The Showrunner behind multiple top-ranking podcasts and Vice President of Marketing for the Rainmaker.FM podcast network, Jerod Morris, paid me a visit this week to talk about his beginnings as a writer, podcaster, and digital marketer.
This episode is brought to you by StudioPress Sites.
Mr. Morris started out online as a sports blogger and became the editor of a high-traffic blog that was tapped by Fox Sports.
His blogging has led to quite a few opportunities for the writer, including:
- Co-founding a WordPress hosting company
- Leading the editorial team for Copyblogger.com
- Launching and co-hosting multiple top-ranked podcasts
- … and becoming the VP of Marketing for the Rainmaker.FM podcast network — to name only a few
On the eve of the launch of his new Showrunner Podcasting Course, we had a chance to talk shop.
In this file Jerod Morris and I discuss:
- How Sports Blogging Led to a Host of Opportunities
- A Simple Writing Hack for Email Marketers
- Why Writing Makes You a Better Podcaster
- How Scheduling Greatly Increases Your Productivity
- Why Writers Need to Embrace Their Imperfection
- How to Infuse Everything You Do with Creativity
- Some Very Wise Words from Teddy Roosevelt
Listen to The Writer Files below ...
The Show Notes
- Jerod Morris on Copyblogger
- The Showrunner Podcast
- The Lede Podcast
- The Showrunner Podcasting Course
- The Assembly Call — IU Basketball Postgame Show
- The Writer Runs This Show
- “The Credit Belongs to You” by Jerod Morris (Downloadable Teddy Roosevelt Quote & Poster)
- Jerod Morris on Twitter
- Kelton Reid on Twitter
How Veteran Podcaster and Content Marketer Jerod Morris Writes
Voiceover: Rainmaker.FM is brought to you by The Showrunner Podcasting Course, your step-by-step guide to developing, launching, and running a remarkable show. Registration for the course is open August 3rd through the 14th, 2015. Go to ShowrunnerCourse.com to learn more. That’s ShowrunnerCourse.com.
Kelton Reid: These are The Writer Files, a tour of the habits, habitats, and brains of working writers, from online content creators to fictionists, journalists, entrepreneurs, and beyond. I’m your host, Kelton Reid: writer, podcaster, and mediaphile. Each week, we’ll find out how great writers keep the ink flowing, the cursor moving, and avoid writer’s block.
The showrunner behind multiple top-ranking podcasts and Vice President of Marketing for the Rainmaker.FM podcast network Jerod Morris paid me a visit this week to talk about his beginnings as a writer, podcaster, and digital marketer. Mr. Morris started out online as a humble sports blogger and became the editor of a high-traffic sports blog that was tapped by Fox Sports.
His blogging has directly led to quite a few opportunities for the writer, including the co-founding of a WordPress hosting company, leading the editorial team for Copyblogger.com, watching and co-hosting multiple top-ranked podcasts, and becoming the VP of Marketing for the Rainmaker podcast network, to name a few.
On the eve of the launch of his new Showrunner Podcasting Course, we had a chance to talk shop. In this file, Jerod and I discuss how sports blogging led to a host of opportunities, a simple writing hack for email marketers, why writing makes you a better podcaster, how scheduling greatly increases your productivity, why writers need to embrace their imperfections, and some very wise words from Teddy Roosevelt.
If you enjoy The Writer Files podcast, please do me a favor and leave a rating or review in iTunes to help other writers find us. Thanks for listening.
Jerod Morris, welcome to The Writer Files. Thank you so much for dropping by, my friend.
Jerod Morris: Thank you, Kelton. It is my pleasure. I have wanted to be on this show since you launched it.
How Sports Blogging Led to a Host of Opportunities
Kelton Reid: The illustrious and animated Jerod Morris. Let’s talk a little bit about you as the author. For listeners who might not know your story, who are you, and what is your area of expertise as a writer?
Jerod Morris: Well as you said, my name is Jerod. I have been writing really my whole life. I remember back in elementary school, I was always writing short stories. I thought for a long time that I wanted to be a novelist and write fiction stories, but I grew up with a very strong sports background. That quickly morphed into sports writing, and I was editor of my high school paper and was planning on going into journalism when I got into college.
But I went for my orientation, and there was a sports marketing and management degree. I decided to do that and then switched it again a year later and thought I was going to be a big screenwriter in Hollywood. Remember the first Project Greenlight, the very first one that they ever did?
