Podcasting – Switch & Board

Podcasting

Consistency is Key

Many podcasters wonder what the most important part of podcasting is. It is the equipment? The pre-production? The post production? Your guests? Social media marketing? Even though they are all important, the most important part is consistency.

Consistency is key. You can get help with everything else, but only you, as the creative, can produce the content required for each episode. Let’s jump into the basics first.

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Inter-Generational Storytelling

Two years ago I flew across the country to take a little road trip with my mother. It was summer, it was beautiful, and we had a great time. We talked a little about the trips she’d taken with her own mother who was sitting this one out at home. 

I love spending time with my mom and not just because she’s my mom and I love her. I love spending time with her because she has stories. She has a life of stories behind her belt and many more to come.

Look, I’m a big TV fan and I tend to view the world through that lens. With that in mind, her story is a spin-off of her parents’ stories, and my story is a spin off of hers. Her stories are a part of my origin story, so I feel connected to them. I can listen to an old story and ask new questions about it to get new levels of insight into history, culture, and even my own psyche. They’re infinitely “re-watch-able” just like my favorite TV shows. 

On our trip, I mentioned that I wished Grams was with us to I could ask some new questions about her stories. She grew up in a tiny farming community in Saskatchewan. Her mom died when she was quite young and she got her very own, real-life, *evil stepmother. The shit really hit the fan when her dad died too. 

*For the record, I have my doubts about how “evil” this woman was since everyone knows being a stepmom is hard. It was a hard time for my grandmother, but, no doubt if we could get the other side of the story, we’d learn that her stepmother was having a hard time too.

She came home one day to find herself locked out. Her stepmother didn’t want her around anymore.

She has one of those stories that includes her trekking to a one-room school house in the snow before sunrise to light the fire before the other students arrived. She came home one day from school to find herself locked out of her house. Her stepmother didn’t want her around anymore. She had to walk to the next village over and live with her two wacky spinster aunts instead. 

This epic story has always enthralled me. How could this woman drinking wine and baking bread before me have once led such an unstable and tumultuous life?

That summer with my mother I remember saying “I want to talk to Grams more. I don’t want these stories to disappear.”

Seniors aren’t known for their tech skills and if they’re anything like my Grams, they don’t necessarily see their stories as special. That is probably why I’m seeing more and more companies aimed at helping Gen Xers and Millennials record their loved ones’ stories. There are picture services, memoir services, and there’s even a non-profit helping Canadian seniors start podcasts. 

This makes a ton of sense to me. I would love more than anything to record a podcast with my grandmother. I want to ask her about her stoicism, about why she never complained, and about how she went from living on a rural farm with an outhouse to working the switch boards at a telephone company. Even if the show didn’t hit #1 on the charts, it would always be there for future generations. I wish my grandparents had recorded their parents so I could try to understand what it was like to emigrate to North America from Scandinavia in the early 20th century. Or what it was like to escape poverty in Ireland, get married on the boat ride over, change your name, and drown yourself in whiskey in Toronto. But, alas, I will never hear their stories.

In these times of quarantine and separation when we’re all Zooming our loved ones anyway, why not hit record? We’re perfectly poised to document inter-generational stories and instead we’re busy photographing newly baked bread and cocktails.

For my part, the moment is gone. The night I got home from my trip with my mother, she gave me a call. My Grams was gone. She’d died in her sleep peacefully taking all her stories with her. I am very grateful for all the time I got with her and for the stories she shared with me. I wouldn’t change a thing, but I will encourage everyone to share their stories sooner rather than later.

Common creativity

I’m notorious in my home for something that I’m sure a lot of you can relate to: starting up creative projects. Yep. Just starting them. The last time I can remember finishing one was when I had an extended period of fun-employment (that is unemployment that you try to spin to keep your spirits up). Do you think it was related to me not having a Netflix account at the time?

