If you are an avid reader or a passionate writer and you are not listening to The Other Ppl podcast, then seriously what are you doing?
I have been listening to Brad Listi talk to a number of my favorite authors for a few months now and I thoroughly enjoy each conversation with its kind of laid back and intimate vibe. Brad Listi is the author of the novel Attention. Deficit. Disorder. and founder of The Nervous Breakdown, an online culture magazine, and literary community.
Brad was kind enough to answer some questions about this community and his writing! Let's get right into it...
You have created quite a literary community between your podcast Otherppl and your online magazine “The Nervous Breakdown.” What drew you to create both platforms? Have you always been surrounded by writers or creatives (parents, family, etc) or did you create these spaces to make up for a lack?
I grew up in the Midwest, far from cultural capitals, and neither of my parents is an artist. The magazine and the podcast began as experiments. The Nervous Breakdown launched in 2006 as an outgrowth of the work that I was doing to promote my debut novel. I was blogging on, of all things, Myspace. It occurred to me that I should join forces with other writers. With the internet and the rise of social media, the barrier to entry was gone. Back then it felt novel (to me, anyway). Anyone could start a magazine. I gave it a shot. Twelve years later, here we are. It was less about trying to fill some void and more about wanting to see what would happen.
Since then, the site has evolved and there have been offshoots—the book club, the live events series, the small press. In 2011, I launched the podcast, thinking it would only run for a few months. I would try it out, see how it went. Seven years later, it’s still going. No end in sight.
You have spoken to a number of authors, with over 500 episodes of the Otherppl podcast. What are some of the most valuable lessons you have learned from all these diverse writers?
The show functions as an ongoing graduate-level education for me. That’s at the core of why I do it. It’s also a big chunk of my social life, and sometimes feels like therapy. I’ve learned so much from my guests over the years—too many things to enumerate. Writing-wise, I always say that the three main lessons tend to be: write on a schedule (every day or close to it), don’t write for money, and read a ton. It sounds simple, and conceptually it is. But very few actually do it.
In your recent interview with Ottessa Moshfegh, you comically suggested that this podcast is a giant form of procrastination from your own writing. Why do you think we often find excuses or almost reject our writing even though we know that finishing a project will be so rewarding?
The truth is that I’m genuinely confused about the podcast’s function in my life. Is it procrastination? Maybe. Is it art? Maybe. Is it indulgent? I hope not.
On my better days, I view it as an ongoing creative project and with increasing frequency ask myself why I wouldn’t consider it to be on par with, say, writing a memoir or a novel. What difference does it make? Paint, draw, do spoken word, play some music, write, sculpt, collage…podcast (?).
The form seems to carry the same kind of bastard-child identity as, say, blogging, perhaps because everyone (right now, anyway) seems to have one, and there’s no barrier to entry or check on quality or what have you. To publish a book, on the other hand, carries with it a certain measure of prestige, even if the pay tends to be terrible and most books die quiet little deaths.
I sometimes wonder if I’m trying to write a book because I feel I should or if it’s because I really want to. I sometimes wonder if I’m podcasting as an elaborate form of procrastination or if it’s because it’s my most natural mode of artistic expression. It’s certainly much more fun for me than writing, though writing can be enormously satisfying when it’s going well. I’ll also say that there have been many, many moments over the years where, while podcasting, l've felt a sense of genuine creative excitement bordering on transcendence. (Is conversation an art form?) I suppose it comes down totruth, those little moments of illumination, when a person’s guard is down, when my guard is down. When it happens, it’s unmistakable. I feel it physically. That probably sounds melodramatic. I don’t know what to tell you.
The range of writers you have on the podcast is very refreshing. Do you have a particular process for how you choose each writer to be on the show?
No, there’s no process. I talk with writers who interest me. I sometimes go by instinct. I sometimes take requests. I sometimes get an urgent recommendation. It just depends. It’s mostly intuitive. My goal is for the podcast to be inclusive and varied and unpredictable, reflecting the huge variety of voices and perspectives out there. I’m aiming for a broad diversity—gender, racial, sexual orientation, small press, big press, micro-press, fiction, nonfiction, poetry. All of it factors in. All of it matters. And there’s always room to improve.
If you could speak to your younger self, what is some advice about writing, creating, starting these communities, you would give?
I suppose I would tell myself to focus more, but the truth is that my interest in experimentation, my desire to do many things, is the reason why TNB and the podcast exist in the first place. It’s a bit of a conundrum. I don’t have a solid answer for myself. I suppose this is just my nature. I’m 43. By now, it would seem that the verdict is in. These are the choices I’ve made, and they’re not all bad. I’m never going to be one of those tunnel-visioned writer people who work on their art to the exclusion of pretty much everything else. I have a day job. I have a wife and kids to support. I have a podcast. I have a literary magazine. I’ve written for television. I’ve published and edited books. And so on. I’m pretty much resigned to the mess of it all.
A huge shout out to Brad for sharing this with us! You can find Brad on both his Twitter accounts: @bradlisti and @otherppl
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