Do you ever have times when the idea wheel runs dry? Or maybe you have a great idea for a character but no idea what kind of world you want to put them in (or vise versa). When I’m stuck for ideas, I find that it’s helpful to expose myself to new and interesting things. Information about real-world cultures, stories, and places, or even the latest science news, can get the gears turning again. Here are my favorite podcasts to plug into when I’m on empty.
Friendship, feminism, and lots of “creepy cool” stories and legends, all served up with a signature cocktail. Spirits is hosted by two life-long friends, Amanda and Julia, each week they talk about mythology, and how the stories we tell define our lives, and societies. They have several different kinds of episodes, so you can tune into whatever fits your mood. Some of their shows are deep dives into ancient mythology, and others are lighter takes on modern myth-making as depicted in film or urban legends. No matter the subject, this podcast always makes me laugh and feel more positive after listening. You’ll learn about all kinds of mythical creatures, heroes, gods, and villains that just might inspire your own stories.
The Prancing Pony Podcast
This podcast focuses on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. I always feel more inspired to dedicate myself to my writing after listening to Shawn and Alan’s exhaustive analysis of Tolkien’s work and his writing process. It’s easy to forget that Tolkien’s ideas weren’t just “made up” in a vacuum. He was inspired by older stories and by his passion for language. Learning about his inspirations is always helpful to me when I feel like I’m not as creative as I’d like to be. It’s also inspiring to get inside the mind of another writer and see how their work evolved. This insight always gives me more hope for my own work.
Hosted by several well-known authors, including Brandon Sanderson, this podcast is perfect for any writer looking for a creative jump start. The podcast functions as a writing class of sorts, with the hosts covering different writing topics each episode. Topics of past episodes have included “Hijacking the Knowledge You Already Have,” “Engaging Characters,” and a series on “Writing the Other” that includes how to write characters from a variety of backgrounds, sexual orientations, and abilities. Each episode ends with a writing assignment to help you put your newfound knowledge into action. I’ve found that sometimes those assignments can generate ideas even if the topic is not one that applies to my current work.
TED Talks Daily
Sometimes the best way to get creative juices flowing is to take the focus off yourself and spend some time looking through someone else’s eyes. TED Talks are the easiest way to get into the heads of people from a huge variety of backgrounds and all walks of life. If you are looking for some inspiration for a character, look no further.
This podcast explores the intersections between science and the human experience with an entertaining style that makes it easy to listen. If you want to learn about stuff that affects the world around you and fill up your idea bucket, Radiolab will help you do both. I recommend their timely and informative episode “Dispatches from 1918”- about the impact of the Spanish flu on politics and society. Some of their episodes are science-heavy, while others focus more on the historical or philosophical implications of scientific knowledge. I listen to this podcast when I’m ready to learn something new, or when I want a different perspective on something I thought I already knew.