Ira Glass on Being Wrong and Manufacturing Inspiration

Discussing how many great stories “hinge on people being wrong”, Kathryn Schulz interviews This American Life host Ira Glass on the benefits of being wrong.

I feel like being wrong is really important to doing decent work. To do any kind of creative work well, you have to run at stuff knowing that it’s usually going to fail. You have to take that into account and you have to make peace with it. […] In my experience, most stuff that you start is mediocre for a really long time before it actually gets good. And you can’t tell if it’s going to be good until you’re really late in the process. So the only thing you can do is have faith that if you do enough stuff, something will turn out great and really surprise you. […]

I had this experience a couple of years ago where I got to sit in on the editorial meeting at the Onion. Every Monday they have to come up with like 17 or 18 headlines, and to do that, they generate 600 headlines per week. I feel like that’s why it’s good: because they are willing to be wrong 583 times to be right 17. […]

If you do creative work, there’s a sense that inspiration is this fairy dust that gets dropped on you, when in fact you can just manufacture inspiration through sheer brute force. You can simply produce enough material that the thing will arrive that seems inspired.

This fantastically comprehensive interview is one of the best I’ve read in a while and is part of a series of interviews on the subject of ‘wrongness’ following the publication of Schulz’s book, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error.

Previous interviewees include Anthony Bourdain, Joe Posnanski, Diane Ravitch and Alan Dershowitz (part two).

via Intelligent Life