Ira Glass, Disembodied Mentor Extraordinaire

Me and one of the sis-in-law's before we went in to hear Ira Glass speak.

Me and one of the sis-in-law’s before we went in to hear Ira Glass speak.

Seeing Ira Glass talk live this last weekend nearly turned me into the screaming, weeping sort of person that usually frequents heart-throbby boy band concerts and has usernames like SoAndSo’sGirlfriend or MrsSoAndSo.

I can’t help it that the man is one of my idols. So much of what I want to do with storytelling I first recognized while listening to broadcasts of This American Life way back in film school when my professors used the show as an example of great interviewing. Some of my earliest lessons on how to tell a story compassionately, honestly and entertainingly were taught to me in Ira Glass’ distinctive voice.

And he’s like this gift that keeps giving, keeps teaching me.

When he walked onto the dark stage on Saturday night and, still invisible to all of us in the audience, started talking about the intimacy of hearing someone’s story in their own voice without seeing what they look like, I felt chills go up and down my spine. It was such a surreal thing to be staring into the blackness on stage and to hear his voice stretching out to us, disembodied.

It was something I hadn’t really considered before about the difference between radio and and other reporting or storytelling mediums, but I think he’s right. There is a special sort of intimacy in just listening to someone’s voice.

It struck me that writing can do something similar. Isn’t that what we as writers hope to accomplish? Make the reader connect with the characters? Draw the reader into the story in such a way that they feel like they have relationships with the characters? Someone can read the words we’ve written, and if we’ve done a good job they hear the character’s unique voice almost as if they were really talking to them.

I think this is one of the reasons I like to read so much–why I’ve been leaning more toward the written word lately rather than film. That special intimacy that comes with reading a story instead of seeing it, like a whisper so close it’s actually inside your mind. (Too creepy?)

Don’t get me wrong–film and TV have their own unique ways of getting to us as well. It’s just that the written word is what’s been calling to me. It’s calling to me right now. It’s time to go write.


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