Here’s Why Truckers Give Good Writing Advice

Recently, I took creative advice from a truck driver and wound up doing something extremely crazy, risky, and rewarding.

In short, I launched Blister and Muck, a story time podcast for families sequestered at home during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Did I know anything about how to produce a podcast? Nope.

Did I have any prior experience with recording equipment or software? Does making mix tapes for high school boyfriends count?

To control the acoustics, I drop these curtains around my desk before I record.

So, why did I think this venture was a good idea? Admittedly, about the time I was stapling blankets and sheets around my home office, I did begin to question whether this really was a good idea. Perhaps I’d been a bit rash… Or maybe a tad punchdrunk after too many days cooped up at home alone when I heard what sounded like transcendent gospel coming from that trucker on a Sunday morning.

I sat at my dining table, transfixed and quasi-paralyzed with awe, as if I had been speared by one those blinding white tractor beams that shoot out alien spaceships.

The radical, soul-quaking advice came from Jerry Saltz, a former truck driver turned artist and art critic late in life. During and NPR interview, he said, “[Art] is open all the time. If people would just give themselves permission to be and do whatever they want to do…so what if’t not that good? The only way to take the curse of fear away from working — the only way — is to get to work.”

Welcome to the jungle?

Hearing that call to action spurred me to dive into podcasting. Saltz’s advice clarified and unified many of my competing urges. First, I wanted to do something meaningful (and cost-free) for families trapped at home and hard hit by this devastating global crisis. I can’t sew, so forget making masks. I don’t have the teaching license needed to take on K-12 classes, online or otherwise. I am not a health care professional and I don’t work an essential job.

But I do believe I possess an essential skill: storytelling.

If I could release a story that brought people together for even an ounce of distraction, comfort, and delight, then I’d be overjoyed.

Second, I’d been pitching this idea to agents and publishers for several years already. Always they praised the characters, the plot, the dynamic writing, but in the end scratched their heads at how to translate a story to podcast. (Even though it’s not a novel idea. There are many story time and storytelling podcasts out there already; many of them brilliant!) After each rejection, I knew to a finer point how Jim Henson must have felt pitching The Muppet Show all those years. You want to do what with puppets on TV? And what the heck are muppets, exactly?

Eek! Look at the very professional mic!

Saltz’s excellent coaching granted me permission to try. Permission to learn new skills. Permission to experiment. Permission to feel raw passion for creation. Permission to run amok. Permission to stay up many nights past 2am tinkering. Permission to angst. Permission to shrug and say, “Good enough. Perfection is the enemy of completion.”

So if there’s anything big, anything new, anything scary you’re yearning yet hesitating to do, I heartily endorse Jerry Saltz’s advice. Upend the curse of fear and get to work.

And if you or any families you know could use a weekly dose of lighthearted mystery, please check out (and share) Blister and Muck, a madcap caper that tails two hungry mismatched rats who must bamboozle a mad scientist trapping animals in some shocking electric traps. Young listeners and the young at heart can follow these rats on funny, scary, furry misadventures.

Episodes are available on Libsyn, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Deezer, and just about anywhere else you get your podcasts. 


By jenmichellemason

Jenny is a story hunter. She has explored foreign countries, canyon mazes, and burial crypts to gather the facts that make good stories. Once, she sniffed a 200-year-old skull...for research purposes. Jenny received an M.Phil from Trinity College Dublin and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. She has authored nearly 20 STEM books for young readers. Her inquisitive and funny nonfiction articles have appeared in Mountain Flyer, Cobblestone, and Muse magazines. Jenny also works as a freelance copy writer for nonprofits and small businesses.

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