Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

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.