In 2021, I set a challenge for myself: I was to deal with my massively dysfunctional self-worth problem by removing the most strategic weapon in my abusive relationship with myself–I was to buy no clothes for the duration of the year.
I created rules and boundaries and objectives. It was a complicated system I set up, but I knew that without attainable and time-sensitive goals, I would lose interest, and fast.
As a person who loves to celebrate little wins, I delighted to come up with a system of carrots for getting through the year. And that system of carrots looked on the surface, like one specific dream: I wanted to have a podcast. So most of my celebrations for meeting my goals would revolve around this project, this dream, this little fantasy I had of hosting a podcast.
What is a podcast, you ask? Well my friend, a podcast is like a little radio show you carry in your smartphone or other connected device. It’s a little show, on a specific theme, any theme, literally.
Any theme you can imagine, I’ll betcha there is a podcast for it. I listen to comedy podcasts, politics podcasts, podcasts about serial killers, about decluttering, about relationship and sex advice, about pop culture, about renewable fashion, about business rivalries, about unsolved mysteries, about medical history…
Some are fiction podcasts, like old-fashioned radio dramas, with sound effects and great music; some are off-the-cuff improvised gabfests.
A good podcast has a hook. A great podcast has a little something extra that makes it special. Something that makes the host the perfect person to be telling the stories they will be telling, or a unique perspective about the topic. For example, on of my favorite podcasts is Sawbones: A marital tour of misguided medicine, hosted by a husband and wife pair, of which she is a doctor and he is a lovable and approachable comedian.
Future Podcasting Royalty
When I was five years old, I met my best friend Erin. As she and I grew up together in our pretty little village by the bay, we cycled through all kinds of crazy ideas. We were Marilou Retton. We were opera singers. We were fashion critics.
One of our follies as we entered our adolescence was a little made-up fashion magazine we called, “Bogue”, which, as you can imagine, was not about high fashion, but high fashion’s distant hillbilly cousin, very, very lowbrow fashion. It was kind of like People of WalMart before its time, with a splash of What Not To Wear. We often would to narrate a kind of radio show, when we would find specimens appropriate to comment on. Come to think of it, it was pretty mean. But we certainly had fun.
This was my first dream of hosting something. Anything.
Then, years later, I married my indulgent husband, with whom, in our first year of marriage, we had an imaginary radio show. We would give running commentary on our extremely boring daily life. We called it Radio QQ, which is only funny if you speak French. (But even if you do, it might not be funny and just sound cucul-la-praline.)
“Here she is, standing in front of the bathroom mirror; oh, it looks like she is reaching for the toothpaste…ahh…wait, wait, wait…no, ladies and gentlemen…you’re not gonna believe this! She. Is going. To FLOSS HER TEETH!!!!” And the crowd goes wild….
Several years later, my mother gave us a little recording device, and we would sometimes record our stupid little program. It was ridiculous, really. But it kept us amused.
Then, years later still, I actually got a job working at a radio station here in France. I hosted a segment with the brother I never had, my dear friend and contrarian Jonathan, called le Compliment du Jour. Each day, I told a funny story, which always landed with a nice compliment for the listeners to try out on someone. It was fun. It was silly, but I loved it. The only problem was that it was in French. And, while I love to speak French, my dream was always to host an audio program in English.
He is sometimes a villain, sometimes a hero. But he always comes through.
Oh. And that’s a much younger me in promotional photo for our dynamic duo.
Notice, also please, the zebra scarf.
(Yes, I am digging into the archives. Thanks Brice Dupuy for the photo!)
Making it happen
Throughout 2021, as I would hit certain benchmarks, I made investments in my podcast. For example: when I survived the first part of my goal, I bought myself the book Everyone Has A Podcast (Except You), which was written by my podcasting heroes, the McElroy Brothers.
Later, as a second reward, I bought myself a Yeti Blue microphone, which is what my podcasting guru and favorite middlest brother Travis McElroy recommends to future podcasting royalty such as myself.
Somewhere along the line, I got up the nerve to ask my former co-host, Jonathan, who had gone on to head up a media company, if I could use some music he had produced as the intro and outtro to my show. It was a song I absolutely loved, one that is called La Joie (“Joy” for you non-French speakers).
Contrary to all my expectations, my friend and professional naysayer agreed.
It was once I had the authorization to use the music, and had the master for La Joie in my hot little virtual paws, that I started to believe that my podcast might actually happen.
Taking the example from my favorite podcasters, the McElroys, the authors of the podcasting Bible and the three brothers who co-host a roll-on-the-ground-in-pain-from-laughing-so-hard podcast entitled My Brother, My Brother and Me, (not for the ”delicate of ear”, mind you) I asked my sister, Poppy, if she would like to co-host with me, and she agreed.
Over the summer, my sister and I had some time to record together, which was an absolute blast. First of all, it was so fun to have an excuse to chat with my sister. With the goal of talking about our Ideal Lives and how we were working on attaining them, we had the foundation of our shared, quirky history as a backdrop which made it genuinely entertaining. It was fantastic. We got two episodes recorded.
Then…then I had to learn how to edit.
That was when I realized that I ain’t no spring chicken anymore. That was when things started to go downhill. I cobbled together one episode with the few skills I possessed.
It took me…I am not kidding when I say this…sixteen hours to edit it to a somewhat potable nearly hour-long version. Aligning the tracks was nightmarish. I had no idea what I was doing. When I went in to edit something I said, or take out a horribly goofy snorting laugh (something I am wont to do), it would disalign the responses on my sister’s track. Ditto for when I needed to edit pauses on my sister’s track…it would disalign from mine. Ugh.