Quarantine is a dangerous time for someone of my tendencies. There is a lot of inspiration-porn on social media and we are being inundated by messaging that it’s the perfect time to get a new skill. It’s hard to resist that heady rush of starting a new project, but I am trying to hold firm. It may be a good time to get into something new, but for people like me, it’s also a good time to be still. If I do decide to jump into something, I want it to be sustainable. My pandemic goal is this: start a finish-able project.

A lot of this is about setting reasonable expectations. I’m seeing a lot of posts on social media about the inventions, novel business ideas, and creative pursuits that were born out of dark times. Did you know that a lot of businesses that are now mainstays of the millennial economy, like WeWork and Uber, were born out of the 2008 financial crisis? Did you know that Edison worked on his light bulb idea over the course of another recession? Did you know that Isaac Newton developed his theory of gravity while in quarantine?

That’s fantastic. Really- it’s quite remarkable. It’s remarkable that these men of privilege were able to make the most of a difficult situation. It must have been difficult for them to lose their status quo, their earnings or savings, or, in Newton’s case, their contact with the outside world. But let’s not forget that these are achievements by men of privilege.

I don’t relate to those stories. While it’s great to remember that there are positive things that can come out of hard times, I’m more interested in what creativity looks like for everyone else. The commoners. To that point, what is common creativity in difficult times? It’s probably not inventing the light bulb or building the Empire State Building (constructed during the Great Depression).

If you’re at home, cleaning, cooking, and children may occupy all of your time and your space. If not that then trying stay ahead of the financial stress of this brand new recession may be all that’s on your mind. The image of Isaac Newton sitting under a tree watching apples fall or Adam Nuemann’s pot-fueled dreams of co-working spaces is unhelpful.

Common creativity is smaller scale. It can serve to distract for a moment or it can focus one’s mind for an extended period of time. It can be a form of escapism or an overarching goal. I do a lot of the smallest type of creative pursuits:

I cooked a meal I hadn’t tired before. I tried a shirt with a pair of pants that it had never been paired with before. I rearranged the furniture in a part of my apartment. That was creative. I had to re-imagine the space for a new purpose, consider shapes and light, and figure out the purpose of a drawer full of things with no home. This is not a beautiful space. It wouldn’t look good on Instagram. There’s not a single piece of mid-century modern furniture, macrame, or monstera deliciosa to be seen, but I did it and I’m proud.

I don’t care what anyone says- these are creative pursuits. Is this the kind of creativity that will sustain me for the duration of the pandemic? Doubtful, but I think micro-creativity deserves as much respect and consideration as the big stuff. I consider them completed projects and for some people, it’s all there is. These activities provide a small sense of accomplishment and, more importantly, something to think about that’s not the infinite scream of the pandemic, the world on fire, the elections, or any of the other troubling news headlines.

These are all small projects that I am proud to have finished, but there are bigger picture activities within the realm of the common creative too. You can try keeping a journal, dusting off the instrument under your bed, or even inflating that exercise ball. If you can do it for 3 whole days in a row before the chaos takes over, that’s good. If you can do it once a week, great! Maybe it’s something that can bring you some peace of mind into this new world we’re entering.

These types of activities are safer for people like me because they don’t have finish lines. The goal is merely to exercise your creative side for a few minutes, if a good habit is formed along the way it’s just a bonus. I’ve learned that this is the way I need to fame my creative projects- not as something with a finish line, but as a creative project to ease and exercise my mind.

Writing the next great American novel, painting your abstract oil masterpiece, or creating the next great podcast docu-series involve concrete goals, but they also need to be savored on the regular for they are. They are creative pursuits that distract you from the complicated world and help you focus on your interests. My next great project will be something that I wake up and want to work on for a while almost every day. That is what a finish-able project. If it’s not something I can look forward to carving out time for, it will go the way of all the other odds and ends in my craft closet of shame.

Let us know what you’re working on in the comments below. If it’s a podcast, we can help!