“You Are Not So Smart” Powered by WordPress.com


The following interview is with David McRaney, creator of the WordPress.com blog You Are Not So Smart, and author of the recently published You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself.

1. Tell us what your blog and book are about.

DAVID: You Are Not So Smart is a celebration of self delusion. One topic at a time, it explores how silly and irrational we all are through the lens of fascinating psychological studies. It started out as a blog just pointing out interesting things around that theme, but once I started gaining fans and saw my hits growing, I made the effort to write longer, more in-depth pieces about cognitive biases and other fun things. The book is an expanded version of the blog, similar in format.

2. What encouraged you to create a blog that celebrates self delusion? How has your life changed as a result of learning so much about psychology and irrational thinking?

DAVID: I tried a lot of different blog ideas before You Are Not So Smart. My first real attempt at keeping a blog about interesting things in psychology and neuroscience began around 2003. I gave up on that a few years later and tried a blog about feature writing. It wasn’t until I saw a video demonstration of inattentional blindness that blew my mind and prompted me to launch You Are Not So Smart in late 2009.

The result of writing about self-delusion all the time? It’s been great. My wife and I are always saying things like, “Hold on, that’s just the anchoring effect,” or “I think you are confabulating right now.” We’ve found that the articles can be a vehicle for self improvement, but always when you least expect it. Also, I don’t argue online anymore because I’ve learned through the research how futile and fruitless it is. It’s a wonderful thing to delete from your life.

3. So how’d you score the book deal?

DAVID: I got into a heated online argument with two friends over which was better, the PS3 or the Xbox 360. The argument went on for days, and I think we all crossed the line, insulting each other and getting legitimately angry – and we’re friends in real life! I thought it would make a great blog post, so I researched why I was so brand loyal and silly.

That became my post on brand loyalty and fanboyism, which I published that post at about the same time an iPhone prototype was stolen. With the buzz around fanboyism at an all-time high, someone at Gizmodo saw my post and asked if they could republish it with links back. I agreed, and all of a sudden my hits went through the roof. I kept writing and posting and soon emails arrived from the publishing world asking if I was interested in turning the blog into a book. I said hell yes.

4. Why did you choose WordPress.com, and what do you like most about it?

DAVID: I’ve tried every other service out there, but WordPress.com is the most robust. I wanted something clean and elegant and easy, but with enough features to allow for scaling up my blog if it ever caught on with a larger audience. It was the right move.

This is an amazing and revolutionary time for writers. The barriers to entry are so low, and the platforms like WordPress.com so well-made, anyone with a voice can start shouting and be heard. Instead of writing a book and hoping a publisher won’t throw it into the slush pile, writers can start a blog and build a fan base. They can prove to publishers there is a market for their work and their voice.

A generation ago, a writer like me would never be discovered, never get a shot at the big time. Blogging platforms like WordPress.com are changing the lives of all manner of artists and activists. I think that’s fantastic.

Congratulations, David!

22 thoughts on ““You Are Not So Smart” Powered by WordPress.com

  1. Pingback: WordPress.com Blogger Scores Book Deal for “You Are Not So Smart” — Blog — WordPress.com

  2. Great news–nothing like a published book to encourage you–I love self-delusion myself–could not live without it. Reality does not rate high in my books!

  3. Congratulations, David! Sounds like your hard work over the years has paid off. I hope your book sells like crazy! Yours is the success story we all dream of, so it’s nice to know our dreams might just be possible.

  4. Your online arguments sound so familiar as does the fact that they can literally start from nothing. I have cut myself of from arguments by being generally agreeable and all things to all people which I’m not sure is recommended for the ego but does end a lot of stress.

    The book sounds great and I wish you much success with it.

    Now, end my other stress and send me your publisher!

    Best Wishes

    David

  5. no responses! outrageous! ;-)

    bottomline, and it’s happening for real (i tell myself) -

    “A generation ago, a writer like me would never be discovered, never get a shot at the big time. Blogging platforms like WordPress.com are changing the lives of all manner of artists and activists. I think that’s fantastic.”

    a generation? for me, at age 61, i’d say for the past lifetime ;-)

    and i’d add ebooks, to that of wordpress et al, as “changers” – thank you steve jobs, digitals-ness, nano-this-and-that, and a big congrats david!

  6. This is so terrific and well-deserved! How nice to see someone able to get published that started in blogging. I’ve only been blogging a few years but I’ve gotten some decent freelance gigs out of it. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve run into that don’t “get” blogging and think it is not “real” writing. Maybe you have run into that yourself in your blogging career. Good luck in your new venture.

  7. I will be getting your book. I can relate to your early blogging experience. I think a lot of people want to know more about the “why” that exists for all of us. Sounds like your book does a bit of that. Great to see you hit on the right theme for this blog and book.

  8. Like the idea, that finally somebody is smart enough to write in an usefull way, about how we live by our own delusions, or more than 1/2 of our life on ‘automatical pilot’ instead of aware! Thanks, Nan.

  9. It’s true. It’s the best time to be a writer now. We have more opportunities than ever before. If you don’t have the time to write an entire book you can blog day and night because platforms such as WordPress allows such privilege. The best thing is that you’re the master of your destiny. I first began to write about my books, right away, people began to share my inspirational quotes. It’s a good feeling! So, let’s blog people because it’s not only good for us, it’s also good for the reader.

  10. Thanks a lot. I’ve been subscribed to the “You Are Not So Smart” blog for a while.

    BTW, it’s incredibly hard to read white text on a black background.

  11. Congratulations, David! Sounds like your hard work over the years has paid off. I hope your book sells like crazy! Yours is the success story we all dream of, so it’s nice to know our dreams might just be possible.

  12. I would like to say that I discovered Mr. McRaney’s book months ago, and it has been near divine in its inspiration. I’ve always had these thoughts about delusion, identity, and the choices we make, but Mr. McRaney focuses them in a manner that is near virtuoso. If you haven’t read his blog, because the concepts seem too high-minded or boring, I suggest that you read two or three and find out for yourself. McRaney is adept at explaining such high-minded concepts in a manner that is real world, in a real-world language, that is easily understood and entertaining as hell. After reading a few, I think you’ll be so addicted you’ll have to read the book. Fascinating stuff David, keep on keeping on!!!

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