A couple of years ago, I traded in my decade old blue VW Golf for a shiny new blue VW Golf. It wasn’t that I planned to be so brand loyal. It was just… familiar, and small and sporty and safe, and… familiar. Plus, it came in a color other than white. I looked at a couple other options, but each one I liked was only available in white, or else I’d have to wait a couple of months for a special order. My sister’s the real car enthusiast in the family, but I do have my quirks, and while I may not be terribly interested in what’s under the hood, or how sparkly the hubcaps, I do want a car with some color.
Anyhow… what does all of that have to do with Podcasts?
You see, my decade old car with its manual shift and dual CD and cassette deck (yes!! nothing like some good old Tom Petty and the Pretty Woman soundtrack on cassette for road trip days!) was a sweetheart of a machine, but its pre-iPhone construction made it a bit of a technological lug. So when people talked about modern things like podcasts, I would sort of snivel and snort and claim that I didn’t have time for such things, or know how to use advanced technology.
And then I got my car. Much to my dismay, the manual transmission was out, but it did come with a sunroof and CarPlay, and that almost made up for it.
Now, I plug my iPhone into my car, and a screen pops up with everything I could possibly need to navigate or be entertained: a map, music, audiobook, podcasts.
I decided to join this decade and began to explore. My local NPR consumption has taken hit, but I have become a huge fan of podcasts. If you’re not familiar with what a podcast is, it’s essentially a radio show, published in episodes, that you can subscribe to on your phone. When a new episode is released, your phone downloads it, and once you’re done playing it, the episode disappears. (Unless you manually tell the phone to save it.)
There may be a million other ways to listen to podcasts that I’m unaware of, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge. Anyone who can create an audio file and upload it to the internet can make a podcast. Some are recorded and edited in professional radio studios, others are made at home over Skype interviews.
I suggest five of my favorites below—shows that I make me really excited every time a see a new episode pop up.
Now, whenever I jump in the car, I switch on a podcast. When I have arrive at my destination, my place in the episode is saved, and it starts back up again right where I left off. I always have new and interesting content to listen to, and the commercials from paid sponsors that appear on some podcasts are relatively easy to skip past. (Sorry sponsors!)
I love the way that over time podcasts begin to feel like familiar conversation with an old friend, one who is knowledgeable about all sorts of things and inspires you just to be nearby with insight and character. I *always* learn something new that sparks deeper research or a new idea for something I’m working on.
If you have CarPlay, this is a great way to make traffic bearable. And if you don’t, perhaps you’d like to try listening to podcasts at home, or out and about with earbuds or headphones.
So, without further ado, with many thanks to my lovely new-ish VW Golf and its life-changing technology, here are my five favorite podcasts for sparking creative thought (in alphabetical order):
How I Built This
How I Build This is hosted by Guy Raz, and produced by NPR. It’s a weekly show in which Guy Raz speaks with entrepreneurs about how they built major brands that you’ve probably heard about. (Think Spanx, Southwest Airlines, Chuck E. Cheese, Rent the Runway, Larabar, Sam Adams beer, and sooo many more.)
He runs a great interview, and the stories are always fascinating—whether the industry sounds interesting initially or not. The founders talk about their ups and downs, how they came up with their ideas, challenges they lived through and lessons learned, and what it takes to constantly use creative thought in order to build a business.
At the end of each episode, there is a brief interview with an up-and-coming entrepreneur who’s just starting out with a brand new product or service. It’s fun to hear about all the innovative ideas they share.
Story Pirates is the only podcast I included on this list that is really made for kids. There are a few great children’s podcasts on my iPhone that I pop in when the kids are in the car, but I include this one in the podcast for sparking creative ideas because it is all about story telling.
The story pirates collect stories from kids around the world, and turn them into silly skits. They do live shows and go into schools across the country, but the podcast offers anyone a view into their fun slapstick world. What’s really great is seeing how the adapt original stories by kids into longer skits and songs. Sometimes they offer both the original and the updated version side-by-side, giving writers and editors insight into how to revise a story for maximum effect. Plus, who doesn’t love a laugh?
The Archive Project
The Archive Project is produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting, so it’s in the NPR family. The podcast is a collection of readings and interviews featuring literary masters, as they pass through Portland, Oregon (where I grew up). Some of the episodes come from recordings that are decades old, while others are more recent, taped at writing and book conferences around town.