Kelton Reid: Oh yeah. I did that one.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, so did I. My buddy and I, the guy that I was living with, we had created a production company, so we wrote our screenplay. And for about three years there, we were committed to the life of a screenwriter.
Then I remember reading somewhere — I don’t remember who said it — but they said, “If you can imagine yourself being happy doing something else, do it. Because the only real way that you’ll ever survive being a screenwriter in that type of industry is if you just burn the bridges, and it’s the only thing that you could do.” I didn’t really feel like that, and so I ended up kind of getting away from writing for a little bit.
Soon thereafter, I was back in it and got back into it with sports blogging, actually. My dormant love of writing about sports was rekindled, and I started a site called Midwest Sports Fans, which actually ended up leading to the development of the hosting platform that ended up leading to coming over and joining Copyblogger.
I’ve been really fortunate with Copyblogger to get the chance to do a lot of writing and get paid for writing, which is really what I always wanted to do in some form or fashion. It happened, not necessarily how I thought it would happen, but it has happened.
Kelton Reid: Yeah, so you were the co-founder and editor of a pretty high-traffic sports blog. Was it picked up by Fox? Is that what I read?
Jerod Morris: Yeah, it was part of the Yardbarker Network. Then as part of that, we became one of Fox’s featured blog publishers. They had a little widget on the front page of their site. We were one of the sites that they always kept a link from one of our stories in there. They posted our Bracketology stories, so they liked what we were doing.
Because I think at that time, sports blogging was still very much the Wild, Wild West. This was really before SB Nation was even big, and there were so many independent sites out there. I think we separated ourselves with our quality and being measured and not always going for the viral story or the sophomoric tilt on it. You know, trying to be actually respectful to the subjects.
It was a really fun experience. I look back on it now, and I realize there were some opportunities that we probably missed by staying independent. At the same time, it also presented other opportunities, because without that, maybe we don’t develop the hosting platform.
Kelton Reid: Yeah.
Jerod Morris: That was a wet basement of my mom’s I was blogging in then.
Kelton Reid: Where can we find your writing presently?
Most of the writing I do now isn’t public. I write a lot of emails, whether it’s for our Copyblogger email blast that we send, for lists on my side projects, or even like, I just got done writing an auto-responder for the Showrunner course, actually. I’ve been doing a lot more of that kind of writing, which is more specialized, more segmented for specific lists, that kind of thing, which has been a really interesting transition, but one that I really like. I love the art of writing an email. I’m glad that I’ve been able to zero in, especially over these last six months, and get a lot more experience doing that.
Kelton Reid: What else are you presently working on?
Jerod Morris: Well, in addition to The Showrunner, we’ve got — and it should be out by the time this is released — but it’s basically the four essential elements of a podcast. When you sign up for the email list at Showrunner.FM, you’ll get this dripped out over about a week’s time. I’m really excited about that.
I’m actually, on one of my other projects called The Assembly Call, taking the Rainmaker learning management system and molding it into my own format. I’m taking it, and it’s not a course like we would normally do at Rainmaker.FM, but it’s basically a course on the fifty greatest players in IU history. I’m really excited about that, which has given me the opportunity to get back into the sports writing a little bit and basically write about all the players that I grew up watching and hearing about. I’m quite excited about that and to get it released, which hopefully will happen in mid-August.
A Simple Writing Hack for Email Marketers
Kelton Reid: That’s fantastic. There is something to be said about the art of writing email, for sure. I think online publishers, and especially content marketers and email marketers, should follow that model.
Jerod Morris: You know, the funny thing is, sometimes if I get stuck when I’m writing, I’ve found that just putting a name at the top, addressing it to someone, really helps me. Because we’ve all heard, “If you’re writing to everybody, you’re really writing to no one.” You want to pick out a specific person, really know who you’re writing to, even if it’s a blog post. If I get stuck, just putting ‘Kelton’ and imagining that I’m writing it directly to you, which is what we do with emails, has always really helped me get unstuck for any writing project. That’s my little hack, my little writer’s hack.
Kelton Reid: I like that. Let’s talk a little bit more about productivity. How much time per day would you say you’re putting into clacking away?
Jerod Morris: On just writing, or actually doing the research for the writing? Or does it all go together?
