Podcast of the week: Start With This
This is real, dense, gripping conversation about the making of things and for anyone who is beginning to make things
Cranor and Fink are just chatting away to one another quite sincerely, however, there is a serious attention to detail.
There haven’t been many podcasts in my experience that are handled like a private lecture. Joseph Cranor and Jeffrey Fink are authors and creators of iconic podcast Welcome To Night Vale, and in Start With This, they spend a little over half an hour delivering a thoughtful, concise, often philosophical class on creativity and art-making. This is an important and useful thing: so rarely do creators speak candidly and in a way that authentically demystifies the process of making the art they need to make.
This is a very generous listen: the conversation feels very free-flowing, as though Cranor and Fink are just chatting away to one another quite sincerely, however, there is a serious attention to detail. They are not just riffing on “how to have an idea” or “how to write a book” – they are talking point to point about their own experiences, quite practically, about how to make a thing. Fink tells a particularly sweet anecdote about pretending to write songs in his head when he was younger – then realising that he was, in fact, actually writing songs. Addressing the reality that art making is habitual, and can be mundane, is a really powerful thing – and empowering, for those who are just starting out.
They discuss the process of the “study” – small examinations of one tiny feature of a larger work, and how they can be a perfect spot to start. Saying that executing an idea doesn’t have to be perfect at first is tremendously freeing: one can just begin, without feeling perfect, or final. They also discuss self-sabotage, and how sometimes it seems easier to keep the perfect novel you haven’t written inside your head, because then you never have to write it and risk mediocrity.
Cranor and Fink end the podcast on some homework, too, which lends a lovely structure to the listening experience: the feeling of having attended a class and being handed a takeaway when the session is over. This approach is really involving: an invitation to continue working, to being something in the aftermath of having listened. This is real, dense, gripping conversation about the making of things and for anyone who is beginning to make things, or even any art practitioner who is looking to re-examine process, it is a vital listening experience.