I love deep conversations with people. I love connecting with strangers. I love connecting with “almost” friends and turning them into actual friends. And I love radio, and podcasts, and interviewing people, and making jokes. These are my passions. I would do them for free. Jesus, I am doing them for free.
Many people try podcasting and it doesn’t suit them. That should NOT apply to me. On paper, I actually suit this medium to a tee. So why am I so consumed with fear about it all?
Since launching the show, I have had serious doubts about literally every aspect of it. The whole project now terrifies me.
Here are all of my fears:
- I’m afraid it’s boring. I’m afraid that I want to hear about people who are important in strangers’ lives, but no else gives a flying shit.
- I’m afraid it’s sappy. I worry that the title – “Special People” - makes it sound like a trust fall in MP3 format, or a line of Hallmark greeting cards for people with mental retardation. I’m scared we’re all such products of a cynical, metropolitan, “don’t let anyone see your feelings” culture that this thing will sink without trace. I’m also deeply afraid that people will make fun of me for being some sort of NPR/BBC pussy. The truth is, I am a NPR/BBC pussy. I just don’t want people to mock me. Period.
- I’m afraid that I will fail. I’m afraid that after 50 episodes, no one will listen, no one will care, and that the show will only exist as a giant embarrassment on a hard drive somewhere, completely ignored by the universe
- I'm afraid that it’s not funny. I’m afraid that this stuff is IMPOSSIBLE to make funny. I’m afraid that while I’m a decent talker, I’m actually a shitty BROADCASTER. And comedian. And show producer. Just shitty all around.
- I’m afraid that the artwork is all wrong, that the website is unwieldy, that I don’t have any theme music, and that I do not have the knowledge or the talent to fix these problems. I also fear the whole enterprise will degenerate into a giant money pit. No joke, I have probably spent $2,000 up to this point (through a mix of procrastination, hosting fees and ill-considered equipment purchases) to produce exactly FOUR episodes of content. I’m a guy who throws money at problems in the hope they’ll go away. I’m sure I’ll throw just as much money at professionals in the vain hope they’ll fix my problems. But they probably won’t.
- I’m afraid that I barely have a handle on the technological side of my podcast, and that if anything goes wrong, I literally will not be able to get it up and running again.
What sent me into this spiral of despair? I’ll tell you. I have four episodes of the show online, but I really only “went public” with the thing yesterday, by plugging the most recent episode on Facebook. So far, 96 people have downloaded shows. In that 24 hours, the following has happened:
- My most recent guest said that the podcast episode page was redirecting to a GoDaddy “broken link” page. Why? I don’t know. The link worked for me, but not him. Now it works. For both of us. As I told the guest concerned, I fucking hate technology of all kinds. We've all bought this line of shit from Silicon Valley that "everything is available and easy and at the touch of a button" but NOTHING WORKS and IT’S ALL CAKED IN SHIT and costs A THOUSAND DOLLARS and filled with the GHOSTS OF DEAD CHINESE FACTORY CHILDREN. Fuck them.
- A friend and colleague told me over Facebook that my microphone technique was bad. He was right. I still wanted to kill him.
- Another friend told me that one of the episodes had about a minute of dead air in the middle. It was also released in stereo, rather than mono, which meant that if you listened on headphones (like everyone does) it only came out of one headphone. I now know how to fix this but it adds another step to releasing each show.
YOU ARE NOT CUT OUT FOR THIS. YOU SHOULD QUIT.
So. Let me introduce you to the voice in my head that typed all that. His name is Tom’s INNER CRITIC. And I am not going to let him win. I am going to shut him up with my INNER COACH. He’s going to refute the Critic point by point.
Is the show boring? No. It’s about the most important emotions and relationships in peoples’ lives. It may be INACCESSIBLE to people who don’t KNOW the interviewee personally, but that’s my job: to open them up and out to the world. And you will learn how. No one is Howard Stern or Michael Parkinson on day one. Give it time.
Is the show sappy? No. You’re going for real and raw and true. Not sappy. You have a great bullshit detector. Plus, you’re allergic to saccharine moments. You’re not capable of making a sappy show. So don’t worry about that.
Will the show fail? Maybe. But who cares? Failure creates wisdom and strength. As Louis C.K. would say (and did), “whenever you leave behind failure, that means you’re doing better. If you think everything you’ve done has been great, you’re probably dumb.”
Is it not funny? Possibly. Maybe it’s not as funny as it could be. Maybe it will get funnier as it gets better. Or maybe as it gets better, it won’t need to be as funny. Or maybe, it IS actually funny, especially compared to the giant heaps of hippo dung masquerading as comedy all over the Internet. Either way, a sure fire way to make it un-funny? Stress over the funny-ness. So relax. Enjoy it. And PUT THE JOY OF DOING THIS front and center. That feeling is infectious. So is laughter.
Are there technical problems? Yes. And every day, in every way, you get better at dealing with those problems. You know a great way to NEVER master technical challenges? Never do anything you think you might screw up at. In a short amount of time, you will know this stuff COLD. You will have decent audio, production, interviewing, graphics and RSS skills. Pretty cool, right? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Also, take a page from Louis C.K.’s book again. He taught himself how to make short films, and do everything on them: write, produce, shoot, direct, edit, etc. At the beginning, he was terrible. By the end, he was a master. And now he needs precisely ZERO permissions to do his thing. He needs no one else, beyond the people he chooses to need. He has complete control. THAT is a fucking artist. That really could be you.
Now go get ‘em.