Why you should celebrate your child's first lie: the great ideas of Kim Young-ha

In Korea last summer, I caught the express train to the lovely coastal city of Busan, which I later profiled for The Guardian. There, I had a few beers with Kim Young-ha, perhaps the most popular Korean novelist of his generation, and one whom I'd profiled before for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Kim Young-ha
Kim Young-ha

Excited to meet a favorite writer, and slightly nervous about conversing with him in my third language, I sat down before our intereview in one of urban Korea's countless wi-fi'd coffee shops and watched Kim's TED talk, "Be an Artist, Right Now!"

Most of us have art in our heads we'd like to make in reality. Many of us would like to write novels. On stage, Kim breaks down the many reasons why we don't, from our bottomless well of excuses any given moment, to our impulses quashed in childhood, to our frustration at seeing the artistic accomplishments of others celebrated in the media, to the "artistic devil" that plays on our insecurities during moments of hesitation.

Korean friends tell me this applies even more to their countrymen, given the unceasing pressure for traditional achievement under which they labor.

But if we listen well to Kim's thoughts on the matter, we can start creating things right this very moment. Or maybe we just want the impetus to read a good book, not necessarily to write one. In that case, I recommend picking up one of Kim's own. Even if you don't read Korean, you can enjoy I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, his French existentialist novel of the kind no Frenchman writes anymore; Your Republic is Calling You, the Ulysses of North Korean sleeper agent thrillers; or Black Flower, his historical tale of Koreans in Mexico.