4 days ago
One Year In: 9 Lessons I've Learned from Podcasting
What HAVE I learned from a year of podcasting? 🧐
In no particular order, here are (some of) the things I’ve learned -- all life lessons -- from a year of podcasting.
* When you’re podcasting, even though you’re speaking on a public platform you’re not speaking to everyone. You’re speaking and most people aren’t listening. Also, you’re speaking and some people wish you wouldn’t. And here’s the lesson: so.the.fuck.what. Speak anyway. The people who wish you weren’t speaking are not your people. And among the billions of people who aren’t (yet) listening, there are people out there eager to hear exactly what you’re saying. Say it so they can find you.
* Your attention matters. The episodes where I’ve sweated stuff have been the episodes that matter the most to me. They’re the ones I remember, that I’m glad exist. It’s easy as a college administrator to have the experience that you crank stuff out - you make decisions, revise policies, attend events – and it’s all important to someone but not deeply meaningful to your soul. Doing work that isn’t meaningful turns out to be a hard habit to break, especially since we live in a world that rewards quick responses and regular presence. Sometimes I still crank my work out. And sometimes I am able to give episodes more attention, and that turns out to be deeply rewarding.
* Podcasting is almost as cathartic as journaling, and I’ve come to appreciate the effects of having the discipline to think about something well enough to say anything at all about it. I’ve been exploring recently how to carry that discipline into my writing. We’ll see if anything comes of that.
* A year of doing anything builds habits - for better and for worse. When I started the podcast I had no idea how to do any of its component parts, except the writing. Everything else as I’ve learned as I’ve gone. And every now and then I’ve realized that I keep doing something the same way I learned it - because doing something over and over makes it a habit. So it’s been beneficial for me to step back and look at my habits and structures, and either embrace them or revise them.
* Podcasting has changed how I listen to other podcasts. I sometimes listen for content, but I’m always listening for editing. I listen for production. I listen for the narrative arc. There’s an analog to how I read. I love reading and sometimes I read with the intention of losing myself in what I’m reading. I read, quite literally, for the physiological pleasure of reading. I’m also a trained scholar of literature and so sometimes I read with the intention to explore the writer’s use of structure, character, the use of imagery. I’m also trained in critical theories so sometimes I read with the intention of understanding a feminist take on a text, or I read and contemplate what I think about the text from a new historicist perspective. I can, somewhat but not fully, turn these faculties on and off at will. I could not have done this with podcasts a year ago, because I didn’t know enough about how to create them. I do now, and so I listen differently.
* You never really know what’s going to happen, or why. To date, my most-downloaded episode is #23, Mentors & Allies: How to Be Machiavellian Without Being a Machiavellianne. I have no idea why that particular episode is so popular. My 14YO son suggested it’s popular because it’s short. A friend suggests it’s popular because it resonates. It could be the title, or some weird SEO quirk of using the word Machiavellian. I’m really curious about this episode’s success but I’m not obsessed with replicating it. (Maybe I should be? I dunno.) But I’m definitely learning from the experience of never really knowing what topics will hit, and how.
* Podcasting has made me value my time, as well as skills I don’t have. Right now an episode takes me 4x as long to edit and produce as its final length. So a 15 minute show takes me an hour of post-production time. I’ve gotten better and faster over time, and I intend to get even faster. Some of that speed comes from skill, and some comes from automation. But this makes me eally value the time that I have as I think about how to use it effectively to produce each show. I also have way more respect now for audio editors and the magic they create, and I can understand why people would choose to devote themselves to creating beautiful, fluid, moving audio experiences out of what might start as random bits of choppiness. I guess this is a way of saying I have a deeper appreciation for the craft of audio editing.
* Podcasting is a great way to connect with people. I’d never really thought about it much, but when I started I assumed that producing a solo show with occasional interviews would be a somewhat solitary venture. It can be - and it can be so much more. Every single person I’ve interviewed has expanded my horizons in some way. I’ve learned from them, had books and other readings recommended to me, and deepened relationships. I’ve reached out to people I didn’t know and learned about their work. Working as an administrator, especially in academic affairs, I’d become accustomed to having really smart people be openly skeptical of me the minute I walked into a room. Producing a podcast is the opposite. People are so excited to be given a chance to talk about things they love that they are grateful and open.
* Lastly, I would say podcasting for a year has forced me to think about purpose, which is sort of amusing since purpose is really my whole shtick at work. As I was thinking about how to mark the end of the first year I asked my kiddos how I should kick off my second season. Their answer surprised me: Why would you start a new season? And I said, well, the second year is starting. And they said - ummm, so? So I asked a friend who podcasts how he thinks about seasons and what his thoughts were on whether my year 2 should be season 2. He asked me, in turn, what my purpose of the podcast is, and how that would correlate with the rhythm of the show. I had to laugh, because my idea for this podcast started with the 2016 elections, and yet I’ve devoted only a fraction of the podcast to that particular purpose.
All of which is to say, here we are kicking off year two, and it’s not going to be season 2. But thanks for listening to episode 54. I LOVE having you here.
Other related episodes:
#23: Mentors & Allies: How to Be Machiavellian Without Being a Machiavellianne
#1: The Bitch Above: One Woman's History of Shitty Female Bosses