BeforeYourNext Birthday-DeniseFisher’s Blog

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5 Ways “This American Life” Can Work For You – Act 3 – Motivation For Writing

Posted by denisefisher on February 2, 2009

clip_image002 It can be tough to shift gears, settle your mind, and sustain the focus needed for a writing project of any kind. This applies to more people than just journalists, authors, blog writers, and students. If you want to create a plan for your business, career, or personal goals, you’ll need to put something in writing. If you want to document family history or maintain a journal of your life story, you’ll need to quiet your mind and devote a chunk of uninterrupted time to this task. And you can’t just do it once. It takes repeated writing sessions to articulate ideas and bring a story to completion.

So many things around us stimulate the mind to race from one activity or attention-grabbing distraction to another. And the quiet, focused mindset that’s needed to write doesn’t come easily.

Enter the pre-writing exercise of listening to an episode of This American Life (TAL). This program is available through multiple media sources:

1. Your local public radio station (broadcast dates and time vary, so you’ll have to consult local programming guides)
2. Free downloaded podcasts (through iTunes or the TAL website)
3. Streaming audio you can listen to online while you’re connected to the internet
4. Purchased podcasts from the archives collection on the website
5. CDs of selected stories, available for purchase from the website’s store

While you listen to the show, through whatever means, you will find your mind calming and relaxing to the soothing voice of Ira Glass. Do not dilute this experience by trying to multi-task with other quick-paced activities. Something rhythmic, like knitting or shoe-polishing, would be ok, but stay away from large-muscle movements for these purposes.

You will find yourself engrossed in the stories you are listening to, yet, at the same time, your mind will start to engage in its own creative process. A similar thing happens when an amateur painter watches an admired artist at work on a canvas, or a casual musician sees a great performance with an instrument he plays himself. At some point, the observer experiences a compelling urge to become a creator, performer, or story teller.

You might not be able to restrain your urge to write until the end of the program, so have your writing tablet and implements, or your keyboard, within reach, even if it’s just to make notes. Then ride that wave of momentum and write for as long as you are able. You will feel such a sense of satisfaction with what you’ve done, and you’ll have a new option available to use when you’re struck with writer’s block or just a hectic lifestyle of distractions.

Here are some episodes that you may want to start with for this tip (I’ve included several suggestions, since you’ll need them for your many writing sessions):

#14 Accidental Documentaries

#314 It’s Never Over

#261 The Sanctity of Marriage

#167 Memo to the People of the Future

#174 Birthdays, Anniversaries, and Milestones

#114 Last Words

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