Creating a podcast or any new project can be overwhelming and daunting. One common obstacle is one of the first steps: starting to write. There are so many other first steps when you have a new project but starting to write down your ideas into a cohesive and understandable piece of work can be a hurdle. How do you start? Where do you begin? What are you writing about? What messages are you trying to convey? Even nonfiction shows or projects can benefit from writing things down or scripted moments.
A quick Google search of the phrase ‘how to start writing’ brings up almost 2 billion results and a Twitter search of the same phrase brings up numerous tweets of folks either struggling or offering resources. There are articles from LifeHack and NPR about how to start and several podcasts about writing, like Write Now with Sarah Werner. Here are some general tips on how to start writing/creating and sustaining a creative process:
Practice will make you better
With writing or any creative process, remember that no one is born perfect at something and everyone has something to learn about their work. There are numerous creative endeavors, like writing, knitting, and illustration, that require a whole lot of practice and not many folks are immune to that. Take the time to practice.
The good news is that there are so many ways you can practice writing. If you’re not confident in your typing skills, there are practice games online that you can play! And if there’s a community college near you, there might be classes on writing, computer essentials, or anything you might want to learn.
Additionally, playing in someone else’s world for a bit can help you practice writing. Write some fan fiction of your favorite media to practice! Playing in someone else’s world with their own rules about that world can help you practice. If you don’t want to write fan fiction, a quick Google search can bring up many kinds of writing prompts! Plus, there are many different social media accounts that have numerous writing prompts and ideas, like @writing.prompt.s on Instagram. Using these prompts can help you practice writing on a regular basis and will probably help you become a better writer.
Be patient and consistent
Once you feel more confident about your writing skills and you’ve found the right story (or stories!), start writing, pitching, and creating! However, it’s important to keep working and be consistent, even if your work doesn’t meet immediate and widespread popularity. With the way the Internet works these days, it can be easy to believe that a viral moment or overnight success is easy and possible.
Franchesca Ramsey, actress and co-host of the podcast Last Name Basis, has talked on various mediums about her 2012 viral YouTube video “Sh*t White Girls Say To Black Girls”. While the video did become viral and got 1.5 million views in less than a day, Franchesca had been on YouTube and creating videos for almost six years by that time.
- You can read more about Ramsey’s journey in her first book, Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist and hear her on episodes of Unladylike (the Podcast) and UnHappy Hour with Matt Bellassai.
All of this is to say that some content does go viral for any reason but there’s a whole lot of work that happens behind the scenes. But doing the work and being consistent can help you build an audience and community. With consistency, it can be difficult to keep up on everything, especially if writing or podcasting isn’t your full-time job. Life can also through you obstacles but finding the right schedule for you to publish content can help!
For example, some shows do seasons with weekly episodes, with a few months of content being published and a few months of a break (with engagement on social media!). Others release episodes a twice a month or even once a month. Finding what works for you and your schedule allows for your audience to know what to expect and being transparent on social media can help you keep in touch too!
Take breaks and find the right process
Taking a break from writing or other forms of creating could help clear your head and get your blood flowing if you’ve been sitting for a while. Exercising in some way can release positive endorphins and cleaning up your area can help clear your head. Self-care, like exercise, laundry, and more, can help you feel like a better version of yourself but it looks different for everyone.
Similarly, not everyone has the same creative process. Some people write every day; others write when they have the chance (like on a plane or during a meal) or when they definitely have something to say. Nighttime writing works for certain writers while writing in the middle of the day works for others. All of this is to say that there’s no one right way to be creative and everyone has their own process.
Simply just start and be ready to make mistakes
One of the biggest obstacles standing between you and the creative things you want to make might be you. Don’t be your own worst enemy and get out of your own way! Sure, there’s a good chance you’ll make a mistake, hit a dead end, or be unsure of where to go but those things are part of being a human.
Everyone makes mistakes but you can’t let your fear of messing up stop you from pursuing something you love. As cliche as it sounds, making mistakes allows you to learn, grow, and become a better person/creator. And sometimes, you just have to start and figure it out as you go.
Obstacles do happen
There are, of course, many other obstacles that might come up. Being a writer or actor or creator in any way is difficult because many may not be able to afford to spend a lot of time creating. Financial, health, and emotional restraints can mean that not everyone is able to create in the same way. Being patient when obstacles arise (both as a fan and a creator!) can help and if you can, consider financially supporting your favorite shows and creators!
And as welcoming as the podcast community is, it still isn’t immune to racism, misogyny, homophobia, and more. Tau Zaman is a writer with The Whisperforge and the creator/showrunner of the new show, CARAVAN. On a few occasions, they’ve tweeted about the obstacles that do exist within podcasting (see tweet above, it’s the start of a longer thread) and they have so many valid points about the barriers that prevent marginalized folks from participating and creating. One reply to that same thread was from @gggomec who, in part, said material barriers are low for podcasts but “The community has proven what *types* of podcasts they’ll *actually* support and praise. That’s the true bar keeping people from podcasting.” (@gggomec, Tweet, Feb 2, 2019).
It can be terrifying to start writing and creating, even more so if you’re also being vulnerable at the same time. But writing can be a wonderful outlet and can support your podcast (no matter the genre!). You may not be the best when you start out but practice and time will only help.