I stumbled upon a list of “8 Great Podcasts for Writers” today, and even though the title was clearly click bait, I read it.
Apart from the wonderful “Grammar Girl”, which I highly recommend, I found little on this list that spoke to me. Composed of mostly of podcasts of men talking about horror fiction, I felt decidedly fooled by the misleading article title. These were neither “great” podcasts, nor podcasts for writers.
So although I dislike list blog posts, I thought that I’d create an alternative list. I listen to several hours of podcasts a week, and all of these podcasts worth your time and attention, especially if you are a writer.
“This American Life” – often dubbed the 800 pound gorilla of podcasting, this hour long weekly show is the one podcast you should listen to if you have time for only one podcast. This podcast will teach you more about storytelling in one hour than a dozen creative writing books can. If you are a writer, take time to notice the pacing, the choices the reporters make in selecting their recordings, and what the music in the background is doing. There is a lot of time, effort, talent and experience that goes into each and every episode of TAL and just by listening to it and paying attention you can learn a lot about what it means to be a superb storyteller. Also, Ira Glass.
“Serial” – if you haven’t heard of the TAL spinoff with Sarah Koenig, you were probably spending the last year or so in a writer’s retreat in the Mohave desert. Imagine a podcast episode of “This American Life” expanded into a serial, and this is the podcast that you’ll get. The story is fascinating, but the way Sarah tells it is what is most worth noticing. She is the best “first person narrator” that you could meet, and listening to her struggle to understand the story she found herself a part of is highly illuminating. If you ever plan on writing a story with a first person narrator (reliable or not — you’ll hear in “Serial” that reality is not that clear cut), this podcast is a must.
“99% Invisible” – another podcast that showcases great storytelling, 99% Invisible with Roman Mars is worth listening to for the way it creates mood and tone. Just listen to “There is a Light that Never Goes Out” or to “Three Records from Sundown” to get what I mean.
“Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin” – Alec Baldwin has intelligent conversations with creators of all kinds — actors, authors, journalists, musicians and more. If you have a bit of spare time, delve into this podcast’s archive. You can learn a lot about creative people’s mindset, work process and failures from these candid and relaxed conversations. Baldwin’s conversation with journalist Gay Talese is a pretty good place to start from.