Episodes
What's there that's not there? CONSUME: “Dear Committee Members” by Julie Schumaker CREATE: Set a timer for 15 minutes. Create a character (a person, a place or a thing, really. Doesn’t have to be a human being.) And write a list of everything they do not have, everything they do not want, everything they are not, everything they cannot or will not do. Ignore story structure and just focus on the things that your central character is not. Keep writing until time is up. Save your story and...
Published 06/26/20
What is the shape of your narrative? CONSUME: “17776 Football” by Jon Bois https://www.sbnation.com/a/17776-football CREATE: Write a 100 word story with a beginning, middle and end. Write another 100 word story with completely different characters and completely different action. But take one character, place, or idea from the first story and incorporate it in here.Write one more 100 word story using an entirely different character and place and action. But bring that connective tissue...
Published 06/12/20
How are you doing? CONSUME: The podcast Our Plague Year https://ourplagueyear.libsyn.com/ and the webcomic Valley Ghouls https://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/valley-ghouls/list?title_no=330059&page=1 CREATE: Think of a true story from your past. One that does not seem to have anything to do with the present moment. Tell that story, in as little or as many words as you need. But do so while thinking about it through the lens of this moment in your life. Join the SWT Membership...
Published 05/29/20
How strong is your satire? CONSUME: Two podcasts: "A Very Fatal Murder" and "This Sounds Serious." Both podcasts are a riff on the true crime podcast format. Both use satire. Listen to the first episode of each of those shows, and think about what you learn from each satirical take on true crime. https://radiopublic.com/this-sounds-serious-Wk2kMx/s1!127a3 https://radiopublic.com/a-very-fatal-murder-G2wNv0/s1!44a4f#t=2 CREATE: Choose a person you generally disagree with. Now write a...
Published 05/15/20
Writing what's absurd. CONSUME: Clip from You, the Living. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOwpd2I_4mo CREATE: Write a 200 word description of your home. Make it realistic and true. Now edit that piece. Change the logic of its layout. With each sentence, think about the logical and expected conclusion, and then twist it into something impossible or totally out of left field. Make sure your readers never know where it's going to go. Join the SWT Membership community to share your work,...
Published 05/01/20
When do you use stage directions, and how descriptive do you get? CONSUME: "How to use stage directions" by Sam Graber https://samgraber.com/2017/02/21/how-to-use-stage-directions/ CREATE: Write a 200-400 word scene for two characters that includes the stage direction “[They/He/She Flies].” Join the SWT Membership community to share your work, give feedback, and connect with other artists: https://www.patreon.com/startwiththis Help spread the word about our show by wearing our logo:...
Published 04/17/20
Published 04/17/20
Failure is scary but it can also be interesting and even fruitful. Consume: “How to Speak Poetry” by Leonard Cohen: https://acephalous.typepad.com/acephalous/leonard-cohen-how-to-spea.html Create: Set a timer for 10 minutes, and write a murder mystery. Title that “1”. Then repeat the process with an entirely new murder mystery. Title that “2”. Repeat it a third time, again with an entirely new mystery. Title that “3”. Come back the next day and give yourself 30 minutes to edit these...
Published 04/03/20
Sometimes our writing flow doesn’t flow. What’s causing this and how do we get it moving again? Consume: Magnus Archives podcast Create: Pick a job. Write a 200-400 word monologue for someone in that job, directed to their customers or constituency. Use your writing to set the tone for that relationship. Give it a beginning, middle and end, and make sure it reveals something about that character: they make a choice with consequences, they expose a secret, etc. Join the SWT Membership...
Published 03/20/20
Sometimes our writing flow doesn’t flow. What’s causing this and how do we get it moving again? Consume: Have You Heard George’s Podcast by George the Poet Create: Open up a file you're stuck on. Go to the Random Classical Painting Generator. In 200 words describe the painting, but describe it in context of whatever your working on. Join the SWT Membership community to share your work, give feedback, and connect with other artists: https://www.patreon.com/startwiththis Help spread the...
Published 03/06/20
What does it mean to tell your story honestly? Consume: Moonface by James Kim Create: Take a moment in your life in which you remember exactly how you felt. Think through all the details of your feelings. How did the feelings start? How did they develop? What happened to those feelings? Tell that story. Except: change every other factual detail. Create a fictional story about someone who is not you, doing something you weren’t doing. It could be a member of a biker gang in the 50s or an...
Published 02/21/20
A lot of writing is fine-tuning your writing, or creating clever structure, but the most important thing is the story itself. Consume: Read “Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado. Create: Write a 200-400 word story with the following outline: - A is with B. - A loses B. - A makes a choice that brings B back. - A and B are back together, but different as a result of that choice. Join the SWT Membership community to share your work, give feedback, and connect with other...
Published 02/07/20
We’re live from Boston with special guest Bilal Dardai, alum of the Neo-Futurist theater company and writer for the podcast “Unwell.” In this episode we talk about writing specifically for performance. Consume: Gnome Sane by Joey Rizzolo, New York Neo-Futurists Create: Write a 100-word story, 3rd person, someone confessing a crime. Then, write it again in 1st person by the person confessing. Then write it one more time for live performance. Think about what the performer should do with...
