping by my blog recently. It's been lovely to have contact again. Now I haven't heard of Gladwell, my bad obviously, but I think knowing your audience is crucial to writing success.

    Hope all goes well for you Karen. I'll be back later as I"m interested in the next post too but am running out of time just now.


  17. I got the chance to see him speak once, and it was phenomenal. If you enjoy his books, you would love to see him live. Highly recommended.

    Very proud to claim him as a fellow Canadian. I've learned so much from his books.