📘 3 Books for Podcast Inspiration
Is your idea factory on the fritz? Is the blank page defeating you? Take a gander at these go-to resources to get back on track with a pep in your creative step.
NPR’s Podcast Startup Guide - Geared toward those starting a podcast, this handy dandy guide is chock-full of insights and show-changing advice for podcasters of all skill levels and experience.
The War of Art - The ultimate tough love manifesto for creatives, offering bite-size nuggets of wisdom for wrestling the naysayer within.
🎙️ Signal Flow: Neil Drumming
Industry game changers and valiant minds from creative professions share their wisdom, adversities, and paths to innovation.
Neil Drumming, journalist, screenwriter, and podcast producer
Neil Drumming is a podcast executive, a journalist, and a lifelong storyteller. Most recently, he served as the podcast lead for Spotify's Creator Equity Fund, the company's multimillion-dollar fund dedicated to amplifying underrepresented voices. Prior to this work, Neil was the managing editor at Serial Productions, a New York Times company, where he oversaw all facets of development and production for such acclaimed podcasts as “Nice White Parents,” “The Trojan Horse Affair” and the Peabody Award-winning “S-Town.” Before Serial, Neil was a producer on This American Life and spent many years as an entertainment journalist. His full-length feature film Big Words was released in 2013.
Maybe to my own detriment, I did a lot of personal stories on This American Life. And sometimes that’s hard to let go because you're saying something about yourself and your own life, you’re vulnerable in front of 5 million people. I get a little queasy about that.
Everything you write, whether or not it gets published or broadcast, is part of a continuing process of you doing this thing forever. Having a career as a writer is a long haul. Make it a little bit easier on yourself by building a discipline. Learn how to just sit down and start.
Though I’ve been writing most of my life, I still find writing somewhat excruciating. But the most satisfying moments are when I make myself laugh.
I think story structure is the most challenging part. That's why editors are in such short supply and high demand. You have a few geniuses out there, like Julie Snyder, Ira Glass. There are a few people who can structure a story no matter what it is.
Part of the reason I think structuring a story is difficult is because, in some ways, it's subjective. Even if a particular structure works, there is always conceivably another way it could be done. And it can be hard to know what the right way is.
I care a lot. And it's hard to write when you really care a lot. The best writing advice I’ve gotten is just get it all out on the page, edit later. But it's hard to do that when you're precious about stuff. It's like you don't even want to put it on the page until you feel like it's right. I think it's most valuable to just get something out. And then remind yourself that it's going to take time to refine that thing, but at least you have it in front of you.
There’s an infinite number of stories in the world, but a great one is hard to come by.
What I think about is voice—can I tell a story through a lens? That’s kind of how Big Words came about. I'd been watching Old School and 40-Year-Old Virgin, all of those movies about men in varying states of arrested development, men of a certain age who just couldn't grow up or had something that was holding them back. But if you name all those movies, there’s maybe one black guy in any of them. The perspective was pretty narrow. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, I just wanted to tell this story from my perspective of being the exact same age with my particular experience. It’s just another story about being in a certain stage of the arrested of development, I just happen to have my own lens. And the lens is what makes the movie different.
What's your filter? What's your perspective that makes your story different?
Producers like David Kestenbaum can write so quickly and so adeptly. But a writer like Brian Reed is going to take longer. It’ll be the most poetic thing, it just takes longer to pry it out of certain people's hands. There are positives and negatives to both sides.
The writing being excruciating is entirely on me. One thing I never built was a discipline. I don't wake up at seven in the morning and write two hours of free writing like some writers do. They built the discipline. I write when I have to and when I need to. Sometimes that means last-minute writing. I’ve done it well enough to make a career out of it, but I still wish I could be more disciplined.
I got spoiled by getting paid to write kind of early in my journey. And I paid the price later.
Ira Glass always says the ending is easy. I disagree.
I know having a formula or a structure can be very off-putting for writers or creatives in general, but structure sets you free. Sometimes it's so hard to begin that you never get anywhere because you’re starting from scratch. Give yourself something to lean on.
As a society, we haven't learned to love fiction in podcasting yet. And I'm surprised by that. Because the greatest strength of audio for me is intimacy. Shout out to Kaitlin Prest who makes The Shadows, I talk about that show all the time. That's one of my favorite shows in terms of finding the intimacy and the quietness and the beauty in audio fiction.