Episode 173: Fake It ’til You Make It and Other Life Lessons — Interview with A.J. Jacobs

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey there word nerds!

I am having the biggest fangirl moment of all time because today I have author A.J. Jacobs on the show!

I was first introduced to A.J.’s work back when I was just an itty-bitty baby writer, and heard him give a talk on “faking it until you make it.” DIY MFA was barely a twinkle in my eye at that point, so to say I hadn’t yet made is a massive understatement. His talk was a lightbulb moment for me, and from there on “fake it until you make it” became my mantra. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now A.J. is here to talk about his latest book It’s All Relative, which follows the same vein of experimental journalism as his other works showing in great detail his quest for “self-improvement” in the most hilarious of ways.

Listen in as we chat about his books, the structure he uses to write them, and maybe get your own lightbulb moment from A.J.!

In this episode A.J. and I discuss:

  • Nailing down your hook, and how to structure your book around a concrete goal.
  • A.J.’s personal techniques for brainstorming and finding the “sticky ideas.”
  • How to find your writing groove to get through the daily grind.
  • Tips on preparing for a speaking presentation vs. writing something on the page.
  • Ways to balance writing about your own life and other people’s without annoying anyone (or getting yourself in trouble).

Plus, A.J.’s #1 tip for writers.

About A.J. Jacobs

A.J. Jacobs is the bestselling author of four books: he achieved enlightenment in The Year of Living Biblically, sharpened his mind in The Know-It-All, and become the healthiest person in the world in Drop Dead Healthy. He is also the author of My Life as an Experiment and his book, The Year of Living Biblically, will soon be adapted as a sitcom on CBS, called By the Book, which stars Jay R. Ferguson and is executive produced by Johnny Galecki. Jacobs is an experimental journalist, a contributor to Esquire and NPR, and the host of the podcast “Twice Removed.”  His TED Talk about the global family has been viewed more than a million times. He lives in New York City with his wife and three sons (and several million cousins). His latest book It’s All Relative is available now.

To connect with A.J. check out his website at ajjacobs.com, and follow him on Twitter at @ajjacobs.

It’s All Relative

New York Times bestselling author of The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically, A.J. Jacobs undergoes a hilarious, heartfelt quest to understand what constitutes family—where it begins and how far it goes—and attempts to untangle the true meaning of the “Family of Humankind.”

A.J. Jacobs has received some strange emails over the years, but this note was perhaps the strangest: “You don’t know me, but I’m your eighth cousin. And we have over 80,000 relatives of yours in our database.”

That’s enough family members to fill Madison Square Garden four times over. Who are these people, A.J. wondered, and how do I find them? So began Jacobs’s three-year adventure to help build the biggest family tree in history.

Jacobs’s journey would take him to all seven continents. He drank beer with a US president, found himself singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and unearthed genetic links to Hollywood actresses and real-life scoundrels. After all, we can choose our friends, but not our family.

“Whether he’s posing as a celebrity, outsourcing his chores, or adhering strictly to the Bible, we love reading about the wacky lifestyle experiments of author A.J. Jacobs” (Entertainment Weekly). Now Jacobs upends, in ways both meaningful and hilarious, our understanding of genetics and genealogy, tradition and tribalism, identity and connection. It’s All Relative is a fascinating look at the bonds that connect us all.


If you decide to check out the It’s All Relative , or AJ.’s other books — The Year of Living Biblically, The Know-It-All, Drop Dead Healthy, and My Life as an Experiment — we hope you’ll do so via these affiliate links, where if you choose to purchase DIY MFA makes a small commission at no cost to you. As always, thank you for supporting DIY MFA!

Link to Episode 173

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Until next week, keep writing and keep being awesome!

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