Friday, September 19, 2014

Notes on Ira Glass

Every week feels like a big week! A lot has been happening and I am getting big information about writing and creativity all the time! Inspiration abounds...

Last weekend, I was able to see Ira Glass speak/perform at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Pete as part of WUSF's 50th birthday celebration.  As an avid This American Life listener, I was psyched about seeing the man behind the voice. But I had no idea how relevant his performance was going to be!

As it turns out, all he wanted to talk about was STORY! And how lucky for me since I am currently getting a masters degree in exactly that!!



He started off by telling us that everyone knows that the world is going to shit. We are living in a crazy and despairing world.

Does that mean it that our work as storytellers is less important?
NO! In fact, he claims that there has never been a better time to do creative work! That was pretty heartening news for a girl who just started her first semester of a 3 year graduate program in the arts!

He also let us in on some secrets about what makes a story good and how to keep your listeners/readers engaged:

Your story needs to be a combination of PLOT (action) and IDEA (vs summary and synthesis). They each create an appetite for the other. You also need to hang QUESTIONS within the ACTION. This creates narrative suspense. Also, readers want to know what it FEELS like to live inside your world. SHOW them what it's like to live there.

Questions writers should ask of their writing;
How should the reader relate to this story?
What is the underlying universal emotional that anyone can connect to?

He told us that it took him a long time to sound on the radio the way he does in real life. I think that's what makes him so appealing. Sounding natural is a hard thing to do on the page, but I'm working on it.

Takeaway messages:

  • Not using humor is like giving up a weapon.
  • You need to shoot 60 hours of footage in order to get 5 minutes of gold. If you want lightning to strike, you need to walk around in the rain for a looong time.
  • Spend TIME and MONEY on your story, learning about the characters and finding 1) what's amusing and 2) where are the emotional hits.
  • A writer has to KNOW when they are surprised/curious/amused so they can tell their reader. This mimics real conversation.
  • It's a good thing when things go bad.
  • Run towards something at full speed, even if it's just a hunch. You never know what you'll find there.
  • Action, action, action, question! If it's a great story, all of the questions get answered in one single moment.


After the show, we all went to get drinks at a place called Ceviche in downtown St. Pete. We closed down the place, and then a few of us may or may not have ended up swimming in the ocean......... My extroverted self was thrilled!