Podcast creativity, thinking aloud and Elin’s Story

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This week I’m thinking about podcast scripts, trying to move forward with my historical novel, and exploring my own creative process as I go. Last week’s effort here was not a great triumph. A meta-text about a blog post (or three) that I planned to write, but couldn’t. I want to do better this week, but I fear another meta-text coming on.

Thinking aloud and talking with myself

Some time ago I attempted to study for a PhD. One of the hoops I was encouraged to jump through was called “Thinking Aloud”. Alternatively “Talking with Myself”. I do both of these – when I’m sure there’s no one around to overhear me – and can see how the two might have either of these names, but in my head they are different. Thinking aloud is a monologue, while talking with myself is a dialogue.

When I’m thinking aloud I imagine myself addressing an audience in a lecture theatre, or a class of students, and developing a line of thought or presenting an account. When I’m talking with myself, it’s more a case of trying out arguments. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. One part of me makes statements, another part tests them by looking for counter arguments. Then I have a bit of an argument until I can find a solution. Thinking aloud feels more formal, talking with myself more informal.

I appreciate this is probably just me. My university tutor didn’t seem to understand the fine distinction I was making. What he was looking for was insight into my creative process. Ceramic artists and mechanics working on machinery, my tutor said, had both exercised these techniques and in doing so revealed to themselves how their thought processes worked. And in the process of reflection, had become better able to do their art or fix their machines.

He suggested I talk aloud (and record myself talking) as I sat at the computer to write.

I’m always open to try new things. (Mrs SC will snort disbelievingly, but I think it’s true. To be sure, I might take some persuading.) And so I tried it out.

It was an unmitigated disaster.

Cancelling out

It went completely against my grain. As I say, I talk with myself or think aloud only when I am alone. Doing it knowing I was recording myself, knowing that my tutor would be listening in, I found myself painfully self-conscious. It was like improvising on stage. I know it’s something actors and comedians do as a training exercise, and some of them do it professionally. But I’m not an actor (though some people might call me a comedian, not meaning to be kind). I can’t improvise in front of an audience.

The second barrier was actually in the creative process itself. Try as I might, I simply couldn’t create a sentence on a screen as I talked aloud about the sentence I was creating. I think the two processes engage the same parts of my brain, and cancel each other out. Like a positive and negative on either side of a mathematical equation.

I gave up.

And yet I understand that the creative process is fascinating. It fascinates me. And if only I knew how I did it, or how other people do it, maybe I could get better at it. Do it more efficiently. Stop procrastinating.

Elin’s story as a podcast?

I’ve been thinking about this again in respect of my long-standing, long unfinished historical novel, Elin’s Story. I’ve started (yet again) reviewing the material, trying to push on with it. This time I’m toying with the idea of using the story as the core of a series of podcasts exploring the business of writing creatively.

I’m not thinking of writing Elin’s Story at the same time as I write my reflections on my creative process. That wouldn’t work. Instead I am thinking of writing small pieces of the story, pausing, writing a reflection on my process, and then going on with some other small pieces. The idea would be to create short scripts for the podcast from a combination of story writing and reflection, shaping the scripts so as to make each episode self-contained.

Why do this? (Thinking aloud here!) Why not sit down and simply write the story?

Because there’s nothing simple about it, at least not in my experience. But I am able to write (more or less) weekly blog posts, which are each a kind of self-contained episode. Writing podcast scripts, I imagine, would not be such a big step away from what I know I can do. And it would allow me to fool myself into writing regularly for Elin’s Story. I might also learn more about my creative process as I go along.

A creative account of an effort to create. (And there’s a meta bit for you.)

What would this do to Elin’s Story? Because I’m pretty sure it would affect how the story finally gets told.

I can’t predict what’s going to happen, but the result could be interesting.

Why podcasts?

I’ve been attracted to the idea of podcasts – or at least radio style scripted episodes – parallel to my blogging for some time. I just haven’t had a clear idea of what I wanted to do. I’m not a great podcast aficionado. I don’t think I’ve heard more than a handful in the last year or two. but I know they are becoming increasingly popular. Making one regularly, and putting it out into the appropriate market, would mean potentially reaching a wider audience. (Wider than this blog.) An audience who might then be interested in buying the book when it comes out.

After twelve years of trying to write Elin’s Story, frankly, anything that gets me to write regularly and push it forward would be a good thing.

So that’s what I’m doing now. Writing notes for podcast scripts about the process of writing my historical novel, and in the process writing the novel itself. Maybe it will be just another dead end, but maybe it will turn out to be the route I’ve been searching for through the maze.

Watch this space!

Podcast: Talking mouths, podcasting perhaps
Talking mouths, podcasting perhaps

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