I spend a lot of time walking. It’s one of the ways I get my energy. After a 30 minute walk, my brain is recharged and I feel alight and focussed. Almost without exception I return from a walk with a new idea and a readiness to write.
Though despite the benefits of walking in itself for creative energy, it’s not necessarily just walking that helps me find inspiration. The podcasts I listen to deserve no small portion of the credit. As an extravert, I find silence draining, and where others might enjoy peace and quiet on a walk I find it unbearable. Listening to the dulcet tones of podcast hosts discussing various ins and outs of this and that, on the other hand, is soothing to me. I always find my mood lifted and my energy restored.
I am something of a podcast collector. My Pocket Casts homepage is a mosaic of my interests – everything from music to nutrition to politics (represented by George Ezra & Friends, Laura Thompson’s Don’t Salt My Game, and Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd’s Reasons to be Cheerful respectively). But there a few that I always go back to when I’m in need of inspiration to write. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Story Break by Freddie Wong, Matt Arnold and Will Campos
Best for: overcoming writer’s block
This hilarious and surprisingly educational pod follows the adventures of three Hollywood professionals as they try to “break the unbreakable”. Each episode, they take a left-of-field, seemingly unadaptable idea and try, within one hour, to turn it into a blockbuster movie. Wackier examples include Kelloggs cereals and Monopoly. If you’re a bit of a geek this is great listening for the comedy value – they try, for instance, to break a movie script out of Waluigi, Luigi’s less popular purple brother, and the video game Fortnite. It’s also great for writers. Despite its ridiculous premise, you learn a lot about what makes a successful story arc and how to construct believable characters. It’s also helped me get out of a dead-end plot and see the bigger picture of how a story can develop.
2. Smart Podcast, Trashy Books by Sarah Wendell
Best for: reminding yourself that writing should be fun
The hit podcast from romance readers’ go-to blog, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, is a celebration of all things love and smut. Wendell interviews writers about what made them fall in love with romance, how they find their inspiration and what they want to see change in this oft-stereotyped genre. I enjoy listening to this when I’m feeling low on motivation. All the writers Wendell interviews are, as the title suggests, smart and so enthusiastic about their work that it’s infectious. It’s also a great reminder that a book does not have to be Crime and Punishment to be worth writing or reading. Listen for inspiration for how to write better relationships into your plot (whether or not you write romance) and also for helpful advice about becoming and succeeding as a professional writer.
3. Reading Glasses by Brea Grant and Mallory O’Meara
Best for: learning about the book industry
Famously a book podcast that is NOT about books, Reading Glasses is the go-to for all your bookish needs. Grant and O’Meara talk about reading culture and book technology. In their fun and light-hearted discussions they cover everything from overcoming book shame to microcosm publishing to the calculations behind bestseller lists. This is a helpful podcast for understanding books in the context of how they’re published and how they’re read. Writing can be a solitary, introspective process, and I’ve found listening to this podcast helps me think more about the outside world and my potential audience when I write.
4. Witch, Please by Marcelle Kosman and Hannah McGregor
Best for: literary theory and challenging problematic tropes
I’m an unashamed Harry Potter nerd. I also love all things feminist, postcolonial and queer theory. Witch, Please is a rare and wonderful podcast that blends full-on fandom with scholarly insight. Kosman and McGregor are literary scholars who, with the occasional help of Neale “Guy with a Film Degree” Barnholden, dissect the Harry Potter canon and extended universe with both love and a critical eye. They talk a lot about representation and the harmful stereotypes that pop up even in JK Rowling’s much-beloved work. It’s a fun podcast but also educational and challenging. I’ve learned a lot about how systems of power work through literature and film, and I truly believe this has made me a better writer.
5. My Dad Wrote a Porno by Jamie Morton, Alice Levine and James Cooper
Best for: taking a break (and learning how NOT to write)
Jamie Morton’s dad wrote a porno – and instead of burying the evidence, Morton decided to read it to his friends, Alice Levine and James Cooper, and record it for a worldwide audience of self-identifying “perverts”. This is pure comedy gold. It’s also an excellent lesson in storytelling gone completely bonkers. Whilst laughing uncontrollably, I’ve picked up important lessons about how to write; always proofread, for instance, and check whether the actions you describe your characters making are actually physiologically possible. Great for lightening the mood after a frustrating writing session.