Malcolm Gladwell shares his ideas at Sharjah International Book Fair

Heba Abdelsattar in Sharjah , Sunday 12 Nov 2023

Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell shared his thoughts on the best way of telling stories, advice for young authors, and his definition of success during a panel discussion at the 42nd edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair.



The English-born Canadian journalist and public speaker, whose first six books made The New York Times Best Seller list, said his writing career started when he worked as a reporter for 10 years before transitioning to the New Yorker Magazine.

“The stories I was writing were getting longer and longer which made me think about writing a book. It seemed like a natural progression in my mind," he said.

Gladwell explained that when he wrote his first book, The Tipping Point, he did not have any expectations. He was just excited to try his hand at something new and was surprised at its success.

He advised aspiring authors to be patient: "We expect to be able to do overnight. It is about writing a book you can find interesting with an idea that has all kinds of different twists and turns and possible connections. You need to start from somewhere to look for good stories," he advised.

Gladwell, who has been included on The Times' list of 100 most influential people, also gave his advice on writing incredible stories.

"The problem with stories that do not work is they are told in haste. We all so worried about what we are missing we lose them. Or people will be impatient with getting to the point of the story, that sometimes we cut them off prematurely. I think you have to be willing to take your time and let the point of the story slowly unfold."

The author of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking noted that people rely heavily on their unconscious decisions and judgments. We make up our mind and we like to stick to that judgment. These sorts of snap decisions are happening all the time, but they are not always useful.

Gladwell warned that the mistake we make with our snap judgments is to assume that because they feel real, they must be so, but they are not always so.

He pointed out that the way to know if your instincts are good is if you keep learning from your mistakes.

"Mistakes are an extraordinarily rich learning experience if we interpret them that way. I think that kind of process of trial and error is at the core of learning," he said.

When assessing whether work is successful or not, he advised listeners to “keep your mind independent. The harder you work the better you are. Be patient and invest the time. Those who are successful will be more humble."

Gladwell revealed that he is working on updating a book he first wrote 25 years ago on the best sequence for telling stories. He is also working on a book about anger, including how to put it to user and the strategies for controlling it.

During the panel Gladwell received some questions from the audience, including about the use of AI in telling stories.

The author was skeptical about its potential, saying: “[AI] misses the imagination of the author that has created something so new and so compelling to make us drawn to it."

"AI stories are things that draw from what has already been done. AI is rules based. the human creativity is to break the rules", he said.

He also took a question about the Israeli war on Gaza, responding: "I do not have a good perspective on what is happening in Gaza. So 80 years from now ask me about the bombing in Gaza and I will be able to give you an answer."

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