Kevin Kelly is a writer and a founding executive editor of Wired Magazine. He is the author of What Technology Wants, Out of Control and The Inevitable: Understanding the Twelve Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future.

“I always try to write about the future—and it became harder and harder because things would catch up so fast. If you read Out of Control now, I’ve heard that people say, ‘well, this is obvious.’ I have to tell you, it was dismissed as entirely pie-in-the-sky, wild-eyed craziness twenty-five years ago.”

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Katherine Eban is an investigative journalist and contributing writer at Fortune Magazine. Her new book is Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom.

“I am not known for my optimism. I think it’s hard to do this work and retain a sunny view of humankind. I hate to say that. On the other hand, I do believe there will always be whistleblowers. And it’s interesting to me that even in the darkest spaces, even when it looks like everything is arrayed against them, there are people who will say: ‘This just isn’t right, and I must do something.’ Which is kind of extraordinary.”

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Cord Jefferson is a journalist turned television writer whose credits include Succession, The Good Place, and Watchmen.

“I’m a fearful person. I’m afraid of a lot of things. I’m afraid of how people perceive me, I’m afraid of hurting myself, I’m afraid of heights. I’m afraid of a lot. Bravery does not come naturally to me. But the moments when I feel like I’ve done the best in my life and been the proudest of myself are when I’ve overcome that fear to do something that scares me.”

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Elizabeth Wurtzel, who died today, was the author of four books, including Prozac Nation. This episode was originally published in October 2013.

"It's not that hard to be a lawyer. Any fool can be a lawyer. It's really hard to be a writer. You have to be born with incredible amounts of talent. Then you have to work hard. Then you have to be able to handle tons of rejection and not mind it and just keep pushing away at it. You have to show up at people's doors. You can't just e-mail and text message people. You have to bang their doors down. You have to be interesting. You have to be fucking phenomenal to get a book published and then sell the book. When people think their writing career is not working out, it's not working out because it's so damn hard. It's not harder now than it was 20 years ago. It's just as hard. It was always hard."

Jerry Saltz is a Pulitzer-winning art critic for New York.

“To this day I wake up early and I have to get to my desk to write almost immediately. I mean fast. Before the demons get me. I got to get writing. And once I’ve written almost anything, I’ll pretty much write all day, I don’t leave my desk, I have no other life. I’m not part of the world except when I go to see shows.”

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Liana Finck, a cartoonist and illustrator, contributes to The New Yorker and is the author of Excuse Me and Passing for Human.

"I was drawing since I was 10 months old. My mom had left this vibrant community of architects and art people to live in this idyllic country setting with my dad, and she poured all of her art feelings into me. She really praised me for being this baby genius, which I may or may not have been. But I grew up thinking I was an amazing artist. There weren’t any other artists around besides my mom, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to. There were no art classes around. … I was so shy, so I was just always drawing and making things."

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Mina Kimes is a senior writer at ESPN and host of the podcast ESPN Daily.

“What I’ve found, and this is something I did not know would be the case going into it, is that sports stories—and, at the risk of sounding a bit self-important, maybe someone like me writing sports stories or talking about it in particular—can have an impact in other ways that have revealed themselves to me over time.”

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Andy Greenberg is a senior writer for Wired. His new book is Sandworm.

“I kind of knew I was never going to get access to Sandworm, which is the title of the book - so it was all about drawing a picture around this invisible monster.”

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Parul Sehgal is a book critic for The New York Times.

“I write about books, I review books, but in a sense, to do my job at a newspaper also puts that pressure on a piece to say: why should you read or care about this? You’re trying to tweeze out what is newsworthy, what is interesting, what is vital about this book….My job is I think to be honest with the reader and to keep surfacing new ways for me and for other people to think about books. New vocabularies of pleasure and disgust.”

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James Verini is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and National Geographic. His new book is They Will Have to Die Now: Mosul and the Fall of the Caliphate.

“War is mostly down time. War is mostly waiting around for something to happen.”

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Lori Gottlieb is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and the author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. Her new book is Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.

“Everything that I had done all coalesced into one thing. As a journalist i was helping people to tell their stories, as a therapist I could help people to edit their stories, to change their stories. I could be immersed in the human condition in both of these things.”

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Leslie Jamison is the author of The Empathy Exams, The Recovering, and the novel The Gin Closet. Her new essay collection is Make It Scream, Make It Burn.

“My writing is always basically asking: what does it feel like to be alive, and how do we ever try to understand what it feels like for anybody else to be alive? In that sense, on the intellectual level, I’m always going to keep chasing the same unanswerable things.”

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Errol Morris is the director of The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War. His latest film is American Dharma.

