I was playing around in Twitter the other day and bumped into a fella named @AdamPetrash who mentioned his goal of reading twenty books in the next few months to reach a grand total of ninety-five by the end of the year.
I’m not sure I topped ten books this year (and if you check my seldom updated Goodreads profile it will look like even less). I’m not a super-fast reader to start with – if the book is good I tend to slow down and try to soak up the language, rubbing my brain against the talent I see there; and if the book is not holding my interest so easily I’m apt to put it down and check my Facebook newsfeed or some similar time wasting exercise – but the real enemy is one we all know and love to talk about. That evil bastard called…shall we say it together? Time.
In addition to writing I spend my waking hours trying to help businesses make money online, leaving precious little time for escapist reading, but it is still a necessity and a priority. A writer who “doesn’t have time to read” is the most detestable of creatures. He is like a lumberjack who insists on chopping wood with a dull-edged blade, and will eventually cut his leg off as penance for such stupidity. Everyone has time to read, if they want to. Let me repeat that: Everyone has time to read. Some of us are a little crowded on the calendar – hell, I’ll bet most of you are – but when I need to poke holes in my work-box and gasp for a few breaths of enlightenment, I listen to podcasts.
My brother, Tim Dodge, is a writer and an early adopter of podcasts. Whenever we see each other he tells me about writers he’s discovered, people he often meets at conventions. It sounded cool to me, but it took me years to download my first podcast. The biggest reason is that I don’t enjoy being read to very much. It’s hard to keep my attention grounded in the narration and dialogue when my mind has a tendency to wand—hey look! A butterfly! Some of you may have a similar affliction, but I would encourage you to take a crack at it anyway. There’s a button on the podcast app that allows you to jump forward or backward ten seconds at a time. I use that button a lot, and when my mind is too restless to pay attention I just stop the recording and finish thinking. Why not? I’m not on deadline by jeezum!
I started listening to podcasts mainly for my day job – there are excellent business shows out there that have completely changed my outlook on marketing – and there are some excellent fiction selections as well. The one I listen to most is Psuedopod, one of the premier horror fiction podcasts out there. Most of the featured stories are about thirty to forty minutes long, which is perfect for my commute. Those of us who live in Vermont are used to spending a good share of time at the wheel, and you could do worse than plug in some Psuedopod. Others decent ones I’ve found are Hall of Mirrors, Dark Verse, and Horror Stories, which features old-timey radio serials. Theatre-of-the-mind at its best! I’ll confess that I do bump into stories that bore me on occasion. When that happens, I move on to something else. When you’re standing in line at a huge buffet, there’s no reason to eat cold canned salmon.
The podcast is your friend, folks. It’s your opportunity to spit in the eye of the great enemy of the twenty-first century – time – and I highly recommend it to everyone who loves to read. And really, what are you missing by turning off the radio for a while? Trust me, that Taylor Swift song will still be there when you come back.
Here is how to get started:
1. Go to the App Store on your phone or iPod and download the free “Podcast” app.
2. Browse the store and subscribe to what you like. I like to browse iTunes from my desktop, set up my subscriptions and then sync it to my phone. iTunes has a bunch of shows and they’re all categorized by topic. Maybe you’re a big fan of “Marketplace” on NPR? You can subscribe to it and never miss another episode.
3. Plug your mobile device into an AUX jack on your car stereo and let ‘er rip! If you don’t have one, you can get an adapter that plugs into your cigarette lighter and allows you to play your iPod over a radio frequency. The audio quality suffers at times, but it works.
Podcasts are an essential content strategy to many entrepreneurs and artists, so most of the content out there is free. And there are video shows as well as audio for you YouTube junkies out there, but we’re talking about reading while driving here. No need to get into that speech.
Another benefit is, like most online communities, podcasts offer you a chance to get to know the writer on a more personal level. My brother Tim just wrote in his blog about a very talented writer and podcaster named Eugie Foster who has just been diagnosed with cancer. She has health insurance, but that only goes so far when you’re dealing with ongoing treatments. Many people would start a fundraising campaign to cushion the financial blow, but Eugie is simply encouraging the fans who’ve enjoyed her free podcasts over the years to buy her story collections and leave reviews on Amazon. Seems reasonable enough. I’m not familiar with her work, but I just purchased Returning My Sister’s Face and look forward to diving into her work. If you’d care to do the same, please follow the link above.
Yeah, we’re all pressed for time, and I’m betting that notion has entirely new meaning for Eugie Foster, but God willing, she will beat the disease where it stands and keep living, loving, and creating new worlds for us to explore. So download a podcast and give yourself some creative breathing room. Maybe you’ll find more time for your passion, whatever that may be.