Kelton Reid: Yeah, how much time are you putting in to research, and writing, and all of that good stuff?
Why Writing Makes You a Better Podcaster
Jerod Morris: Many, many hours. It’s a lot of what my job is. Now it’s interesting, because a lot of what I do now is creating audio content, which isn’t necessarily research, and it’s not writing, but it requires doing both of those.
I find that the subjects that I’m able to speak well about on a podcast are probably subjects that I’ve written about, because the writing has helped me to clarify my thoughts on those subjects, and I’m able to speak about them much better. If I really struggle talking about a specific topic, I’ll go back and write about it, which will help me, again, get clarity and organize the thoughts in my head.
If I’m not writing, if I’m not either doing an interview or creating some kind of audio content or in a meeting with one of our colleagues at Copyblogger, it’s reading and research, which can be listening to podcasts, reading blog posts, reading books. I find that if you’re writing a lot, if you’re creating a lot of podcasts or any type of content, the well runs dry pretty quickly. So you’ve got to keep replenishing that with new ideas and new perspectives so that you continue to have new and better perspectives and more nuanced perspectives to deliver to your audience.
Kelton Reid: You’re just a content machine over there, basically?
Jerod Morris: Kind of, yeah, and I love it. I think I counted up, and I’m hosting like five podcasts right now.
Kelton Reid: Oh my gosh.
How Scheduling Greatly Increases Your Productivity
Jerod Morris: It’s funny, I’ve actually found that since I actually committed to doing more things, but really scheduled them, I’ve become more productive. What I mean by that is, I had a couple podcasts I was doing on the side, but I didn’t necessarily have a set schedule for them. I would constantly be worried about, “Okay, when am I going to schedule this next one? What’s the next topic?” It was the same thing for some newsletters that I was writing for some of these sites. I didn’t have a schedule.
As soon as I said, “Okay, I’m sending a newsletter out every Monday morning. This podcast is being recorded every Tuesday at noon. This one is every Monday.” It was a lot more content, yet I’ve become a lot more productive. Because it’s like I’m freed from the worry and the consternation. I’m free to actually go create the content. Because it’s like, “Hey, I’m showing up, and I’m creating something.” It’s allowed me to do it with more peace of mind and do it in a much more productive, efficient way.
Kelton Reid: So do you find that you have a most productive time of day and/or locale? I know you’re in the studio a lot.
Jerod Morris: My most productive time of day was actually a couple of days ago when my dog woke me up at three o’clock in the morning. I went back and laid down for about 10 minutes. I couldn’t get back to sleep. You’ve probably had this happen to you. You’d be there, and you’re like, “Okay, but I need sleep. I’ve got to lay down.” Because my alarm was set for like five, five-thirty.
I almost was going to fight through it and be stubborn and say, “No I’m going to stay here, try to sleep.” Then I was like, “Screw it. Why am I going to lay here in bed when I’m not doing anything?” I got up and had basically about three hours of bonus time to work. I was incredibly productive.
I actually find that whenever I do that, I’m really, really productive. The problem is, of course, I crash later. I ended up getting a headache later in the day, so it didn’t end well. Those moments, either really late at night or really early in the morning when I’m really jazzed about something, that’s definitely the most productive time.
On a normal day, I’m most productive first thing in the morning or in the early evening. There’s always a lull right after lunchtime or in the early afternoon. It’s not really from eating a big lunch and getting sluggish or anything. For some reason, those times are just better for me to get up and go for a walk or go do something. I just find that I struggle to maintain the focus all throughout the day, but if I break it up a little bit, I’m much better at the beginning and the end.
Kelton Reid: Absolutely. So when you’re there in the office or elsewhere — do you go to coffee shops at all?
Jerod Morris: Sometimes, and every time I do, I’m really productive, and I say, “Why don’t I do this more?” Ever since I started working from home, this inertia has been created. It kind of takes a lot for me to get out of the house, because I always think, “Well, I’ll be more productive if I’m here and if I don’t waste the time driving.” It doesn’t always work out like that. Sometimes it’s worth it to get out, and that investment of the time actually makes me more productive. I do like going when I actually can force myself to get out.
Kelton Reid: Are you a headphone guy? Do you like to listen to music, or do you prefer quiet?
