Visit my show at the PSCCU Credit Union, Vashon, Washington May, June 2024 

Beware the NPR trap (and thank you Ira Glass!)

On the eve of launching my podcat, I’m thinking about NPR and how big the GAP is between my interviews and what I’m hearing on air. But the words of Ira Glass, from four videos he did in 2009, are the perfect antidote to my fears.

The long awaited podcast series launches next week.

Next FRIDAY I’ll be sending out this newsletter with one small big request: subscribe.

In the meantime, I have stage fright.

I’m thinking about NPR and how big the GAP is between my interviews and what I’m hearing on air. 

NPR is like the gold standard in Podcasting.  This American Life with Ira Glass.  On Being with Krista Tippett and last year’s surprise mega-hit, the investigative-detective styled podcast Serial with Sarah Koenig.

Love them. But the production standard behind this shows is a high bar to aim for.

And that’s the NPR trap.

When Ira Glass talks to us as if he’s sharing a fascinating conversation at the dinner table, we forget that a team of staff spent hundreds of hours behind the scenes, producing that one episode.

(My large staff went missing at the thought of a podcast.)

And we forget that each host spent years in the trenches developing his or her craft.

Ira Glass began his career in public radio thirty years ago, launching the predecessor to This American Life in 1990. Krista Tippett began her show in 2001, and Sarah Koening, cut her teeth in podcasting as a producer at This American Life in 2004,  

So easy to forget.

We live in a double-click culture.  

Things are supposed to happen fast.  Like all the webinars and podcasts that promise “you’re podcast will  be super profitable if you just do xxx…(and buy my program)”.

And the truth is I want to sound as cool as Ira Glass when I launch  – natural, witty, and thoroughly myself behind the mic when I narrate and interview guests.

But Ira Glass didn’t sound like Ira Glass when he started.

And Krista Tippett said it took her five years to find her current, natural, radio voice.

I discovered four YouTube videos of Ira from 2009, with low production values and fabulous wisdom about developing your creative talent while mastering storycrafting.

The words below about the gap between your taste, your aspirations and your results were taken from episode three. They’ve been perfect for me this week.Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 2.45.19 PM

“Nobody tells people who are beginners
and I really wish somebody had told this to me..
all of us who do creative work 

we get into it because we have good taste…

But there is this gap.

For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good
t’s not that great. 
it’s trying to be good,
It has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good.

But your taste,
the thing that got you into the game,
your taste is still killer
and your taste is good enough that you can tell
that what you’re making is a kind of disappointment to you…

A lot of people never get past that phase
and a lot of people – at that point –
they QUIT.

And the thing I would just like to say to you
with all my heart
is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work,
They went through a phase of years 
where they had really good taste
and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be

they knew it fell short….

We knew it didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have…

Everybody goes through that
And, for you to go through it…you’ve got to know
It’s totally normal.

And the most important possible thing you can do, is to do a lot of work,
do a huge volume of work
Put yourself on a deadline
so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story…

You create the deadline.
It’s best if you have someone who is waiting for work from you someone
who is expecting work from you even if it’s not somebody who pays you
but that you’re in a situation where
you have to turn out the work

because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you’re actually going to catch up and close that gap  
and the work you’re making is as good as your ambition.

In my case.. I took longer to figure out how to do this than anybody I’ve ever met...

It takes a while, it’s going to take you a while…

So next week I launch the Vital Presence podcast!
And my guests are cool and have a lot of great stuff to say.
I think it will be interesting.

And in a year, it will be even better.

Here’s to the ride,

p.s. Loved this neat two minute video by Daniel Sax with Glass’ words in the background.

One Response

  1. Here’s to the ride indeed, Sally. I love this post. I know it was helpful for you, but I want you to know it was helpful for me too.

    Ah, those reminders to keep cranking away at what we love. And to have built-in accountability, even if we aren’t being paid. I am actually paying someone for writing support of my memoir to help keep the momentum going and to get to the heart of my stories as I bring them to life.

    How exciting that you are launching your first podcast. Can’t wait to hear it and share it!



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