On what she decides to write about:
"I write about a very wide array of disciplines and eras and sensibilities because that's what I think about, so anything from art and science to philosophy, psychology, history, design, poetry, you name it. But the common denominator for me is just this very simple question of does this illuminate some aspect, big or small, of that grand question that I think we all tussle with every day which is how to live well, how to live a good, meaningful fulfilling life. Whether that's Aristotle's views on happiness and government, or beautiful art from 12th century Japan, or Sam Harris' new book - anything."
About the temptation to create clickbait for rankings:
"It's interesting because I think anybody who thinks in public - which is what writing is, which is even what art is, it's some sort of putting a piece of oneself out into the world - anyone who does that struggles with this really irreconcilable tug-of-war between wanting to stay true to one's experience and being aware that as soon as its out in the world there is this notion of the other, audience.
And Oscar Wilde, very memorably, said that a true artist takes no notice whatever of the public and that the public to him are non-existent. And it's very easy to say - especially for somebody as Wilde, who was very prolific, very public, almost performative in his public presence - it's very easy to call this out as a kind of hypocrisy and say well you can't possibly not care about the audience given you make your living through it and sort of perform to it.
But I think that's a pretty cynical interpretation. I think that rather than hypocrisy, it's this very human struggle to be seen and be understood, which is why all art comes to be because one human being wants to put something into the world and to be understood for what he or she stands for and who he or she is.
And so with that lens I do think it's hard to say, well, I don't care about what happens to it out there, even though I write for myself and think for myself.
The awareness of the other really does change things, but I think perhaps Werner Herzog put it best [...] in one passage, Herzog says something like it's always been important for me to have my films reach an audience. I don't necessarily need to hear what those audience reactions are, just as long as they're out, that the films are touching people in some way.
And I feel very similarly. With that in mind, I guess to answer your question rather circuitously, I don't feel quote unquote tempted to make listicles or to make anything that I feel compromises my experience of what I stand for. In part, I think the beauty of the web is it's a self-perfecting organism, but for as long as its an ad-supported medium the motive will be to perfect the commercial interest, to perfect the art of the Buzzfeed listicle, the endless slideshow, the infinitely paginated article, and not to perfect the human spirit of the reader or the writer, which is really what I'm interested in."