Jerod Morris: I used to, but I can’t do it anymore, especially if I’m writing. I’ve either got to be in a coffee-shop-type place where there’s ambient noise, or I’ve got to have silence. I can’t do the music anymore. Even if Heather’s in the other room watching TV, I’ve got to ask her to turn it down, because I’ve found it a lot harder to write with any type of distraction like that. Again, the ambient noise I can do, but music, anything like that, I just can’t do it anymore. I don’t know why.
Kelton Reid: Do you believe in writer’s block?
Why Writers Need to Embrace Their Imperfection
Jerod Morris: Yes, I believe in it inasmuch as I think that there are times when you know that you need to write something, or you want to write something, and you sit in front of the screen and nothing comes out. I believe it’s a thing, but I don’t believe it’s an excuse. When that happens, you’ve got to fight through it. You’ve got to learn whatever it is for you that helps you get past it.
For me, one of the — strangely enough — things that’s helped me when writer’s block happens, to move right past it, is actually hosting live shows. I host a live post-game show for Indiana basketball games and for Showrunner Huddles, which we do inside of the Showrunner course. We host these live Huddles.
What’s great about that is it’s really taught me that when you hit that ‘start broadcast’ button, and the green light goes on, you’ve got to go. You’ve got to have something. Whether you’re prepared or not or you know exactly what you’re going to say at the beginning, the light is on. A lot of times, I’m hosting these, so it’s up to me to direct where we go. Otherwise, people are going to be staring at this awkward guy sitting in a chair and not doing anything.
I try as much as I can to basically take that same principle to when I’m writing and just go. It’s not going to be perfect, and the great thing with writing is that no one else has to see it, and you can edit it. I think that’s really helped me to just be okay, just going, embracing the imperfection that’s going to be inevitable, and realizing that at least with writing, I’ll have a chance to revise. That’s not always the case hosting a live show.
Kelton Reid: Let’s talk about workflow some. I know I’ve seen pictures of your setup there on Twitter, but what hardware are you using?
Jerod Morris: I have a MacBook Air, which I like quite a bit. My favorite and the most beneficial piece of equipment that I have is from this company called Goldtouch. It’s a laptop stand. It basically allows you to stand your laptop screen up so it’s right at eye level. It helps not just with kind of the neck and back issues, because I’m not constantly bending down to look at the screen, but it’s actually helped me a lot for the video work that I do. It gives a much better angle for the recording because it’s straight on. I use that. I just plug an Apple keyboard into it. It’s nice. It folds up really nicely, so I can take it on the road with me.
That, and then of course I’ve always got my microphone here on the desk so that I can hop onto impromptu recordings. Pretty much every day I’m recording something, either someone else’s show or one of my own shows, so I don’t really take the setup down. I just keep it here, always ready to go.
Kelton Reid: For general workflow, and writing, et cetera, what software do you find yourself using the most?
Jerod Morris: I grew up with Microsoft Word. I’ve given Pages and Scrivener and all of these other programs a try, but I have settled on the most blank, sparse, bare-boned text editor as what I like writing with. Actually, I used to write a lot in the backend of WordPress as well. I found that when I would do that, I would constantly be stopping to add links or add images. I would get distracted.
When I’m inside of a text document, it’s just the words. I’ll leave myself little notes in there, or if I need to get a link or whatever. I find that I get so much more focused writing done when it’s just the text document, because it’s just me, the white space, and my ideas. It helps me to get clarity with what I’m trying to say.
Kelton Reid: It reminds me of an era past when writers used to have to put paper into a machine, and it was just paper and the typewriter.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, simpler times.
Kelton Reid: Yes, yes. So do you have some methods of madness for kind of staying organized over there with all of your multiple projects and podcasts and whatnot?
Jerod Morris: That’s a really good question. I constantly feel unorganized. I’m not really good at using a to-do list and keeping it. I’m stubbornly trying. I’m committed to getting better at it. I find my calendar is really helpful. I try and keep everything on the calendar so that at least I don’t miss any important meetings that I have scheduled, and that helps.
Other than that, I try and keep my inbox as clean as possible. I try and clean that out every day if I can. I’m not always able to do it, but I try to do that. I find that if my inbox is cluttered, and if the desktop on my computer is cluttered, I feel cluttered.