This podcast came to my knowledge thanks to an aunt and uncle who live up in Oregon and listen to the show live on the radio. They’d heard that it was being made into a podcast, so when I was talking with them about incorporating podcasts into my routine, they recommended it.
I will say it can sometimes be a little hit and miss. I tend to prefer the interviews over the readings, as I love to hear the authors speak off the cuff about the writing life, and it’s fun to hear audience reaction. But overall, this is a really great podcast, especially for anyone who writes or loves to read.
The Creativity Habit
I cannot say enough good things about The Creativity Habit. This is a show run by a woman named Daphne Cohn, and I gather she connects with most of her interviews over Skype. It’s the least “produced” of the podcasts I share, but it’s quickly become an absolute favorite since I discovered it a few months ago.
Daphne interviews artists and creatives, talking with them about when and how creativity came into their lives, the messages they want to convey, how they made their creative life a priority—whether turning it into a full-time career, taking part-time work elsewhere, or somehow fitting it into an otherwise busy schedule.
While sound can be a bit of an issue at times—depending on the quality of the connection, there can be a tinny tone—the words and stories shared by contemporary artists and creatives are worth it. Each episode lasts about an hour, and I usually go straight to Instagram once I’ve finished listening to a podcast to follow and learn more about the artists she speaks with.
Daphne handles her interviews well and manages to get to the heart of the matter every time.
Writing Excuses rounds out my list of podcasts for creatives. This is really catered to writers, and I’m not entirely sure how useful it would be for other creative professions, but I definitely recommend it for writers.
The show is in its 12th season this year, and there’s a lot of gold in the archives. I first learned about Writing Excuses when a friend shared that she was going on their cruise. Yes, that’s right: a cruise that combines travel with writing workshop fun. Amazing! One of these days, I want to go too.
The podcast is made up of a team of four primary authors (Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Dan Wells), with guest authors popping in and out. It’s production level ranks somewhere above The Creativity Habit, but below the other podcasts mentioned here. The sound quality is excellent, and the editing is quite good. They are sponsored by listeners via Patreon, a recent switch from Audible. It’s not high budget, but it’s definitely not low budget either.
The four authors and their guests take 15-20 minutes each week to tackle a topic. This year, it’s all about character—how to write a protagonist, antagonist, awesome side character, the hero’s journey, develop motivation, build character backstory, etc. My favorite was Season 11: Elemental Genres, in which they broke plots and subplots down into genres such as suspense, horror, mystery, romance, and talked about how to weave different genres together for truly dynamic storytelling.
At the end of each episode, there is a homework assignment, followed by the phrase, “You’re out of excuses. Now go write!”
I love the mix of insight from very different authors and the practical tips, and the short and sweet time limit makes it perfect for running errands.
That’s it for me for today. Track these down, and enjoy!
What about you? Do you listen to podcasts? If so, what are your favorites?
ABOUT A TO Z CHALLENGE
This month, I am writing 26 posts starting with the letters A through Z, along with hundreds of other businesses and bloggers from around the world. I first ran into the A to Z Challenge many, many moons ago (circa 2011), when I was brand new to the online writing world. It was a great way to jumpstart my creative juices, and I had so much fun “meeting” men and women sharing what they love to do.
So when I opened Of Love + Light, I knew the A to Z Challenge would be the perfect complement to Daily Dose: Inspired. Enjoy!
(PS: I temporary pulled my O post, “On Love and Light,” as I rework it. I posted a small something through a headache, in order not to fall behind, but it was essentially a notice that I’d update it. I’ll let email subscribers know when it’s refreshed and back up online!)
ABOUT OF LOVE + LIGHT
Of Love + Light is a place for uplifting media, creative inspiration, art, nifty creative publications, and storytelling. I also offer editing, creativity coaching, and small business communications planning services. Founded by Alana Garrigues, Of Love + Light is your place to come, relax, feel inspired and loved, and share more of what’s good on this beautiful planet.
Of Love + Light has infinite possibilities, and YOU are a huge part of what this will look like. Want to talk? Send me an email!
“Podcasts to Spark Creative Thought” is part of the Daily Dose: Inspired series. Looking for a small something to get you inspired to take on the day? This is the place to come for a photo, a song, a pick-me-up quote, a little slice of happy. At least, these are the things that inspire me!