Malcolm Gladwell’s delight in what’s interesting

The question is what is interesting. That’s the question that has to drive writing. 

Malcolm Gladwell, from his course on Masterclass

I hypothesize that a key to Malcolm Gladwell’s success as a writer is that he takes immense pleasure in the pursuit of stories and ideas that are interesting.

Watch him talk — when he’s on the trail of an interesting idea you can see the delight on his face and feel the enthusiasm in his spastic gesticulations. It’s infectious. You’re interested too. You want to keep listening.

 It’s the same way when you’re reading his writing. You’re interested, and you want to keep reading.

It’s critical that Gladwell takes pleasure in the pursuit of the interesting because humans tend to do more of what we find pleasurable. What gets rewarded gets repeated. Gladwell delights in following the scent trail of interesting ideas — and as a result he does it a lot. This frequent practice, I hypothesize, gives him two things that a writer needs:

  1. a keen sensitivity for what’s interesting, and
  2. a constantly-growing repository of interesting things to say. 

I believe that we can all be like Malcolm. Our goal as writers should be to cultivate a habit of taking delight in what’s interesting. We want to be like Homer when the smell of food is in the air — we notice, and we follow our interest.