As an aspiring writer, it can be tough to stay motivated. Even the supposedly foolproof tactic of setting a New Year’s resolution doesn’t always help — indeed, trying to stick to a writing-based resolution often ends up backfiring, as writing starts to feel like a detestable chore.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can find inspiration and motivation as a writer without inducing soul-crushing creative pressure. And one of the best and easiest ways to do this is by listening to literary podcasts featuring other writers! From in-depth discussions about the craft of writing to examining what makes great books so great, these “lit” podcasts will surely get you excited to write more in 2019 — and maybe even publish something by 2020.
Quick disclaimer: not all the podcasts on this list are going to be Harry Potter-related. But after listening to this weekly show hosted by Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile, you’ll realize that HPatST is the only one you’ll ever need. Each episode features a different chapter and centers around a certain theme (past examples include isolation, disillusionment, and transformation); the result is your ultimate English class fantasy come to life.
Zoltan and ter Kuile dissect each plot point, thematic element, and piece of symbolism with immense care, tempered with humor and rooted in their unwavering trust in these “sacred” texts — not because Harry Potter is a flawless series, but because it continues to do so much for us as both readers and writers, even after all this time. (Always.)
The DIY MFA Radio podcast has grown from an independent seedling into a veritable literary oak over the past few years, with a lineup of esteemed guests including Sara Dessen, Jojo Moyes, Eoin Colfer, and most recently Orson Scott Card.
Host Gabriela Pereira guides listeners through deep literary conversations that are nevertheless consistently accessible (staying true to the “DIY MFA” name), while simultaneously extracting valuable writerly advice from her guests. Pereira’s upbeat style, her extensive literary knowledge, and her insightful questions all make this an absolutely unmissable podcast for anyone who considers themselves a serious “word nerd.”
This show is brought to you by Anne Bogel of the book blog “Modern Mrs. Darcy” — and as one would expect from a Pride and Prejudice obsessive, her reading recommendations podcast is one that we “most ardently admire and love.” What Should I Read Next? spotlights a new guest every week, with whom Bogel discusses their reading list, what they look for in new books, and how they make reading part of their everyday life.
Bogel’s genuine enthusiasm and interest in her guests makes this podcast a particular pleasure to attend, plus every episode includes a wide selection of books to check out. As Bogel says, the point of the show is not to be insistent about the greatness of a single book, but to help everyone find the next read that’s right for them.
One of the most intriguing podcast titles (and indeed premises) we’ve seen in recent years, The Secret Library Podcast explores the whole nitty-gritty process of imagining, drafting, editing, and ultimately producing and publishing books. Its host Caroline Donahue is certainly an expert to trust, having launched and hosted three other book-related podcasts before this one — and her unflappable persona coupled with the real-talk conversations she has with SLP guests create a truly riveting show, especially for aspiring authors.
Whether the dialogue revolves around writing and identity, wrangling difficult characters, or simply getting the damn book printed already, every episode of The Secret Library Podcast will open your eyes as to how to navigate authorship and all its possible roadblocks.
If we had to rec just one podcast for the ridiculously time-crunched among us, it would be Writing Excuses — because literally anyone can spare fifteen minutes per week. However, the latter part of the Writing Excuses motto is patently untrue; it may be short and snappy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not whip-smart too.
Hosted by a revolving panel of hosts and going on its thirteenth season now, this podcast cuts right to the quick of each episode’s topic, though it doesn’t limit itself to a single genre or range. There are episodes about aliens and elephants right alongside more universal mini-guides for writers: on narration, character development, and how to reach that elusive finish line in your writing. But of course, the most universal aspect of this podcast is the name itself. So stop making excuses, and go listen to Writing Excuses!
Following indie authors on their one-of-a-kind self-publishing journeys, this podcast chronicles the exciting adventures of first-time authors — from the first notes they scribble to getting their books on the shelves (or Amazon pages).
Host Casimir M. Stone gets up close and personal with authors who’ve managed to make it all the way through the process, asking thoughtful questions and devising great takeaways for writers. And Shaz Kahng, the author and guest at the center of season one, is sure to capture you with her self-publishing story. Creative and engaging, Bestseller is the perfect podcast for anyone hoping to self-publish someday — or who just needs a bit of a kick to start writing in the first place.
David Naimon’s literary podcast is one for the more ambitious and available (time-wise, that is) among us; each episode is well over an hour long and can get into pretty heavy discussions. However, Between the Covers’ classic book club format will massively appeal to those who prefer intense focus to more sporadic attention, and who love diving headfirst into a single book at a time.
In this podcast, Naimon addresses everything from the author’s particular writing process to dissecting individual scenes within each book — and the revelations he brings to light will make you wonder why you never thought so profoundly about literature before (even if you thought you had!). In other words, Between the Covers may require more commitment than some of the other choices on this list, but the ensuing rewards will be well worth it.
Remember Nelly Yuki from Gossip Girl? Apparently, after attending Constance Billard and working as a reporter for Women’s Wear Daily, she turned to the podcast game. Well, not really. But the actress who played her, Yin Chang, really is the triple-threat creator, host, and producer of 88 Cups of Tea: a cheery podcast all about the writing life and how to “make shiz happen” in your own writing career, whatever it may be.
Chang’s guests range from authors to actors to agents, and she adeptly picks their brains for writing advice and motivation. She knows exactly when to prompt her guest with another question and when to let them talk — indeed, Chang’s willingness to simply listen to people’s stories allows us as her audience to become completely absorbed. Every so often, though, she’ll chime back in, her voice like sunshine coming through your speakers to cheer you on.
9. Story Grid
The Story Grid podcast’s premise is simple yet irresistible: “helping you become a better writer.” It has an especially good balance of co-hosts, with both Shawn Coyne (head of Story Grid and an experienced editor) and Tim Grahl (a self-described “struggling writer”) at the helm. The dynamic duo tackles tough questions like “why do we suffer so much for our art?” and “is it ever time to just quit?” with signature candor and humor that all writers will appreciate.
They discuss their own career and creative hurdles, swapping stories and advising each other on the hard stuff. You know that they’re not just going to give vague, repetitive suggestions, but rather actionable tips that any writer — experienced or not, published or not — should be able to follow. So yes, listening to Story Grid will definitely help you become a better writer… if you’re willing to put in the work that these two do.
Literary Friction is both a) a superb pun and b) one of the most innovative and culturally on-the-nose podcasts out there today. Hosts Carrie Plitt and Octavia Bright have a splendid rapport and razor-sharp instincts for conversational topics — though they’re helped by their range of diverse and fascinating guests. These include the likes of Thomas Page McBee (the first transgender man to box at Madison Square Garden) and Ottessa Moshfegh (author of the stunning and subversive novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation). Yet even LF’s lesser-known guests are always a unique joy.
It updates less frequently than many of the others on this list, typically only putting out one episode a month. However, this podcast is undoubtedly a case of quality over quantity, and every moment of it speaks to its careful planning and the investment of its talented hosts.
Such is the lesson of these podcasts: that investment in something you love really can end up paying great dividends. So as little time as you might have this year, try and put as much as possible toward your creative passion project. You just might end up a guest on a super-cool podcast — or indeed, hosting one of your very own.