Published 01/24/20
Outlining your story is like a puzzle for plot. In this episode, we talk about how mapping out what will happen before you start writing gives your story shape, and makes it much easier to write. This way, you can land a satisfying ending and give focus to your process to free your brain up for new discoveries. Consume: Listen to The Shadows, a six-episode podcast series by Kaitlin Prest. Create: Write a six section outline with a max word count of 60 words for each section. Give your project...
Published 01/10/20
We talk a lot about creating with enough speed to turn writing into habit, but working slowly puts the finish line so far out of sight that you can focus on something other than the final outcome. Slowness is a way to make something big by allowing you to break your writing down into manageable parts, and gives you enough space to enjoy the process. It also means you can work a little bit on something everyday, even if you don’t know what it is yet. ** **Consume: The Taxonomy of Air, a...
Published 11/29/19
Your writing needs a message. The way you deliver this message is up to you. Repetition is one way to get this message across. There’s almost a magic power in centering on a message, spiraling outward, and circling back to the message again and again. In this episode, we talk about using repetition to review an idea, create rhythm, reinforce comprehension, drive emphasis, and to disorient. Consume: Song Exploder Episode 28: The Long Winters - The Commander Thinks Aloud Create: Come up with...
Published 11/15/19
In writing, words are your currency. So how can you maximize your spending on a budget? In this episode, we talk about how word counts can break up longer projects into achievable goals, are a form of accountability in your own process, and influence how your audience perceives your work. Plus, we discuss how knowing your own voice will help you decide how many words you want to dedicate to describing something in great detail or with great efficiency. Consume: Geoff Ryman’s novel 253. Learn...
Published 11/01/19
Working quickly means you can create faster than your doubt. In this episode, we talk about how using speed as a writing technique can be freeing and helpful. From setting timers to making word counts, writing without pausing allows you to simply get your ideas out now for you to shape later. Consume: Listen to the album, “All Hail West Texas” by The Mountain Goats Create: Set a timer for 7 minutes and write without stopping on the topic “Orange.” Then put your work aside for at least a...
Published 10/18/19
Stereo is a powerful, audio-specific tool that can fill out a sound in the same way that we experience sound in the world. We talk about how using stereo wisely can invite your listener’s imagination to get involved by differentiating speaking voices, putting them in a specific setting, and by creating weird or unexpected moments.  Consume: Listen Nickel Creek’s album, “A Dotted Line” Create: Record a 1-minute audio piece that uses stereo in at least two different ways: to differentiate...
Published 10/04/19
There will always be something to improve about your writing, but you can’t revise forever. We talk about developing processes so you know what to improve, how to improve it, and when to finish punching up your piece.  Consume: Read “The Lifespan of a Fact” by Jim Fingal and John D'Agata Create: Write 100 words of a story, incorporating a randomly generated phrase into the first sentence. Use another random phrase in your next 100 words. Finally, use one last random phrase in the last...
Published 09/20/19
Have you ever had a big deadline and all of a sudden you have to listen to that new audiobook? In this episode, we talk about how anxiety about your writing can lead to moments like this. Then we discuss ways to motivate yourself from steering into the skid, to doing achievable tasks, as well as how taking care of your body and mind affects your creative work.  Consume: Listen to Mark Can’t Rap with British poet Mark Grist  Create: Set a calendar alert for 5 days in a row to spend 10 mins...
Published 09/06/19
The heart of a good podcast isn’t in expensive mics or a nice  studio— it’s in the idea. We talk through four litmus tests to test the strength of your idea: specificity, novelty, practicality, and repeatability. Honing in on these elements will help you uncover what’s exciting about your idea, and what will make it successful. While this episode focuses on podcasting, these tests are good to consider for any artistic idea. Consume: Listen to The Worst Idea of All Time and think about how...
Published 08/23/19
Here’s a short preview of our second members-only bonus Q&A episode. To hear the whole thing and to ask your own follow-up questions, join our community: http://patreon.com/startwiththis Credits: Jeffrey Cranor (host) & Joseph Fink (host), Julia Melfi (producer), Grant Stewart (editor), Vincent Cacchione (mixer). Rob Wilson (logo). Produced by Night Vale Presents. http://www.startwiththispodcast.com  http://www.nightvalepresents.com
Published 08/16/19
Poetry can be intimidating. It’s more technical than prose, and there’s an extensive world of theory and study behind it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t play around with it in your writing, and even be good at it! In this episode, Jeffrey and Joseph talk about how we naturally use poetic elements in our everyday speech, and how it can lend structure to get to the heart of what you’re describing. Consume: Read Ballad in A by Cathy Park Hong. Try to read it aloud if you can! Then check out...
Published 08/09/19
We think the joy of a podcast is the personal relationship you develop with the podcasters you listen to. It’s a unique medium that creates a listening experience just for you. This direct line of communication is a tool, a gift, and a responsibility. In this episode, we talk about how to create while being aware of the listener's presence.  Consume: Listen to an episode of Sleep With Me  Create: Write and record a 2-minute piece about your listener. In the process, keep the 5 W’s in mind...
Published 07/26/19