I’ve become a regular listener to RadioLab. If you’re not familiar with this incredible show, I highly recommend you check it out. It’s distributed by NPR and produced at WNYC. Subscribe to their podcast or listen online. If you are familiar with it, well, I’m not telling you much you probably don’t already know.
A couple of days ago I was listening to an episode titled “Desperately Seeking Symmetry”. Like all of their shows, the content was well researched, entertainingly delivered, and expertly produced. And, of course, it got me to thinking. Not so much about the content of that show, but the way it is delivered.
RadioLab feels effortless. As if Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich just walked into the studio, sat down, and started sharing stories. But of course they didn’t. They worked their asses off to appear that effortless. They also have a team of writers and producers to help make ideas come to life. They collaborate to create this orchestra of information. One creative mind inspired by another. Growing because of it.
And then there is the general structure of the show itself. Often beginning with a fun, somewhat light-hearted story, the show weaves three or four tales that really could stand alone. On the surface, they seem to have little in common, but when linked they become much. much more. At the end of each show I find myself more often than not nodding, and saying to myself , “Yep. That totally makes sense.” If I’m not saying that to myself, then I’m often wondering, “How can I find out more about this?”
I’ve been thinking about walls a lot lately. About how they pertain to the work we all create. I’ve run into a few of them in a few recent projects. The work is good. I’m proud of what I’ve done, but it still doesn’t feel “finished” yet. It doesn’t feel like I’m saying anything that hasn’t already been said before. While I know that art doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel necessarily, I do believe in order for it to get past the point of “decoration” it needs to at least stretch the boundaries of any other similar genres. It needs to make the overall body stronger, not just heavier. It needs to reinforce, not reproduce.
Listening to RadioLab is, for me, a great lesson in many of the things needed to accomplish significant work.
• A tremendous mastery of craft.
• Access to information.
• Trust from those providing us information.
• A firm grasp of the subject matter we are presenting.
• Patience (many times you’ll here, “So we had an idea for this story a few years ago . . .”)
• A team of folks we trust that can help make us, and our work, better
Perhaps most importantly, though, is this bit of information that can be gleaned from Radiolab episodes.
The integral aspects of communication and problem solving are never at the surface. They are rarely what we see right away. Rather, they lie deeper, somewhere beneath the surface, and because of this, often link elements that otherwise seem totally unrelated. It’s when we make these connections that our work breaks through whatever walls might be blocking us.
Keep at it. If you’re stuck, stop looking in the same places. Go do something else. Wrap your mind around another story altogether, or even another craft. You may be surprised at some of the “aha!” moments that can occur.
And, above all else, go find your “team”. Life is much better when you do. I promise.