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Six Podcasts and Websites To Fill Your Creative Well

There are dozens, or maybe scores, of creative writing podcasts, and undoubtedly thousands of creative writing websites with blogs.

Most of the podcasts deal with indie publishing and marketing more than they deal with the actual craft of writing, and a good deal of the websites are launched by first-time or aspiring authors in order to, at least in part, build an audience for their upcoming publications… and by the way, writing articles aimed at other writers is not the best way to go about building an audience for your first book if your first book isn’t actually written for other writers!

But that, perhaps, is a rant best reserved for another day. Or maybe I’ve said all I need to say about it. Should I elaborate? Let me know in the comments!

I’ve listened to most of those podcasts and read many of those websites at one point or another over the last fourteen years. There comes a time when they collectively reach a point of diminishing returns, saying much the same things in slightly different ways.

The turning point came for me when I started hearing and reading other people quote me (without attribution or perhaps even awareness that they were quoting anyone) on a few different podcasts. It’s a sort of compliment that’s also a sign of how far I’ve wandered from the zeitgeist factory.

To be fair, I’m at that weird “experienced beginner” point on the twisty, switchback-heavy path of my creative career, so it makes sense that I’ve had my fill of podcasts and websites dedicated to nuts and bolts marketing advice and thick with “let’s be on each other’s podcasts” indie author cross-promotion.

I’m looking for something a little different.

I’m looking for what makes people tick — especially creative people.

I’m looking to get a glimpse of the creative process.

I’m looking for common threads and themes and subject matter that points to commonalities between creators across generations.

I’m looking for new ideas.

I’m looking for inspiration!

Here are some of the places I find these things. Even if you’re still soaking up the “how to” and marketing podcasts and websites for writers and other creators, I recommend you check these out.

Six Podcasts and Websites for Ideas, Inspiration, and Insight for Writers and Creators

  • Brain Pickings is Maria Popova‘s self-described “inventory of the meaningful life.”  I think of it as curated fuel for human empathy. Several times a week, she highlights an essay, poem, talk, or book from somewhere within the last two hundred years or so that describes a facet of the human experience, usually tying it to similar pieces by other creators from other generations. The value is not only in the exposure to lesser-known treasures from (mostly) Western literature, but also the tapestry of connected creative thought that emerges from the loom of her collective effort.
  • On Being and The On Being Project are from the inquisitive and thoughtful mind of Krista Tippett and her collaborators. On Being is heard on about four hundred National Public Radio stations, but I prefer the podcast feed, especially the “unheard cuts” version of each episode, which is presented completely unedited, always includes more content than the edited-for-radio version, and inspired me to provide an unedited edition of my own podcast for my patrons.  The overarching theme of both the audio and blog content is, broadly speaking, an exploration of what it means to be human, especially, but not exclusively, through the lens of belief and spirituality, with a supplemental foci on poetry, literature, race, and science. Always inspiring; sometimes challenging; often delightful.
  • WTF with Marc Maron is the actor / writer / comedian’s interview podcast, mostly featuring other actors and comedians. I take in a lot of interviews via podcast, radio, and television, so believe me when I say that Marc Maron is one of the finest conversationalists working today. Vulnerable, transparent, empathetic, and ruthlessly self-aware, Marc brings out the same qualities in his guests. I don’t know of any other venue in any media (with the possible exception of Inside The Actors’ Studio) that reveals the history, personality, and processes of creative people with as much raw truth as WTF. You will learn things about making things. (Also… I can’t be alone in thinking that Marc Maron should be a guest on On Being, can I?)
  • In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg is a BBC Radio 4 show that is, thankfully for the rest of the world, also a podcast with over eight hundred episodes and counting. In each, Bragg assembles a casual panel of experts to provide a comprehensive overview of a single topic in “the history of ideas” covering culture, history, philosophy, religion, and science. Under the host’s deft direction, in under an hour the guests deliver an education that’s as densely packed as it is entertaining. And kudos to the BBC for providing an alphabetized list of every show… it’s like having a condensed and free version of The Great Courses at your finger… or, ear… tips. A must for all creators, but especially fiction writers… if your storytelling motor doesn’t rev up with new ideas while listening, I don’t even wanna know ya.
  • OtherPPL with Brad Listi is for authors what WTF is for actors and comedians. Listi focuses mostly on literary authors. I sincerely hope that doesn’t turn off my readers who mostly consume genre fiction, because, much like Marc Maron, Listi gets to the heart of his subjects and coaxes out honest, “real talk” conversations. Another show that puts emphasis on a creator’s background and creative process, which is always enlightening and inspiring to hear. His introductory monologues, again, like Maron’s, are endearing and almost always wry and funny. And hey, would it hurt you to be turned on to some lit-fic, dear reader? I think not.
  • Selected Shorts presents an hour of short stories, usually sharing a theme, read before a live studio audience by an accomplished television, film, or television actor like Richard Kind, Alec Baldwin, Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver, and many others. Why include a fiction podcast in this particular recommended list? Because consuming fiction is one of the best ways to learn fiction, and hearing fiction read well can sneak it closer to your critical brain for analysis and deconstruction… and it doesn’t get any better than this. (One of my most cherished memories was watching Leonard Nimoy read Raymond Carver’s “Lemonade” live at the Getty Center many years ago… now, when I read Carver, I hear Nimoy’s voice…)

What Podcasts and Websites Inspire You?

I’m always open to more websites and podcasts that deal with the more human side of creativity. What are you consuming that fits that bill? Share with everyone by dropping a link or three in the comments. Remember, I’m not so interested in the standard “how to be a writer / self-publishing marketing” stuff. And yes, if you’re making something like the sites and podcasts I’ve mentioned, you’re welcome to promote your thing, too.

Also, are you listening to, or reading, any of the resources I spotlight in this post? I’d love to hear about it.

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