Sure, the final version of the first episode was great! It was funny, it had phenomenal rhythm: I even roped Jonathan into recording some interruptions, which served to get my sister and myself “back on track” after a tangent and to punctuate different segments. It just took me forever to complete.
I shared it around, and it got some great feedback. Then, Jonathan, professional media producer and contrarian, gave me his feedback. He thought the content was great (Obviously. He was featured as the interrupting contrarian voice of reason.) But there were some production flaws (Obviously). I barely understood a word of his techno-babble, but he assured me a few tweaks in a different software would increase the production value.
There was no way this would be sustainable. I had no idea where to begin.
Never one to be deterred when I have a dream, I needed to call in the big guns.
That’s when I spent an afternoon getting schooled on the ins and outs of multi-track sound and video editing with a delightful young filmmaker named Eric Muller, who, as I have said a million times before, has clearly never played with Legos, because he claimed that sound editing is just like playing with Legos and I can guarantee you that it is indeed nothing like playing with Legos. It does not take me sixteen hours to put together a Lego anything, even though I HATE playing with Legos.
He got me set up with what he said would be an easier tool to use with multiple voice tracks…only…well, he’s in his twenties and has good eyesight. I’m in my forties with bad eyesight. I literally could not even read the tiny writing on the software he set me up with.
I tried. I really tried. But I realized that if this was what it would take to get our podcast off the ground, then I was in big trouble.
I got disappointed and discouraged. I was watching my dream of a podcast fade away, because there was no way I could spend sixteen hours a week editing a podcast. I don’t have sixteen hours a week to do anything.
And just like that, I gave up.
Poppy, the Life Coach
It was my sister, Poppy, my fabulous one-time co-host and Life Coach, who said something to get me back to the podcast project. She asked me how I was going to celebrate the end of my challenge year. The podcast had been my motivator until I got disappointed with it and the tiny little writing on the software interface.
I had come this far. I had developed some basic skills in a program that could easily do simple voice-track editing. I had music for the show, a microphone. I had read the McElroys’ book, for heaven’s sake. I had tons of content and so many ideas!
And so I realized that I could, theoretically, still produce a podcast. It would just have to be way way way simpler. Like, intro music, my voice and basta. There was no way, with my pitiable skills I could do anything more.
Because I didn’t have the technical proficiency to accommodate a co-host on my podcast. I was concerned about rhythm, and the all important “hook”–what is it about my podcast that would make it unique? Why would people want to listen to it? (Besides the dulcet tones of my melodious voice, of course.) I mean, two sisters, dishing about their Ideal Lives and ways to make their own lives easier is an awesome hook.
I needed a hook.
That was when I got the idea. Early on in the blog, I wrote about how, in order to get things done, I have to get bossy with myself. I write letters to myself from the perspective of an imaginary fairy godmother (who has a name, which I will never share because it is so stupid) and I tell myself what to do.
It’s about setting firm boundaries and rules. As a recovering People Pleaser, I have learned that I need someone else to tell me to do something in order to get it done. So my imaginary fairy godmother does this for me. (Bonus: she knows exactly the kind of praise I need, but she also knows how to address my failings compassionately. It’s wins all around.)
I got to thinking that, in all the ways that my sister Poppy, the Life Coach, can sometimes sound like a fairy godmother while she’s coaching me through my paralysis, maybe my listeners might need a fairy godmother to help them see things a bit differently and help them make progress.
So that’s the hook. Lily Fields, the Fairy Godmother, talking her country bumpkin protégée through the Ideal Life Exercises.
The first one took less than two hours to write, forty-five minutes to record and about thirty minutes to edit. And basta.
I went from sixteen hours to three and a half. I could do three and a half hours a week.
Podcast level one: unlocked.
Great. You have a podcast. Now what?
During the first week of winter break, my indulgent husband and I relayed to watch the scalawags, so I had two full mornings to work. I wrote two episodes and recorded them.
We went south “to the south of France,” (as one does… when one lives in Northeastern France) for Christmas. I got COVID. I had to stay in bed. My voice sounded like a stuffed-up gravelly witch.
But I could still write! So, I wrote several more episodes, waiting for my voice to cooperate again.
What’s more, with unlimited, nearly uninterrupted hours of sitting in my bed, I had time to start uploading my first two episodes onto podcatchers. I had time to create trailers and schedule them. I had time!
I had time to figure out how to make video headliners for social media. Unrelated to the podcast, I’d even had time to play around with a YouTube channel, where I could finally upload all these video clips of concerts we’ve done over the years that have been clogging up my computer to share them with my family!
Maybe a fresh bout with COVID wasn’t great for the prospects of starting a new year, but my dream of becoming podcasting royalty definitely got a boost.
Well, now I have to build an audience. To do that, I have to be mildly annoying by sharing each episode with the people I love and hoping that they will be mildly annoying by sharing it with the people they love. But that won’t be enough.
This means I have to learn how to ask. Ask people to share. Ask people to subscribe. Ask people to rate and leave reviews. This, for introverted me, is the stuff of nightmares, even if it is only a virtual ask, with the internet as a buffer between me and my perceived judgment from others. But, just like learning to set boundaries, which was something I learned to do in 2021, this will be critical to growth in 2022.
I get to discover the wide world of hashtags and organic marketing, two things I absolutely detest, also. But if I believe in what I am creating, and I do believe in it, then things are going to have to get uncomfortable for a while.
So, here goes:
Sing With Your Feet, the podcast, drops January 6, 2022 on all your favorite podcatchers. Subscribe now so you don’t miss a particle of fairy dust!
If you like what you hear, please share, rate and review!
(How’d I do? How was my ask?)