Jane Smiley

This week’s episode features the great American novelist Jane Smiley, who speaks with Brooke and Grant about enjoying her work, the fickle nature of critical acclaim, and how she’s able to write so ambitiously. As the author of more than 20 books, Jane has deep wisdom to impart about the role the novel plays in our lives, and how, more than ever, fiction is a pressing mirror for our times.


Jane Smiley is the author of numerous novels, including A Thousand Acres, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and most recently, Golden Age, the concluding volume of The Last Hundred Years trilogy. She is also the author of five works of nonfiction and a series of books for young adults. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she has also received the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature. She lives in Northern California.

The Takeaway

Do you delight in your work? Can you think of moments when you have? We recommend keeping a journal of your emotional experience of writing. All you do is write down after each writing session how you felt—in your body, about the work, your state of mind. This is powerful is because human beings tend to dwell on the negative. You might have had a great day or a great week, but looking back most of us are likely to disproportionately focus on the negative. As such, an emotional writing journal can help you see what your process is actually like. Is it really as angsty and hard as you think it is? Or are there moments of happiness, even delight? Try this out over five writing sessions and see what you see. And don’t buy into the old tired myth that real writers have to be miserable. As evidenced by Jane, it’s quite the contrary. Miserable writers can knock out masterpieces, yes, but prolificness comes when you truly enjoy what you do.

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