Everywhere I look, the world wants me to engage in self-care. Instagram posts, TV commercials, Twitter threads, email newsletters…all of them chock-full of reminders that even as the world falls to pieces around us, it’s important to fill our buckets, put on our own air masks first, give ourselves grace.
Let’s face it. Self-care looks different depending on which part of ourselves needs the nurturing. Bubble baths, exercise, or massage for physical self-care. Meditation for spiritual self-care. Time with friends (or alone!) for emotional self-care.
But how about creative self-care? What can we do to make our writing selves feel stronger, happier, more resilient?
One way I care for the writer in me is through podcasts. I’ve been a longtime podcast enthusiast, and it might be embarrassing to confess exactly how many of them are in my subscriber feed. But over the years, I’ve found podcasts that nourish my writer soul in a way that few things can. These shows remind me that good writing has the power to awe and inspire. It comforts me to know that creativity and self-expression are keys to fulfillment and connection for so many.
And if that’s not enough, these podcasts represent some of the best darn writing out there.
I’m sharing them in the hopes that you might listen, enjoy, and find some respite for your writerly soul in difficult times.
The Memory Palace
On the surface, Nate DiMeo narrates a history podcast, but this show is so much more. He paints historical events, along with the famous and everyday people behind them, in a rich, thoughtful and evocative way. Paired with his rich text is a mix of musical underscoring and…yes, SILENCE. Nate DiMeo somehow knows that we as listeners need both sound and space to fully appreciate the listening experience.
Another thing I love about this show? The show notes provide music credits and additional links, but no preview of the episodes themselves. As the show notes state: “We’d much rather you just went into each episode of The Memory Palace cold. And just let the story take you where it well [sic]. So, we don’t suggest looking into the show notes first.” Each episode is a surprise, a gift that unwraps itself in the listening.
Just don’t ask me to pick a favorite episode. That’s like asking me to pick a favorite kid. Won’t do it.
Episodes: As of winter 2022, there are almost 200 episodes. The Memory Palace is still in production, with new episodes coming out every few weeks. Each show generally ranges from 6-15 minutes.
Myths and Legends
Jason Weiser retells stories from around the world. Some of the tales he shares are single-episode folktales and legends. Other times, Weiser goes deeply into a culture’s lore for an extended series. As the tagline goes: “This show brings you folklore that has shaped our world. Some are incredibly popular stories you think you know, but with surprising origins. Others are stories that might be new to you, but are definitely worth a listen.”
I’ve especially enjoyed the deep dives into Britain’s King Arthur, China’s Monkey King, and Norse Mythology. As for the writing itself, Weiser deeply researches folklore while also giving it a modern spin and sensibility with well-placed anachronisms and parenthetical commentary from the characters. Make sure you listen all the way to the end of each episode, where Weiser features a mythological “Creature of the Week.”
Episodes: There are over 350 episodes of Myths and Legends , updated weekly. Each show ranges from 35-50 minutes.
The Anthropocene Reviewed
This show comes to us from The Fault in our Stars author John Green. If you enjoyed his novels, the writing on The Anthropocene Reviewed will not disappoint you. To understand this show, think about the model of the five-star Yelp review. Now imagine using this five-star review to explore and critique things from our modern times: Dr. Pepper. The QWERTY keyboard. Wonder at sunsets. Chemotherapy. Green blends individual views and ideas with context and history. Each review illuminates the item’s impact – both in Green’s own life and experience, as well our in our broader culture. His writing is at once deeply personal and gratifyingly universal.
Now that Green has published The Anthropocene Reviewed in book form, he hasn’t created any new episodes. The ones he’s crafted, however, are still a great listen. They’re worth every moment.
Episodes: The Anthropocene Reviewed podcast has about 30 episodes, running through August 2021. Each show runs about 20-25 minutes.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez speaks with formerly-incarcerated writers about their writing, how they came to be writers, and what writing has meant to them. It’s particularly interesting that the episodes start off with a celebrity (think John Legend, Issa Rae, Jay Ellis and Keramo Brown) reading the writer’s work. We then get to hear the writer’s response during an in-depth interview.
The writing itself is fascinating to begin with. And then, to hear the moving stories of how writing has made an impact for each and every one of these individuals? It’s astounding. Furthermore, it underscores how important it is in this world to encourage young folks to express themselves through writing. It validates the work we do as teachers of young writers.
Episodes: There are currently only 18 episodes of Written Off running through September 2021, but I’m hoping they’ll air another season. Each show lasts about 25-30 minutes.
Do you have other podcasts that amaze you, that feed your writerly soul? Have you already listened to any of these podcasts? Share your thoughts in the comments!