The Importance of Trying New Things
Author David Epstein on how (and why) to become curioser and curioser
“People who do creative work … need to learn outside their own domain; they repurpose, they combine things, read more widely, they flit among ideas.” —David Epstein
Preview: Episode 83 with David Epstein on cultivating multiple streams of interest
When David Epstein was struggling with how to structure his non-fiction book, the former senior writer for Sports Illustrated took a beginner fiction class and learned something essential about how to change his writing style. “You need to have beginner’s mind,” he says. In this episode of Emerging Form, we talk about the science behind novelty and why having multiple interest streams and exploring outside your domain are so important for creative practices—whether you’re a Nobel scientist or a journalist or an artist. Epstein also debunks the 10,000 hour rule, diplomatically negotiates Christie and Rosemerry’s ongoing argument about talent vs. hard work, shares some of his secrets for maintaining openness and talks about the importance of play.
David Epstein is the author of the #1 New York Times best seller Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, and of the bestseller The Sports Gene. He has master's degrees in environmental science and journalism and has been an investigative reporter for ProPublica, the host of Slate‘s popular “How To!” podcast, and a senior writer for Sports Illustrated. He lives in Washington, DC.
What We’re Reading and Listening to:
I’m a sucker for beautiful books, and Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the mole, the Fox and the Horse is about as beautiful as they come. The art, the story, and really, all the individual pages are so full of kindness and vulnerability and openness. It’s a book to give anyone who needs a lift (which is how it was given to me!), even if that person is yourself.
I love Danusha Laméris’ new substack newsletter on writing, “Fleeting Temples.” She was our guest in December of 2020 (Episode 29). Her most recent post is about how vulnerable it can be to put your work out there—how it might show up, and how to meet it. It feels so relevant, so real.
The Creative Act: A Way of Being is a new book by legendary music producer Rick Rubin that offers short observations on creative practice. For instance, “Living life as an artist is a practice. You are either engaging in the practice or you're not…. We tend to think of the artist's work as the output. The real work of the artist is a way of being in the world.” The book feels like a menu of creative snacks and reminds me a little bit of Oblique Strategies, a set of creative prompts from Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt,
I enjoyed Jennifer Senior’s essay in the Atlantic about “The puzzling gap between how old you are and how old you think you are. Turns out that I’m not the only person who constantly forgets my age and believes myself to be younger than I really am. (Why are all the people I see who are my age so old, when I remain so young?)
It’s All Practice
Tonight I can laugh at the part of me
who thinks she should know
the right thing to do, the right thing to say.
Meanwhile, the rest of me
wakes up each morning in wonder,
marveling at the quickly changing world.
Every morning this second self practices
how to bathe, how to dress. Even now she is practicing
how to write a poem, how to make breakfast,
what to say to her friends, family, herself.
She knows there are so many ways to do it right.
Every moment contains invitations
she’s never noticed before. Sometimes
she practices saying nothing at all.
If you see her lingering beside the road,
it is because she is practicing how to walk
how to see. She used to know, of course,
but now she can’t seem to take anything
for granted, how to drink tea,
how to walk into a room, it’s all new,
how to weep, how to smile.
—Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
A Note About Paid Subscriptions:
First, we want to thank ALL our subscribers! We are so grateful you join us in this conversation about what it is to engage with yourself, the world and others in a creative way. And a BIG thank you to our paid subscribers. You make this podcast possible. Starting this month, only our paid subscribers will receive our bonus episodes as a thank you for their financial support.
This week, Dave talks about priming the work day with “paying yourself first,” what he learned from editing film about about how to structure writing projects, the republic of underwear, and his Instagram dance practice. If you are not yet a paid subscriber, you can go now to our website, EmergingForm.substack.com, or by clicking the button below. Thank you!
(share your answers with us here on Substack or in our FB group)
How do you get yourself to try new things?
What small experiment might you try this week?
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