One of the things I’ve recently discovered that I really enjoy is listening to a podcast while doing a jigsaw puzzle. OK, on the excitement scale, it’s not exactly snorting cocaine off Channing Tatum’s abs, but everyone needs a hobby and Channing probably gets fed up of that eventually. Historically I’ve not been very good at listening to things (all my former teachers do a shot) because I feel weird just sort of staring into space, but if I try to listen while doing something else (cooking, driving) I either get so absorbed in the cooking that I’m not listening any more, or I get so absorbed in the listening that I drive into a wall. It’s not ideal. A jigsaw puzzle, however, is the perfect podcast-mate: it keeps my eyes busy and my attention focused, but it is using a totally different part of my brain, which means that I have plenty of mental space left for listening and thinking, plus I am not likely to accidentally run someone over.
With that in mind, I invite you to break open a puzzle and kick back with one of the podcasts that I have been fortunate enough to participate in recently. Yes! It’s a promotional email! Didn’t see that coming, did you? I don’t do them very often, but from time to time I do remember that I’m not just talking to myself and I actually have something to promote. My agent would be proud.
First of all, The Curious About Creativity podcast - I was a guest on this terrific and useful podcast, in which every week a person in a different creative industry talks about the lessons they’ve learned from doing what they do. Listening back to our conversation, I’m surprised to discover that I’m actually full of terrific advice about the creative process in general and writing specifically, which I wish was more available to me when I am within the creative process and writing specifically, rather than just when I am talking about it. Friends of mine who have had to nurse me through the worst of my creative miseries get a shout-out halfway through. Listen here.
And a few weeks ago I had a story on This American Life. Yes, This American Life. The This American Life. It’s really quite hard to understand why I didn’t write and tell you about it the moment that it happened, but I suppose that is why I get invited to participate in podcasts called ‘Curious About Creativity’ and not ‘Curious About Marketing’. I’m really proud of this story, which is one of TAL’s relatively infrequent forays into fiction - a recently deceased woman (Mrs Ruth Langley of Basingstoke, Great Britain) finds herself chatting with, or rather to, the god Charon as he ferries her across the Styx. The episode can be found here or, if you only want to listen to my bit, you can go directly to it here, though personally I would listen to the whole thing - it’s a great episode. (Incidentally, when I tell people I had a story on This American Life, they either have no idea what it is or their minds explode with the excitement - there has been literally no other reaction - so if you are in the former category, that gives you some idea of how amazing a show it is.)
Finally, back in May - and I think I did mention this at the time, but I’ve gained some readers since then, so I’ll repeat myself - I was a guest on Backlisted, which is one of my very favourite literary podcasts, and took part in a fascinating discussion about the Dutch author Gerard Reve and his masterpiece, The Evenings - a book that is mainly about a young man getting irritated with his parents for chewing too loud, and is every bit as good as the sounds. (If you don’t think that sounds good then there is no hope for you.) You can listen to that one here.
That’s all! I probably shouldn’t be so apologetic about promoting what I’m doing, after all you signed up to this email by choice, but it still feels strange, like I’m shouting through your letterbox. Next time things should be back to normal I think.
(Also, if you have read this far I think I should probably confess that I can very easily drive into walls when I am not listening to anything at all. I’m just not very good at driving.)