“I don’t make films because it makes sense to make them. Probably if I thought carefully about whether they made sense, I would stop immediately. I make them because I have a need to do it. I have a need to think about stuff. Writing and filmmaking for me is a form of thinking. It’s an opportunity to think about something. And I enjoy it. I don’t know what I would do without filmmaking.”

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Ashley Feinberg is a senior writer at Slate. She recently uncovered Mitt Romney's secret Twitter account.

“The whole thing about politics is that they are basically creating this character, this mask, and that is who they are supposed to be. That is who they try to project to the world. We know that it’s not really them but we have no access to what they actually are. This is the closest we get to seeing what they’re doing when they think no one is watching. … This is the most unfiltered access to what they’re actually thinking.”

Carvell Wallace is a podcast host and has written for The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. He is the co-author, with Andre Iguodala, of The Sixth Man.

“So much of my life experience coalesces into things that are useful… All those years that I was obsessing over this that or the other thing, all the weird stuff that I would do, all the weird things that happened to me, all the places I found myself in that I didn’t want to be in but were interesting - this is all part of what makes me the writer that I am today.”

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Nicholas Quah founded and writes Hot Pod, a newsletter about the podcasting industry, and reviews podcasts for Vulture.

“I think to some extent I’m in love with the concept of momentum. Sheer velocity. It’s painful. It’s punishing. Physically, I’m worse off for it. But I feel like if I stop moving, something will fall. Something will break. And I’m over. It’s a horrible feeling.”

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Radhika Jones is the editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair and the editor of Women on Women.

“There are a lot of people who still see the value of talking to someone, having a real conversation — about the things that they’re doing, the things that they’re caring about, the things that they’re afraid of, the things that are challenging — because in that conversation, they themselves will discover things that they didn’t realize. It obviously takes courage. It’s a payoff for the reader, certainly, but I think that there are subjects who understand that there is something there for them, too.”

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Andrew Marantz is a staff writer at The New Yorker. His new book is Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation.

“Some nonfiction can be reduced to a bulletpoint primer, but a good book is a good book. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, it should create a feeling, it should create a world, it should be a feeling that you want to live in and that tilts the way you see things. Isn’t that the point?”

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Ken Burns is a documentary filmmaker whose work includes The Vietnam War, Baseball, and The Central Park Five. His new series is Country Music.

“History, which seems to most people safe — it isn’t. I think the future is pretty safe, it’s the past that’s so terrifying and malleable.”

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is the author of The Beautiful Struggle, We Were Eight Years in Power, and Between the World and Me. His new novel is The Water Dancer. Chris Jackson is Coates's editor, and the publisher and editor-in-chief of One World.

“I don’t think an essay works unless I can pin a story to it. You don’t want people to just say, ‘Oh that was a cool argument.’ You want people to say, ‘I could not stop thinking about this.’ You want them to nudge their wives and husbands and say, ‘You have to read this.’ You want them to be bothered by it.”

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Paul Tough is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and the author of The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us.

“The nice thing about a book as opposed to a magazine article is that it’s less formulaic. As a writer, it gives you more freedom — you’re trying to create an emotional mood where ideas have a place to sit in a person’s brain. And when people are moved by a book, it’s not by being told, ‘Here’s the problem, here’s the answer, now go do it.’ It’s by having your vision of the world slightly changed.”

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Mike Issac covers Silicon Valley for The New York Times. He is the author of Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber.

“People try to use journalists all the time. Your job as a journalist is to figure out who’s using you, why they’re using you, and whether you can do something legitimately without playing into one side or another.”

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Michelle García has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post and Oxford American. She directed the PBS film, Against Mexico: The Making of Heroes and Enemies.

“We have to see that within difficult stories there is a very important message of humanity triumphing over despair. If you don’t focus on joy, humanity is squashed. If all you see and all you narrate is pain, then you extinguish the possibility of joy and the important part of holding onto humanity.”

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Jean-Xavier de Lestrade is a French documentary filmmaker. He directed Murder on a Sunday Morning and The Staircase.

“The courtroom in the United States is not really about the truth. It’s more about a story against another story. It’s more about storytelling. The more compelling or believable story by the jury will win. But in the end, we don’t know: is it the truth or not?”

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Taylor Lorenz just announced she is leaving her job covering internet culture for The Atlantic to join The New York Times.

“With technology and internet culture, I am more of an optimist than a lot of other people who cover those topics. It’s more ambiguous for me. It's more like, ‘This is the world we live in now and here are the pros and here are the cons. There are a lot of cons, but there are also these pros.’ I like how things shift and change under me. I like to see how things are constantly evolving.”

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