Saturday, November 03, 2012

My Waste of Time

Right about the time our third episode of the Dunesteef hit the podosphere, a friend of mine suggested that Big and I were wasting our time with this particular endeavor. He was trying to make a point--a positive one, I'm sure--but I took it badly, and have never, ever forgotten it. As far as I know, he never listened to the show again, and he's the kind of guy who would've told me if he did.

But here we are, more than four years later. We're st--wait, let me leave Big out of this for a moment. I'm still doing the show (two shows now), and while there have been a couple of moments where we came close to shutting it all down (even going so far as to record a final episode a year and a half ago), I've never completely given up on the idea of podcasting as a valid use of my time. It fulfills a dream of mine, which was to be a radio host or DJ, and also provides me with a creative outlet every single week. I get to drive over to my friend's house and do battle with his family over his attention, and hang out with Big, go on walks, and try to make him (and an invisible audience) laugh.

But it is a great deal of work, and as my credit card statement reminds me, not extraordinarily lucrative. I don't know why, but for every minute of finished podcast, it takes several minutes of recording, transferring, editing, saving, transferring back, levelizing, and problem checking, and no matter how much time I assume something will take, it always takes more. Plus, because I get a kind of creative fulfillment from this work, I often ignore my other creative endeavors in favor of it, or simply have little energy (or time) to pursue those.

We--sorry, I--decided it would be a worthy pursuit to record thirteen shows for Halloween last month, and put them up in the days leading up to the 31st, as a tribute to my favorite holiday, and hoping that it encouraged people to toss us a few spare dollars. It too ended up being way more time-consuming than I ever would've guessed, stopped being fun at one point, and there were times when I wanted to throw my hands in the air and forget the whole thing, since nobody was going to care either way.

I didn't quit, in the end, but I sure as hell burned myself out with that ordeal, and haven't edited anything since then.

Also, last night we had our very first in-house guest on the show, and it ended up taking us into the wee hours of the morning to do all the recording, even though we still left a couple of things we'd planned to get to on the to-do list. I had to try and get some real dollar-value work done this morning, and it was hard to manage with less than five hours of sleep.

(do you have a point? my inner Donald Duck Devil is asking)

The point is, I sometimes wonder if it is a waste of time, as my friend suggested. And then I get a letter like I did today. A listener in New York wrote us, talking about the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and our thirteen episode marathon helping keep him sane during the insanity that followed.

If I can be so crass as to quote from his message:
"Yesterday...I borrowed [a] bike to traverse across the East River and get to the office. It was a ghost town south of 39th Street. While I'm going through a scene of a post-apocalyptic city, I was listening to episode after episode of "13 Nights of Halloween." There are people filling jugs of water from fire hydrants, crowds of people surrounding libraries (the only locations with WiFi) and the streets are dark and abandoned, no lights from the stores or the lamps.

"I know it's hokey, but the normalizing conversation that Rish and Big were having kept my mind focused on the fact that this catastrophe was temporary, not the usual, and that reality would come back online soon."

He said that he wasn't able to dress up for Halloween this year or go to any parties, but listening to us talk about those things made him feel like he had. We made him think of times past when there were more trivial concerns and trials on his mind, and hope that those times came again. "Listening to Rish and Big," he said, "I *felt* like I was a part of that world. For whatever weird time, I *lived* through them and their experiences, which beats anything of mine."

This guy, who we've never met, said we were his favorite podcast, and when he really needed it, we were there for him.

Today, I don't feel like I wasted my time. Today, I'm ready to work on the podcast again.



Maymunah said...

I've always felt too silly to say it, but I agree with your listener in New York.

I'm in the Middle East, and the political situation here is always tense and on the edge of exploding. It's not uncommon for things to actually explode.

It's nice to hear you guys chatting about movies and writing and personal stories, and just...normal stuff. Not nuclear war or genocide or bombs or imperialism. It makes a difference.

Seraph said...

While it's not as tragic or catastrophic as the New York storm, you've certainly made a difference to me in the last few years. In 2008 I became a Dad, and had my second child in 2011. While it's wonderful being a parent, it is very lonely at times. I hardly see anyone outside of work these days, and I don't get out that much at all ( I think my wife and I have managed to get out together maybe three times this year ? Separately maybe another couple ). It's really cool to be able to listen to your podcast when I'm stuck at home doing something banal ( particularly the banter ), or those times when I've had to take my youngest out for a buggy-ride at 3am to get him back to sleep. It's like I'm sitting in on a conversation with friends. While there are other podcasts I listen to as well - I do look forward to new Dunesteef episodes the most.

Rish Outfield said...

Thanks for the kind words. Seraph I know, but Maymunah, you are unfamiliar to me. I actually took a class in Arabic a few years ago, and have forgotten most of it (hell, I don't even remember how to say "I am an American dog, I don't speak Arabic" anymore), but I started writing a Science Fiction story about a guy who taught soldiers an Arabic class before they got shipped off to die. I got the story 91% finished before I quit, but I always meant to have somebody who actually spoke it help me with the teaching portion of the story.

Maymunah said...

Oh wow this is old, I should check my gmail address more often. Sorry about that.

I've commented on the Dunesteef forums a few times, and I used to slush read for the podcast, but my internet access is sporadic.

That's so cool that you've studied Arabic, I didn't realise there was any demand for courses in Middle America. You could say, أنا أمريكي, لا أتكلم عربية, no need to neg yourself.

I'm an Arabist but not an native speaker of Arabic, but I could offer some suggestions for the teaching portion of the story if you decide to go back to it and I have internet access.

I don't know if they'd be learning Standard Arabic or dialect, standard would not be much use, but it's usually what's taught. You might need to talk to someone in the military as well.