Ironically, I save everything to my desktop, so it automatically gets cluttered. At least a couple times a week, I have to go through, clear out the inbox, clear out the desktop, my computer desktop, and then my actual desktop as well, and get a little bit of a reset. That’s something that I feel like I constantly fight is being a little disorganized, feeling a little disorganized, so I’ve got to constantly take steps back and make sure that nothing’s slipping through the cracks. I’m not efficient at it by any means, so if people have great tips, I’m all ears.
Kelton Reid: We’re going to open up the tip line.
Jerod Morris: Yeah.
Kelton Reid: 1-800-JEROD-ORGANIZATIONAL-HACKS. I don’t know. That wasn’t going anywhere.
I think you covered this already, but do you have a best practice for beating procrastination?
Jerod Morris: The first is acknowledging it. I used to beat myself up for procrastinating a lot and feel like there was something wrong with me, like I was the only person procrastinating. I think understanding that it’s quite universal has really helped me to at least remove the self-loathing part from it. I acknowledge that it’s happening and try and figure out why it’s happening.
I may be procrastinating because I’m afraid of a particular project, because I don’t know where to start, so I try and break it up. Maybe I’m procrastinating because I’m just not excited about something, so maybe this is something that someone else should be doing, and I can trade with them, or I need to find a different angle to get excited about it.
I really try and have some level of self-awareness for why the procrastination is. If it’s just because I feel like procrastinating, then I try and indulge it for five, 10 minutes and then get right back at it. I found I used to spend so much time beating myself up for it that it would self-perpetuate. Simply accepting it, acknowledging it, and then not allowing it to go on too long has really helped.
Kelton Reid: How do you unplug at the end of a long day?
Jerod Morris: It depends on the time of year. If it’s basketball season, then unplugging for me at the end of a long day is turning on an IU basketball game and then basically working for five or six more hours, but loving it. Watching the game, live Tweeting, hosting the show, posting the show. It’s a flurry of activity, and I love every minute of it.
For the most part, it’s going for a walk. Heather will get home — she’s been traveling a lot lately, so I haven’t been able to do this. I’m not as good at taking the initiative to go do it on my own. When she’s home, we always try to go for a walk at the end of the day, just talk about our days, talk about what’s going on, and get a little bit of physical activity. Then come home, make some dinner, and then watch a show, something like that.
Kelton Reid: What’s your favorite show right now?
Jerod Morris: My favorite show right now is Rectify on the Sundance Channel, which we stumbled upon totally out of the blue on Netflix. It was a really short first season. I think only five or six episodes. In the first episode, I wasn’t really bought into it, but it gets really good. Obviously a lot of people don’t know it because it’s on the Sundance Channel, but it’s a really, really good show.
Kelton Reid: Just a quick pause to mention that The Writer Files is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, the complete website solution for content marketers and online entrepreneurs. Find out more and take a free 14-day test drive at Rainmaker.FM/Platform.
All right, let’s talk a little bit about creativity.
Jerod Morris: Yes.
Kelton Reid: Can you define creativity in your own words?
How to Infuse Everything You Do with Creativity
Jerod Morris: To me, creativity is just finding a different way to look at something. It’s interesting, because actually, I have this debate with Heather, because she thinks that she’s not a creative person. She’ll tell me, “You’re so creative, and I’m not.” She works in the financial industry, so she doesn’t work in an industry that you typically think of as creative. Because she’s not writing a story or creating a piece of artwork.
Yet she’s extremely creative when it comes to seeing a process and finding a better way to do it, and identifying something that’s going on over here and a way that that can be improved, or how this can be shifted around. You know, that creative problem solving, creative thinking.
Creativity, to me, is really a lot more broad than how we sometimes think of it. It’s not even necessarily ‘Creating something new.’ I think you can be creative by amalgamating things that already exist, but in a new way. I think it’s having a unique way that you look at things and then a unique way that you can then communicate that so that someone else can have an opportunity to share your view.
Kelton Reid: When do you personally feel most creative?
Jerod Morris: Three o’clock in the morning after my dog wakes me up.
Kelton Reid: Is that your creative muse, your puppy?
Jerod Morris: He sometimes is. I feel the most creative when I am just genuinely into a topic. Maybe that’s an easy answer. I think we all have things that we have to do in our work days, or in our personal life, whatever, that we have to do because we have to do them. They’re not necessarily the things that we’re the most excited about.
