Global Business Writer, MoMa "Foreclosed"'s Greg Lindsay

Greg Lindsay is the author, with John D. Kasarda, of "Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next" and a contributing writer for "Fast Company." Lindsay is part of a team behind Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The exhibit opens Feb 15.

Sam's Dream Blog: What’s your dream?

Greg Lindsay: My dream is to be recognized as an entity unto myself. I don’t ever want institutional affiliation. I’d like to just be Greg Lindsay and that would be enough to be taken seriously. I don’t want to be just a journalist. I don’t want to be just a writer. I do want to be recognized for making some sort of contribution to what I’m writing about.

SDB: Tell me about "Foreclosed."

Greg Lindsay: The exhibit opens on Feb. 15 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA.) It’s all about American suburbia and the housing crisis. The exhibit has a neat idea that almost all housing in America is public housing because of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage subsidies and the fact that your mortgage interest is tax deductable. [Our country] basically set out and put all this public money into housing, and look where it got us.

MoMA not only has masterpieces of art, but they have an architecture arm. The architecture arm commissions new work. They asked five teams of architects to rethink [the housing issue.] One of those architects was Jeanne Gang out of Chicago. She’s famous for the Aqua tower. She won the MacArthur genius grant, she’s one of America’s best young architects.

I was on my book tour last spring, and I gave a talk in Chicago with Jeanne. Jeanne was offered a spot to do this for MoMa, she thought of me because she thought of me writing about cities and she wanted an outside presence. I was chosen because I was not an architect, and she wanted a fresh set of eyes on the problem, which was really flattering.

SDB: Share your the journey of becoming a published author, first for magazines and then books.

Greg Lindsay: My first freelancing was unintentional when I got laid off. I had to do it for six months before I found another job. I enjoyed it. I like the solitude. I like the focus. The people who say they could be too distracted, no, I find working alone at home is the most focused of all. That’s coming back into vogue, the value of solitude and puzzling questions out yourself. The part of my book which I love the most is not the reporting, which is fun; it’s not the writing, either. It’s the thinking, it’s the outlining.

Being a freelancer in any form means that you always have time off if you want to take it, and you’re always working at the same time. When I gave a talk in Dubai this past spring, I found myself working on the plane. I found myself landing in Dubai and having the worst jet lag of my life, giving a talk and being in a haze. Then I spent the rest of the day at that conference outlining and writing a column that was due the day before. I hammered it out in the lounge waiting for my 1:45 a.m. flight home, then e-mailing it and running to my gate before flying home for 14 hours.

SDB: How do you stand out from the crowd?

Greg Lindsay: If you come up with the idea first, people are far much more reluctant to take it away from you. You create opportunities for yourself rather than have them handed to you. You just have to carve out something that no one else is doing.

SDB: Why write about global business?

Greg Lindsay: If you write about cities, you can write about anything. You’re writing about human life, about people and ideas. The biggest challenges of our time all take place in cities. Cities are about climate change, they’re about innovation and all of that.

SDB: What’s the value of finding a niche like global business, rather than something like sports or politics?

Greg Lindsay: The value of a niche is that it’s less crowded, I guess. You have to figure out the fresh angles and you have to figure out the opportunities. There’s also the advantage of translating something that’s very niche into mainstream media. That’s what Malcolm Gladwell does. That’s what the best practitioners do. They find the micro stories and explain to you why they are the biggest stories of all.

SDB: What’s the best part about writing about travel?

Greg Lindsay: The best part about travel, especially international travel, is being dropped into a place that is familiar, yet not, and having to feel your way around. It’s so easy to move through life in a haze, particularly in your own country. My favorite part about traveling overseas is hearing everyone talk about different nationalities around them. You really become aware of borders and people who are different from you.

SDB: What’s one place you’ve visited where you really wish you could spend more time there?

Greg Lindsay: China. China’s really where the story’s at. It’s the largest country in the world going through the greatest growth spurt in the world. If you want to see where the whole world’s going, you need to see China. Whether it ends in environmental disaster or financial disaster or whether it succeeds.

Buy Greg's global business book,  Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next, and, if you are in New York, visit "Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream"