Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
Hi! My name is Emily Esfahani Smith. I’m a writer and journalist in Washington DC. I am the author of The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness. My articles and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and other publications. In my writing, I draw on psychology, philosophy, and literature to write about the human experience—why we are the way we are and how we can find grace and meaning in a world that is full of suffering.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
Reading great literature, listening to great music, and viewing great art.
How do you deal with creative block?
If I’m feeling blocked, it usually means that I haven’t done enough research—so unblocking myself means doing more research: reading more books, interviewing more people, visiting more places, and scouring the internet and various databases for studies and articles. It also helps to read articles/books or watch movies/shows that have nothing to do with whatever I’m working on. Inevitably, during those experiences, some spark will go off that inspires me in a new way or helps me solve some problem.
How has your creation process improved over time?
It’s always felt messy and disorganized, and still does!
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
When I feel moved to write an article or book, it’s because there’s something I’m burning to share with readers—some idea, some new bit of research, or some powerful story that moved me in some way, and that I hope inspires others. In this way, my first impulse is to connect with readers. Then, the experience of researching and writing the piece brings personal satisfaction.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
I find that solitude and silence help fuel my creativity. I try to find time each day for silence and solitude by meditating, exercising, going on walks, or visiting a museum. These breaks from the hustle and bustle of daily life help clear my mind so that I have space in there to receive new ideas. I’ve also gone on silent retreats, and those experiences have been very powerful, too, in kindling creativity.
What are your plans for future books?
I’m currently working on a book about rethinking success and ambition.