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Is Any Writing Wasted?

Anyone who writes, whether they’ve been doing it for years or just starting, wonders what will happen to their outtakes. Some days, you’re working through a character, some backstory, a plot line, and you realize that you just spent four cups of tea fueling something that didn’t work. You put those idea scraps away, hoping for a better day.

Later, you revisit them. This is the great value of keeping good daybooks, diaries, and notebooks. At the end of a month, or a year, you can go have a look around in your mind and find those things you obsess about might be worth revisiting. Something you wrote didn’t work last month, but now it fits into something you’re working on. Usually, it’s because the world has changed, or you have. “There is a bit of this that will work, you tell yourself,” and likely you will be right. There is a character, a mood, a place, or even a skillset that can be revived.

Here’s an example. Once upon a time in New York, I wrote and produced plays. After I moved away to California, it didn’t seem likely that I would ever write or produce a play again. I was heavily involved with screenplays, teleplays, documentary scripts, and writing the evening news. Then, a couple of decades later, something called podcasting showed up. I realized I could take my playwriting skills and put them to work in a podcast. I could write fiction for actors, as I used to do with plays, and get it in front of many people, possibly more than I ever did before. So I did.

I broke off a piece of a novel I was writing (it’s a metaphor; didn’t actually break anything) and turned in into a 10-episode audio drama. It felt good, so I did it again, correcting my earlier mistakes by making the episodes shorter and less expensive to produce, with a more manageable cast. Mission of the Lunar Sparrow premiered last year. It’s a two-character play in the shape of a short-form podcast. It felt good, so I did it again, this time creating Your Performance Review, a 10-episode audio drama that will premiere in a couple of months.

Podcasting is a flexible storytelling medium. You might take a series of articles or blog you wrote and give it all fresh life by reading it aloud and recording for a podcast. Or you could discover scenes in that unpublished novel or screenplay would adapt well, whether as an enhanced sort of audiobook or a fully realized audio scenario. In podcasting, you can scale up or scale back. As the expression goes, audio production has the biggest special effects budget because it is all in your listener’s mind.

I don’t think of reworking material for a podcast as recycling material. It’s a second life, something like reincarnation. It’s especially valuable now because we can become self-producers and distributors. There’s nothing and no one standing in the way of an audience discovering your work. You can take that one-act play, or that series of monologues, or those scenes from your novel, or a short story series, and give listeners a chance to appreciate them in audio.

I’m starting a podcast Creative Working Group to do all the things I just wrote about. It’s 12 sessions, and it starts on February 16. Consider it as a safe place to workshop the second life of your creative output.

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