Category Archives: Podcast

Write While True Episode 39: Dark and Light

The white pastel can draw white on top of the charcoal, so now I can make white marks, which can also be smudged and mixed. It’s giving me a range of values I couldn’t get before. Throwing white highlights onto a dark drawing is a way of directing attention and makes it more interesting.

Black and white, on a drawing, are the extreme values. If I try to apply this idea to writing, it should also be a juxtaposition of opposite extremes.


Write While True Episode 38: Content-free Sentences

I’m reading a book by Stanley Fish called How to Write a Sentence. I found this book by Googling that exact question because I wanted to find anything that might be a fit for what I’m podcasting about this season.


Self-Hosting a Podcast: 2.5 Years Later

It’s been 2.5 years since I started working on a podcast and decided to self-host using the Blubrry WordPress Plugin and S3. Here are my original reasons and current thinking:

  • I want the episodes to be available indefinitely, even if I stop making new ones“: This worked out great since I took a break for 2 years between episode 15 and 16. It would have felt bad paying a bill for something I wasn’t actively doing.
  • I don’t want to pay for just hosting“: The key is “just hosting”. I think there are potentially a lot of things I (as an amateur podcaster) might like to pay for, but I didn’t see anyone offering something I cared about.
  • I don’t care about analytics“: This is the main downside to self-hosting. I rolled my own analytics, but I’m not 100% sure they are correct. The problem is that to get anyone else to do your analytics, you have to send listeners to their URLs, which I am unwilling to do—partly because of the privacy leakage, but mostly because I value my URLs too much. I haven’t found this, but I’d like service I could upload weblogs to and get useful podcast-oriented analytics from.
  • “I have the skills and desire to learn how to self-host“: I don’t think you should self-host unless this is true for you.

Two years later, I can say that my system is easy to use and never requires any intervention to keep running. I never think about the reliability of S3 or Blubrry. My analytics scripts have needed tweaking, but that has mostly settled down.

Write While True Episode 37: The Passive Voice Was Used

Today I want to talk about one of the rules that’s in Strunk and White. It’s actually in almost every book about writing, which is to use the active voice and to prefer it over the passive voice.


Write While True Episode 36: Stack of Paragraphs

The advice applies to any kind of writing. It resonated with me because I feel like I might be having that problem in my written work. That sometimes my writing feels like a stack of paragraphs. I am feeling the lack of propulsion that John and Aline described.


Generating Podcast Episode Ideas

Tomorrow, I will record and publish episode 36 of Write While True. I have not given a lot of thought about the content yet except that I have the topic.

For each episode, all I want to do is end with a takeaway that I have learned about writing better, It feels like there should be a limitless number of topics, so I’m not worried about running out, but I still need to think of them.

To make it more focused, I have been using “seasons” to set a theme. At some point in the week, something that fits in the theme comes to me. Sometimes it’s from something I’m reading, or maybe another podcast, or it just pops into my head from some past bit of writing advice I saw somewhere.

Sometimes I get an idea that is not on theme. For that, I just make a card on my podcast Trello board. Eventually, there will be enough cards in some other theme that I can use to start a new season.

In a way it’s a lot like James Webb Young’s Technique for Producing Ideas. He recommends exposing yourself to both random things and the problem you are trying to solve. At some point, a new idea will pop into your head, since new ideas are just novel combinations of old ideas.

Then, you refine it, because the idea alone is only a seed, and not good enough on its own.

Write While True Episode 35: Zombie Nouns

I recently came across the phrase zombie nouns, which was coined by Helen Sword. She’s an author and currently runs a private consultancy to help writers. Back in 2012, she was teaching at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and she wrote an article for the New York Times called Zombie Nouns.


Write While True Episode 34: Word of the Day

What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to learn how to recall fit words when we need them in our writing. To get better at that, we need to be exposed to more interesting words and to practice using them. Imagine situations where they would be perfect. Making it memorable and ridiculous might help you remember the word when you need it.


Write While True Episode 33: Collect Sentences

The idea of collecting quotes is not something new. I think that’s the way most people think of note taking in general. There’s even a style of journal some people keep called a Commonplace book, which builds on this idea. In a Commonplace book, you are mostly collecting the thoughts of others. You might also put in your own reaction to those—your thoughts on those thoughts—but the focus is on the collecting.

I want to recommend a spin on this idea.


Write While True Episode 32: Paragraph Checklist

I think one sentence from David Lambuth really sums up what I want to say about paragraphs. Here it is.

There is no absolute rule for paragraphing. Your own feeling must be your guide.