"In Defense of Podcasting"
transcribed from Blastropodcast episode 45.2 "Ken Hite & Cannibalism"
I read an article about podcasting recently that struck me. Like, in an unpleasant way. A way that got under my skin and continues to bother me. It made me reflect on why I podcast and what it means to succeed or fail in this medium. My goal right now is not to quibble with the author of the article. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. Doesn’t matter if I disagree: people are allowed to say what they want and think what they want. But the insecurities and the negativity that this article brought out of me are not so fun. That’s my baggage, it’s nobody else’s fault. But if reading the article did that to me, then it or similar sentiments might have the same effect on you. And I don’t like that. So if you’re a podcaster, or really any kind of creator, and you feel like you’re failing or somebody out there makes you feel like what you’re making is stupid, I want to offer you some of my opinions that I’d like you to consider.
First, if the act of creation is worthwhile to you, then what you’ve created is worthwhile. Maybe you make the world’s ugliest glass Christmas ornaments. But if heating up that wad of glass into a fiery orange blob mesmerizes you, and expanding it out, shaping it with your breath gives you a jolt of excitement, then what you’re doing - regardless whether the final product meets your expectations - what you’re doing is valid. You’re not making the ornaments because that’s what someone your age is supposed to do. You’re not making them for the endorsement deal or the Twitter followers or the fan page. You’re making those ugly ornaments because that’s what you like to do. The only way you could fail is if you never tried to do it. And even worse than failing to try is convincing someone else to give up.
This is not to say that you need to make those ornaments for the rest of your life. But you choose when it stops being worthwhile. Nobody else gets to.
Thing number two: Even if you never make any money with your creation, if it connects you to other people in a meaningful way, then you are successful.
I make my own absurd, commercially unfeasible podcasts. Things that would never exist if profit were the goal. But the special thing is that I can put that weird, unique, strange stuff out there on the internet and someone out there can check it out and message me to let me know that it cheered them up that day. I’m not saving lives - I’m not even paying the rent with this. But I am doing something for someone. And that is success.
By the way, it doesn’t matter if your creation is rough and unpolished. If it is authentic, then it is going to connect with someone on some level. And that connection, that link between the creator and the appreciator is a phenomenon that is more meaningful than your iTunes ranking.
It is true, you can’t pay the rent with meaningful interactions. But if you give up creating your special thing because there’s no money in it, then you better find something just as meaningful to take its place.
Now the final thing is more self-indulgent but it’s still valuable. And that is, a podcast episode captures a moment in people’s lives, preserves it, and shares it with whoever wants to listen. Most of the guests on my podcast are people from my life and some of them are very dear to me. And someday, hopefully in the distant future, when I’m languishing in my hospital bed, I can pull up these conversations, these moments with people I love, and I can be there again. Sitting around our cheap little microphone, making each other laugh. And if I die, anyone who cares to can keep a little fragment of me tucked away - a snapshot of a good time that we can share again. What you create now is also what you leave behind for those who love you. That’s why I don’t want to stop creating.
Now my final thoughts are that the article I read opened up all sorts of insecurities in me. And after some reflection, my reaction was not to invalidate the author, but instead to attack the fear, and the envy, and the shame that were coiled up inside of me all along. So the best medicine I could find was to create what you just heard [read]. I hope that it encourages you to keep doing that which is meaningful to you. Connect with each other. Support each other. And be kind to yourselves. Let’s continue to have fun and make stuff.
- Mark Soloff
Writing for Audio Drama
Steve Carell! (Also Mark & improviser Liz Brammer)
Modeling for The Onion