It’s like, taking on a project like the fifty greatest Hoosiers of all time, I feel incredibly creative when it comes to that because I’m passionate about the topic. It’s fun, and it’s not something that I’m trying to check off of a to-do list. I try and find more ways to get it on the to-do list.
I think creating the Showrunner course was the same way. It was an incredibly fun and creativity-fueled experience to go from nothing to saying, “Okay, we want to teach people this concept of a showrunner, how to be a showrunner, and how to create great shows, so what kind of modules do we need? What kind of lessons? How can we make it fun? How can we make it different?”
Because I’m passionate about the topic, then there’s creativity flowing through everything that I was doing with that. Time of day can be all different times. I can feel creative having stayed up 36 hours if I’m really excited about what I’m doing. When you have something you’re passionate about, I think creativity naturally comes, because you’re fully engaged. So you’re going to see it in a different way and draw connections that, if you were distracted or only half paying attention or just going through the motions, you wouldn’t draw or you wouldn’t see.
Kelton Reid: Yeah, Darren Rowse said something very similar to that, which I love. In your opinion, what makes a writer great?
Jerod Morris: What makes a writer great? That’s a wonderful question. I think the ability to distill an idea to a reader in a way that is meaningful to the reader. That’s what writing is.
When I think about when I have felt best about something I’ve written, it’s because even to this person who I didn’t see or didn’t know, I felt this strong sense of empathy, even while writing, that I understood what they needed or how this piece that I was creating could really impact them. And then I was able to do it and do it in as few words as possible. I will always tend towards appreciating writers who are good at brevity, because I tend to be very long-winded. Maybe I give undue credit for that skill.
I think the ability to do that and really impact somebody in as few words as possible. And it could take 300 words in a book. That’s all relative. But I think being able to really empathize and take an experience that you’ve had, knowledge that you have, a perspective you have, or just a story in your head, and create that with words to someone else in a way that impacts them, that’s what makes a writer great.
Kelton Reid: Yeah, I keep coming back to that classic, The Writer Runs This Show. I can’t help but put those two together, The Showrunner and how many great writers we actually work with. I’ve completely gone off the rails here. Do you have any favorite authors at the moment?
Kelton Reid: Yes.
Jerod Morris: I’ve never been a sci-fi fan, but I really enjoyed that book. Now I’m reading — this is another recommendation that Tony Clark made to me, actually — The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North. It’s a really interesting book, a very interesting take on time travel that I’m reading, and I’m quite excited about that.
Other than that, I’ve been so focused lately on doing online reading. It’s actually one of those things where you get so busy, and you realize, “Damn, I haven’t been picking up enough books lately.” You know? So you’ve got to start scheduling — at least for me, anyway — I know someone like Demian, he lives inside books. I have to schedule it more, because I feel like I spend so much time listening to podcasts and reading online. I’m glad that I’ve been able to do that.
I just bought, is it David McCullough? The guy who wrote 1776 and John Adams. I’ve been on a pretty big history kick lately, and obviously, he’s one of the most renowned authors of history that there is. I quite enjoy his work as well.
Kelton Reid: Excellent, I’m not familiar, but we will find the correct spelling for you.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, I’m looking around to see if I have the book in my office, but I don’t.
Kelton Reid: Do you have a best-loved quote?
Some Very Wise Words from Teddy Roosevelt
Jerod Morris: I do. I need to commit this to memory, but I don’t have it by memory. If you can tell, I’m stalling so that I can look it up. It’s a quote that I used in a recent post on Copyblogger.
It is by Theodore Roosevelt, who says, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without air and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I love everything about that quote, because it gets at the essence of what we really try and instill in people in The Showrunner. I know some people have even criticized us for being too simplistic when we talk about this.
But the power and the compounding power over time of showing up, of stepping into the arena — whether it’s to write, whether it’s to produce a podcast, whether it’s playing a sport, whatever you do — but to actually show up, put yourself all on the line, put something out there, and risk judgement, risk loss, risk failure, because it’s the only way that you can actually have a chance at success, and great gain, and great victory.
Obviously, it opens you up to criticism, and there’s a lot of people who like to criticize the people who are there in the arena. But ultimately, like Theodore Roosevelt said, it’s the person who’s in the arena who matters. I try as much as I can to not be the critic who is criticizing, but to be the person who’s actually in the arena. I think it’s something that we can all benefit from no matter what our arena may be.
Kelton Reid: That’s outstanding. I will link to that post as well on the show notes.
