Enter the pod

I recently wrote a post about where my ideas come from and I'm pretty surprised I didn't mention podcasts once - I am a huge fan of the medium; it’s replaced TV as my primary form of entertainment and I ramble on about them to anyone who will listen. I think they’re a great resource for writers in the work they provide and the way it is provided.

There are a number of programmes focussed on writing and literature. The Penguin PodcastThe Poetry Society and TLS Voices are some of my favourites. If you don’t mind adding ever more titles to your “to read” pile (which I don't), I also recommend Robin and Josie’s Book Shambles, in which comedians Robin Ince and Josie Long interview a public figure about their favourite books in a way that is both erudite and wittily accessible.

I listen to a number of factual programmes – Radio 4’s The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry is a favourite, as is Dan Snow’s History Hit. Another great podcast for history is Lore, which looks at folklore, mysteries and the more gruesome side of the past. I admit, I’m a lifelong nerd and I love to learn new things, and I glean new ideas for writing from the information I gather. 

Podcasts are the perfect medium for long form interviews, which provide insight into people's lives and allow you to hear the patterns underlying conversation. I love the Nerdist Podcast and Scroobius Pip's Distraction Pieces is always entertaining and informative. The warmth and humour of both Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast and The Adam Buxton Podcast often lead to some brilliant insights. A lot of comedians have podcasts and I’ve always felt that comedians have a lot in common with poets, both are looking for the surprise hidden in words. For rambling conversation in the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore vein, it’s hard to beat Frankie Boyle and Glenn Wool’s Freestyle but topical and issue-based shows such as The Bugle, The Guilty Feminist and Citizen Radio combine humour and current events in a way that will make you think differently (and laugh). Citizen Radio is also worth a mention for the moving and honest way the two hosts address difficult issues such as mental health and the challenges of living a creative life - the fact that they achieve this whilst also being funny is a testament to their skills as creative people.

There are also some great fictional podcasts – the No Sleep podcast brings excellent production values to short stories. Both The Black Tapes Podcast and Welcome to Night Vale present serial drama in a way that is deliciously addictive with creative plots and engaging characters. In fact, these podcasts are responsible for my latest entirely unreasonable crushes on fictional characters (I'm looking at you, Dr Strand and Carlos with the perfect hair) which I think is testament to the quality of the writing. These productions engage my imagination and remind me of the power of words; both of these are vital for a writer.

One of my recent favourites is The Parapod. Comedians Ray Peacock and Barry Dodds consider cases of the paranormal; one is a cynic and the other a believer. The result is not only funny enough to have me crying with laughter, but also the way Peacock structures his arguments against the fantastic concepts serves as a very good reminder to writers that with every flight of fancy, you must keep at least one foot on the ground to convince your reader. It is probably worth having Ray Peacock’s voice of reason in your head when you’re looking to fix plot holes or tie some concepts together.

There are many things I love about podcasts and many reasons why I find them inspiring. I think some exciting and creative work is being created in this form and it is also, in most cases, entirely listener supported through subscriptions, donations and pledges via Patreon or Kickstarter. Audiences do connect with the power of words and are willing to support high quality and creative work - that is a hopeful thought. If, like me, you’re a podcast fan, I hope you’re supporting this vibrant new source of brilliant writing because I want this medium to survive and thrive. The creators of these podcasts deserve to be paid for their work in order to keep going. If nothing else, how else will I trick myself into doing housework?