Learning from the Experts

Ira Glass:

Glass’s series on storytelling not only taught me about the important factors in radio broadcasting, but also showed me how similar things are to regular storytelling. Throughout listening to his videos, I found myself relating his ideas with what radio broadcasting should be, to what I’ve learned about how traditional writing or even art should be.

Phrases like “kill your darlings” and the notion that you won’t be amazing right away, or even for several years, allowed me to relate what I know about storytelling to how it is done in radio broadcasting. These were very important things to realize, because sometimes radio broadcasting seems like such a different craft than traditional storytelling, it’s hard to wrap your head around it. In fact, it’s not that much different at all, and it extends off of regular storytelling.

What I found most important was that, during broadcasting, you have to act natural and human. It’s apparently very easy to get so lost in your idea of what broadcasting is, you turn into that alien subject that you have trouble understanding because it’s so different from what you know. You have to let your words flow naturally. Like you’re talking to someone. It’s the same thing as oral storytelling, but with a much wider audience.

I also, throughout the first video in which he describes the two parts that broadcasting must have, found myself trying to relate that description to what he was actually doing. There was a “click” moment when he talked about the reflection part, and how anecdotes have to have a moment of reflection to make it all worth it, where I realized he was showing us that moment of reflection in his explanation. Or maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about, and I’m just trying to get very meta with this. Either way, it was a moment that stuck really well with me.

Jad Abumrad:

Abumrad’s interview “How Radio Creates Empathy“, though it is short, taught me why exactly radio is still so prevalent and important in storytelling. He talks about how there’s a co-authorship between the person speaking on the radio, and the listener. The speaker talks about an image, and the listener paints that image in their mind, and that’s the complete story, not just one side or the other.

The idea that the radio relies on both people, and that this connection is intimate, immediate, and important is absolutely fascinating, but something I wholeheartedly agree with. Without one side, the entire story collapses; for something to be successful, the speaker has to describe it well, and the listener has to be willing to imagine it. It makes the experience interactive, which I think is important in storytelling.

As for his talk about “gut churn” and what it’s like to be in that business and become what you want to be, I found it to also be very eye-opening. The feeling of dread that happens when you’re doing something, but you’re not sure what you’re doing, and you have no direction, is extremely familiar, especially when you’ve been taught to always follow directions. Creating things when you don’t have an initial direction to go in is terrifying, but it can lead to some amazing things.

His discussion on having to find what your “thing” is, and to be creative and different also resonated with me. There are those pessimists out there who claim that anything that can be thought of, has already been created. But that’s not true. Technology and the world is always changing. There will always be a way to be different, the difficulty is finding out how to be different, and to make a name for yourself.

I learned a lot of things from both of these experts. Some things I knew, but had never applied to any other medium. Some things opened my eyes to what radio broadcasting and audio storytelling is supposed to be. It taught me about the field and the creative process and many other things. Most importantly, though, I think everything I learned will help me enjoy audio storytelling more than I have before.

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