Jerod Morris: Well, thank you.
Kelton Reid: A couple fun ones: do you have a favorite literary character?
Jerod Morris: A favorite literary character. That’s a good question as well. Why is ‘Walter White’ the only name that’s coming into my head?
Kelton Reid: That works.
Jerod Morris: It’s so sad.
Kelton Reid: No, it’s not.
Jerod Morris: I don’t even know why I’m thinking about him.
Kelton Reid: We love a good anti-hero.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, he is certainly that. He’s certainly compelling. I can’t get Walter White out of my head. I’m going to go with him. I like him for the many contradictions. Because by the end of that show, I was not rooting for him. I wanted him to fail, yet there was something that was so compelling about him and his story.
Kelton Reid: If you could choose one author from any era for an all-expense-paid dinner to your favorite spot, where would you go, and with whom?
Jerod Morris: Another great question. It’s funny, Jonny Nastor actually asked Demian and I this question on a recent episode of The Lede.
I would choose John Adams, second president John Adams, who wrote a lot. He journaled, wrote letters to his wife Abigail, and obviously wrote many of the documents that proved to be foundational in the founding of the United States. He is a really interesting character to me, because a lot of times, he gets not cast aside, but he certainly gets overshadowed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and a lot of the other guys who were big personalities at the time and continue to be today.
He was such an interesting character in that he was so smart, so opinionated, and really kind of irascible in a lot of ways, and so could rub people the wrong way. Yet when you read letters that he wrote to his wife and his private journals and saw what he actually did, there was a great humility there that was evident. That’s what’s always drawn me to him, is this character of immense pride who combined that with humility to really be one of the most influential people in the entire history of the country. He certainly is recognized as that for the most part, but I think sometimes his contributions do go overshadowed a little bit too much as well.
Kelton Reid: Have you seen the Paul Giamatti portrayal?
Jerod Morris: I actually haven’t watched that yet. I read the book, and Heather and I have been meaning to watch that. I think it’s second up on our Amazon Prime. I’m getting ready to watch it.
Kelton Reid: Jerod, do you have a writer’s fetish?
Jerod Morris: Not really. I’m trying to think if there’s anything that could be considered a fetish.
Kelton Reid: You’re not rubbing a rabbit’s foot over there every time you write?
Jerod Morris: No, I’m not. I have lots of sports fetishes. I’ve always been superstitious about sports stuff, like I have special shoes that I’ll wear for the biggest games, and that kind of thing. It’s not anything I’ve ever really applied to writing or to anything professionally, much more sports-related.
Kelton Reid: Who would you say has been your greatest teacher?
Jerod Morris: I would say just experience. Unfortunately, I tend to be someone that’s got to do something to learn it. I’m not great at just reading something and internalizing it. I’ve got to read it and put it into practice to really learn it. Certainly, I’ve been really fortunate to have incredible mentors at every step along the way, all the way back to teachers in elementary school and high school and coaches and my parents and different people that I’ve worked with since then.
I find that even the best lessons they teach me, a lot of times, I’ve got to go mess it up or do it on my own or apply it in practice to really learn it. Maybe everybody has to do that to a certain extent.
I think just experience, just doing, and going out and getting my hands dirty with something. I certainly don’t always feel comfortable doing it, because when you’re doing that, you’re opening yourself up to failure, but I feel the most confident that that act will actually lead me to learning something useful that I can apply in the future.
Kelton Reid: Do you have any advice for your fellow scribes on how to keep the ink flowing and the cursor moving?
Jerod Morris: I think it’s really to understand the importance of being authentic in what we’re doing. By that, I mean understanding whether what you’re writing or the project you’re working on is something that you’re really passionate about, that you’re interested in. Is it the kind of thing that you would talk about for three hours at a bar with a friend? Is it the kind of thing that if your dog woke you up at the three o’clock in the morning that you would immediately think about going and doing?
I think if you have not found that yet, to work to find that. Being true to yourself is really the first step in authenticity. The next step is then, for whatever it is that this topic is about, really thinking about the people that you’re creating content for. Whether it’s a reader of your story, a viewer of your video, a listener to your show — whoever it is — really think about where they are when they’re going to consume this piece of content.
