Origin stories are hot. Everyone has them, or at least tries to have them. I think most are bunk, simply because they tend to be manufactured. Somebody feels that they must have an origin story, so even if they don't truly understand themselves, they must have one prepared.
I hope I understand myself enough to have an origin story that rings true.
The Random Waves podcast started with, I suppose, two or three moments. The first is one that I've personally told folks a few times -- my "glass of wine" story: I was driving down I-84 one night after leaving way too late from work, upset about my career, and I listened to the "Mr. Daisy and the Apple Factory" episode of This American Life on my iPod. As I listened to Mike Daisy, I was mesmerized, and I decided right then and there that I wanted to hold an audience's attention like that.
The second moment came a few years later. I was working all summer in a special emergency project at work -- isolated with a small team in a "bunker," working mandatory poorly-paid overtime, forgoing vacation days -- when a friend shared an announcement to the Transom Story Workshop on my Facebook wall. Eight weeks is far too long for me to take off from work, so I didn't apply. But I found out that Transom also offers week-long workshops, and that's what I wanted to do. And it was soooo cool that someone else recognized that in me.
The last moment happened on New Year's morning 2016. I showed up at the friends' home I partied at the night before, for brunch. My friend Kate, possibly still a bit drunk from the night before, emerged from a side room and announced that with my voice, I should be on NPR. It was a that moment that I decided to launch a podcast and see if I could get accepted into a Transom workshop.
Eleven months later, and I've got two podcast episodes in the bag, a website that's a pain in the neck, and a failed application to a Transom traveling workshop in NYC. Not a rejection, mind you. Just being put on the waiting list. I think that's something, right?
It's funny -- I don't want to work in radio, necessarily. I just love podcasts, and I want to make some of the same. When I started, storytelling was my thing. But this past year was a struggle for me -- what was I missing that made me a poor storyteller? I could tell a story to a group of friends, have them heckle me at every turn, and then sit back a listen to a friend next to me tell a story that captures everyone's attention. And I can't tell you why that is, exactly. But podcasting feels more comfortable. Or, at least I feel more confident about it, even if I'm challenged to make it sound professional and good. I know I'll improve with time, and the microphone doesn't heckle me.
For the record, here are my gold standards. These are the podcasts that I love and respect and hope to sound like...
- Everything is Stories -- for being able to tell a non-narrated story really well
- 99% Invisible -- for Roman Mars' ability to talk directly to each listener
- Snap Judgement -- for amazing production that's not so Goddamned heavy-handed and obvious (I'm looking at you, Jad Abrumad)
- The Memory Palace -- because Nate DiMeo can write so f'ing evocatively
- Death, Sex, and Money -- because Anna Sayle knows how to interview people
- Planet Money -- for knowing how to recognize a great tale
I hope to sound as good as any of these folks one day.
Image Credit: © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons