June 06, 2017
Brain Pickings is the blog of Maria Popova. I’ve really enjoyed reading Brain Pickings these last few months, starting with the newest posts and digging back into its archives through the various associations Maria makes between the current post and all that she’s read and written about. Maria and I used to be in the same co-working space back in the day, and I really can’t wait to bump into her again to give her a great big thank you!
The blog’s content spreads across many topics, but I’ve been drawn most to the posts around writing, human relationships, and emotions. I was first sucked in by a post on Van Gogh’s letters, coming across it during my research and introspective walkabout of sorts to understand what I should do next with my life.
(Side note: that walkabout was a disaster for the most part. I now understand that finding purpose can’t come from purely thinking, but rather doing and throwing darts at the board. I became extremely lost in introspection, dissection, and analysis of ideas down to their atoms and electrons, and it took quite a toll on me and those around me. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it, and I’m open to discussing my experience if you’d like.)
Maria has a really excellent way of communicating core ideas in literary works, and combines them with her past findings on that topic and complementary or contrasting arguments. It works wonderfully, and is truly engaging in a way where you can’t help but follow suit and read all the related posts to understand where other thinkers and authors have put forth their own ideas and experiences.
In getting back into writing, I’ve especially enjoyed her collection of various writers’s takes on the act of writing itself. I recently read Stephen King’s On Writing, and it’s wonderful to hear how the act of writing is different for everyone. King admits this as he tells his story, and quickly takes much of the mystique out of the equation through plain language and basic action.
Beyond writing, the historical perspective on love, relationships, and emotions are also particularly interesting. Those topics have been endlessly contemplated by writers and philosophers of the past, so it’s nice to dive into those explorations through Maria’s careful eye. I’ll often continue reading and doing my own digging, using the Brain Pickings posts as a starting point — a modern Choose Your Own Adventure of sorts.
It’s been a wonderful experience rediscovering and exploring Brain Pickings. I’m not sure if that’s because of personal circumstance or the extra bits of time I have these days (likely a bit of both), but nonetheless, it’s a worthwhile way to spend a bit of your day.