Are they just looking to get entertainment out of it? Are they looking to achieve something because of advice you’re giving? What are their obstacles? What are their goals? Really try and find that intersection between the experiences and the perspectives that you bring to the table and what can deliver value, whatever its form, to them.
When you do that, you’re getting intrinsic value out of the actual act of the writing and the creating no matter what. But you also have that extra bit of confidence and that extra bit of positive feedback that comes from creating something that is well-received by people. Not that it doesn’t get criticized, but that it’s meaningful to the people that it’s supposed to be meaningful for. Because when it is, then it can be criticized by other people, and you don’t care. You’ve got that shield of armor up from loving what you’re doing and impacting the people that you care about.
I think when you can really identify those things in whatever it is, it will create a long-term love affair with writing and with content creation that can carry you through and really lead to the creation of some great stuff.
Kelton Reid: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll go off script here for a second and circle back to podcasting. I think it’s pertinent, at least, that you started out as a fiction writer and an aspiring screenwriter, as did I. Here we are speaking to one another in a podcast.
Jerod Morris: Yeah.
Kelton Reid: Would you say that all the experience that you’ve had writing, all of the different facets and different pieces that you’ve put together, have helped you in your podcasting?
Jerod Morris: Without question. Back in the day when we were studying screenwriting, you know, reading “Story” by Robert McKee and learning about the elements of a story, whether you’re applying that to screenwriting or anything, that’s going to be helpful.
Having a journalism background and learning about the importance of the five Ws and getting to the point, and how to be economical in how you tell a story, and how to really find out what the story is is important. Then, I think all the other experiences. Just the experience of being tasked to write emails and having to get into who you’re writing that email to, it’s no different than when you’re creating a podcast episode, and you sit down and say, “Okay, who am I speaking to here? Who is the person who’s going to be receiving this?” A podcast is just a spoken letter to a person. You could say that an email is a just a written podcast in a lot of ways.
All of those things really come together and can really help you. For anybody, the more varied experience that you can get, it’s going to help you in everything that you do. When I started The Assembly Call, doing the silly live post-game show for IU games, I never had any thought that this could actually be a great lesson for my career.
Yet I’ve probably learned more from that project then I have from almost anything else that I’ve done, because it’s forced me to get comfortable doing this live broadcast. It taught me, on my own, without piggybacking on other people’s audiences that have been created, how to go from absolute scratch, to not just creating a site that was driving traffic, but a site that was driving engagement and building an actual audience. All of those things come together, and writing, podcasting, whatever content you’re creating, they’re going to help you be better at creating nuanced content, more rich content, and content that delivers more to the audience.
Kelton Reid: Very nice.
Jerod Morris: I hope that answered your question.
Kelton Reid: It did. Mr. Morris, where could fellow scribes connect with you out there?
Jerod Morris: A great place to connect is on Twitter, @JerodMorris. That’s a wonderful place.
For anybody who is interested in showrunning, even if they’re not somebody who necessarily wants to podcast but is just interested in the idea of using content to build an audience and connect with that audience and create something bigger for an audience to be a part of, then I would recommend connecting on The Showrunner. You can go to Showrunner.FM, and our email list is right there. You’ll get the auto-responder series The Four Essential Elements of a Remarkable Podcast, which are really the four essential elements of a remarkable piece of content.
One thing Jonny and I are adamant about with people on the email list is that if you send us an email, have a question, a thought, anything, we’re going to read it. We’re going to respond. We love interacting in there in that email format. For anybody who wants to do that, that’s probably the best place to connect if you want to really have a meaningful connection.
Kelton Reid: Jerod, thank you so much for stopping by The Writer Files. I do encourage writers to podcast. I think The Showrunner is a good place to start. The URL again is?
Jerod Morris: Showrunner.FM.
Kelton Reid: Pretty easy one.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, for the email list. When this comes out, actually, will be the day that we’re launching the course as well, The Showrunner Podcasting Course. You can go to ShowrunnerCourse.com if you’re interested in getting more information about that, too.
Kelton Reid: Outstanding, thanks again for all of your time.
Jerod Morris: Absolutely, thank you, Kelton. This was great.
Kelton Reid: Cheers, thank you for tuning into The Writer Files. I look forward to checking out your own writerly podcasts. For more episodes of the show and all of the show notes, or to leave us a comment or question, drop by WriterFiles.FM, and you can always chat with me on Twitter @KeltonReid. Cheers, see you out there.