As anyone with a even passing awareness of who Maria Popova is and what she does will know, there is much to admire about her. She is the one-woman wonder behind Brainpickings, the the extraordinary website which offers readers an interlaced array of articles on life, love, art, culture, literature, philosophy, psychology, science and every intriguing realm in between.
To sustain her dedication to reading and writing for the site, Maria brings a crystalline discipline to her days, and a similar appreciation of structure can be found in her approach to her articles. In an interview with Georgie Okell for Radio Headspace, she reflected on how these have evolved from originally being short and expository paragraphs to the longer and more considered essays that grace the pages of Brainpickings these days.
Here’s how Maria describes it…
When I started Brainpickings, I was doing at first something like three articles a week and they were not really articles. They were very curatorial. They were one little paragraph about something that was interesting, and over time they became longer and longer. So they changed from “This…” to “This… because…” to “This… because… and…”, and so I’d relate it to other relevant things, and over time, “This… because… and… but…”, so I’d counterargue the point and kind of play devil’s advocate and provide multiple perspectives on the subject, and the consequence was that my articles now on average are probably 1500 words.
“This… because… and… but…”. As a structure for writing, it is both clever and flexible.