Forgive me Podcasters, for I have sinned.
It’s been six months since my last recording and I am somewhat ashamed to even call myself a podcaster. I’ve read think-pieces on consistency and how vital it is to podcasting growth. I’ve watched from the sidelines as more podcasters are indoctrinated into the world just as the genre grows in leaps and bounds. Heck, I’ve even judged other podcasters’ episodes by way of a podcast review session, and yet, I am the greatest sinner of them all —I took time off!
As you may or may not know, taking time off is tantamount to a podcasting cardinal sin. It’s even worse when that time off spans months. Every podcaster at some point in their podcasting journey (mostly at the start) is likely to have heard this phrase (or a variation of it) a million times over “consistency is key!” Podcasters are told to work towards being consistent with their craft in order to improve and be better. You are told to find a rhythm that works for you because your listeners would come to expect this from you and it would be detrimental to disappoint them. This is of course true but only partially.
The Beautiful Idea
Yes, consistency is beautiful. If you are able to put out an episode every week, please do it! If you’re able to find a rhythm that works for you and your podcasting craft, by all means, work with that. Being consistent is always going to be lauded as a value because more than anything, it gives off a sense of perseverance. Yes, with consistency, those on the outside looking in get a sense that you’re taking this thing, “podcasting”, seriously and that can in turn inspire them to take you seriously as well. It can also make it easier for others who are new to the world of podcasting to see you as an inspiration and maybe sort of an authority figure in the space. It is a beautiful virtue to extol and it is one that not even a usually cynical optimist like me can throw any shade on.
However, there’s a flip side to the idea of consistency that is never really talked about because it doesn’t really tie-in to the definition of this virtue. The flip side is mental fatigue. Yes, everyone gets them, but somehow, especially when it comes to the podcasting space, almost everyone pretends like they don’t. And maybe that has more to do with our African society of always wanting others to see a side of us that is always busy doing something or pretending to do something. Or maybe it is the fact that most of us haven’t actually learned that the absence of consistency doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of it. Another flip side to the idea of consistency is the trade-off of podcasting value for podcasting posturing. Let me explain.
A True Podcaster’s Story
I began podcasting in 2019. For me, it was fun because, for some weird reason, I actually liked the sound of my own voice. I also was quite certain that a lot of the ideas or thoughts in my head were novel and needed to be out there in the world. It was easy for me to go week in and week-out churning out episodes, feeling like I was making a difference with my voice. My idea of consistency was the fact that every week, I had to have something to put out there for my “fans” to listen to. It made sense because every week, it felt almost impossible for me not to have something to talk about. All I had to do was find the thoughts in my head, organize them to sound somewhat cohesive, and record myself saying them.
But as the months passed and episode after episode came through, I began to notice something: some of the thoughts in my head didn’t necessarily offer any value. It turned out that at some point in my drive for “consistency” in releasing a weekly episode, I was conflating the value my podcast was supposed to offer with the function recording it offered me. I began ranting not because I wanted to make my listeners find value in my rants but because it was an easier outlet for me to vent my frustrations. As time went on, about halfway through my third season, I noticed that the value which my podcast was supposed to offer became a minute by-product of the function of my podcasting routine. And all of these were blurred by the idea of consistency. It was difficult for me to see how I was no longer really offering any value with my words because the consistency of putting out an episode each week felt more important to my stature as a podcaster than anything else.
The Good Sin
Fast forward to the end of my third season and something changed. I sinned a little. I took a much-needed break from everything podcasting: the group chats; the incessant retweeting of just podcasting content in a bid to sound supportive; the overly boring podcasting questions about recording equipment and promotions; the really tedious groveling for listeners, etc. I stopped myself from taunting myself about what it meant to be consistent. I realized that the one thing about podcasting that made me fall in love with the genre back in 2019 wasn’t predicated on the idea of consistency. It was built on the idea of value. For each episode I clicked to play for the podcasts I loved, I didn’t care about the last time the podcast host had released an episode. I cared about what I believed I was going to hear in the episode —the value it would offer me.
I remember feeling a huge sense of relief after my sin of taking a little break after my third season. I still saw a lot of your favorite podcasters churning out weekly, sometimes daily episodes and for the first time in a long time, it all felt cumbersome. I remember someone asking me if I had quit podcasting and I said “no, just taking a hiatus” and I’m not even sure they understood what that meant. But I did. I understood that as ennobling as the idea of “being a consistent podcaster” is, a grander virtue to extol is the idea of “being a podcaster who provides consistent value”. And the truth is that for the latter, a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule is not the prerogative. There’s a trite phrase that says “everything worth doing is worth doing well” and I think this can be easily tweaked for podcasters to say “anything worth saying is worth saying well…but only if it offers value.”
Go And Sin Some More
I have learned as the months passed that my sin of not being consistent is one where the only person that can forgive me is myself. In my first season, I had 34 episodes. In my second, 32 with over 10+ bonus episodes. In my third season, I had 32 as well, again with more bonus episodes. In my fourth and current season, I have just 5 episodes. And I don’t mince words when I say this but only a handful of episodes from my first three seasons can hold a candle against the 5 episodes of my current season.
These days when I feel it in my gut to vent out my frustration, my first instinct isn’t to go to the microphone and make innocent civilians suffer through my angst. No. These days my frustrating days are reserved for me even when it would feel so much easier to add my listeners to my own burden. Instead what I do these days before I record is to find a story worth telling; a person worth speaking to and hope that with the proper tools, I can use their tale to offer value to my listeners even if it’s once in a blue moon, as the saying goes.
I know, I am a sinner in the eyes of the podcasting consistency deity but if I’m being honest, sinning has never felt so good. So, cheers to all podcasting sinners like me out there. May we continue to sin correctly!