I Have Spirit Yes I Do

SOTP Podcast image

Over the weekend I launched my podcast, Spirits on the Plains, releasing it into the world. It’s about the ghosts, spirits and demons from the most haunted region west of the Mississippi. It’s available on all the major podcast directories as well as at www.spiritsontheplains.com. But this post isn’t about promoting the podcast and telling you to go listen to it. Although it’s awesome and you should. This is about the road to getting it made. This is about the pride that comes from seeing sweat equity turn into something tangible.

This is about me being proud of myself for this and sharing that experience.

I had zero fucking clue what I was doing when I started this project. Well, I knew how to listen to podcasts, if that counts. All I really knew is that I loved Kansas City history, and I loved ghost stories, and I wanted to share that love with my community.

Thank God Dr. Internet was there to guide me.

At the start of any new project in life, the best thing you can do is to acknowledge that you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s always a humbling experience, but it turns into something rewarding along the way when you do. I started by reading every article I could find about how to start a podcast, particularly the step by step guides written for people like me who knew next to nothing. I didn’t know what media hosting was, or that I would need it. And I truly knew nothing about recording software or equipment. There were times, particularly at the beginning, where I thought for sure that I had bitten off more than I could possibly chew.

At those times the only thing that really kept me going was that I had shot my mouth off and said I was starting one.

So I started with the tasks that played best to my strengths. I researched and compiled a list of haunted areas around the Kansas City area. I pulled articles about the places I wanted to highlight for the first set of episodes and began to identify people I would eventually want to talk to get more information. Then I started to write, and edit, and edit. And edit some more. Writing when you know it’s going to be converted to the spoken word is a whole different style. Especially when you’re gonna be the one doing the speaking. Also especially when you hate the sound of your own voice.

The most daunting obstacles were on the technical side. As a writer, I didn’t know anything about recording software or equipment, building a website that could handle media files, how to get the podcast distributed on iTunes and Stitcher and had never even heard of media hosting. Quite frankly, once I got to this stage of development, I started to worry about cost. I had no problem putting in the sweat equity to get this project off the ground, but I am not a man of means at the moment, so there was a limit to the amount of cash I was willing or able to sink in.

The fact that I was worried about it truly proved that I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

It turns out there is a free recording software called Audacity that a lot of beginning podcasters use. I really, really like free. It also turns out that for $7 a month I could get set up on Libsyn, a media hosting site that not only houses the website, but also pushes the podcast out to all the podcasting directories (after submitting the podcast to them and getting approval). And their walk-throughs regarding all the technical tasks (except recording) were game changers. It took a series of tasks I had no idea needed to be accomplished and helped me tackle them in a single night.

For $15 I own the domain spiritsontheplains.com helping people find my podcast with ease. And I bought the lifetime rights to the song I am using for theme music for $10. And the basic mic I needed ran me $30 on Amazon.

A sunk cost of $55 and $84 in yearly costs to get a creative project off the ground. My hobbies of reading, running and golf each cost more than that. Hell, my internet and streaming cost more than that per month. This is a steal at twice the price.

Then I moved on to actually recording the first episode and playing with the software. Wanna talk about getting lost in the fucking weeds? I seriously hate the sound of my own voice, so pushing past that alone took some effort. I also learned that I breathe, like a lot. Quite possibly more than I should. And it’s loud. So it would be fair to say there was a learning curve with all that. And that there were moments I was very thankful that I live alone.

It got exciting when I started to learn some tricks that made me feel cool. I learned how to fade audio in, fade audio out, run it in the background while I spoke. I learned how to edit out the worst of the errors. And I grinned like a fucking idiot the entire time.

I also learned that it is in fact possible to grow tired of the sound of your own voice. And that I have a lot to learn about getting comfortable talking into a mic, which is ironic given the fact I’ve spent time as a speech writer.

This experience has been rewarding in ways I can’t even articulate. It’s been beyond surreal to see my podcast, something I created, available on platforms like iTunes and Stitcher. Seriously, I can’t stop opening the apps and looking at it.

I also spent more time than I care to admit dancing around my apartment this weekend. I am unapologetic about my state of childlike joy. And again, because of the terrible dancing, I am glad I live alone.

There is zero chance this would have happened without the support, wisdom and advice of my friends. Some of them simply cheered me on. Others were experts in areas where I needed, well an expert, and were generous, giving and patient with their advice. All of them were supportive every step of the way.

I am constantly amazed at how fortunate I am to have such wonderful people in my life.

It’s terrifying and exhilarating to put something like that out into the world. I’m excited to grow as this project continues to move forward.

Now go download it and give me a five-star review.

The Last Movie Review

The Last Movie

So I recently listened to The Last Movie, and would highly recommend anyone who enjoys docudrama podcasts and a journey into the macabre go download all six episodes right now. Seriously, it was raw, intense and dynamic in a number of ways. Given the stock it comes from, I had high expectations going in. And they were not only met, but exceeded.

Before I get more into The Last Movie let me give a little bit of history. It was developed by Public Radio Alliance, the same production company that puts out Black Tapes, Tanis and Rabbits all podcasts that I thoroughly enjoy. It is billed as a spin-off of Tanis (currently airing its fourth season) primarily because the two shows have the same hosts, Nic Silver and MK. The shows all share the same dark tone while journeying into the supernatural, mysterious and clandestine.

But The Last Movie is the first from this studio to drop the entire first season (six episodes) all at once. In short, it was the first one to offer a binge option right off the bat.

In their own words:

Tanis podcast host Nic Silver and regular contributor MK, explore the possible existence of “The Last Movie,” an infamous underground feature film, reputed to drive you insane. Legend has it that every screening of this film was surrounded by bloodshed and controversy: one reviewer actually described slipping on blood in the aisle, as he ran through dozens of people trying to tear him apart. 

The podcast starts with MK going down a rabbit hole in an attempt to find  something called The Last Movie, an attempt met with innuendo and rumors of demonic behavior and a scene involving movie goers that reminds me of the second season of True Blood, when Marryann Forrester takes over the town of Bon Tempes.

The narrative takes the listener through the shroud of mystery surrounding a director thought to be dead, an obscure cult with a deadly history, and the over eager daughter of an actress who is not what she seems.

The series, narrated primarily by Nic Silver in a subtle tone of voice accentuated with MK’s more abrupt style starts with the gas pedal on the floorboard and never hits the brakes once. It’s a balls to the wall journey that leaves the listener pacing back and forth waiting for season two.

And whether they admit it or not, wanting to watch the elusive Last Movie.

The Art of Tunneling

Writing Journey

Last week I listened to a podcast called Tunnels, and the creator said something in an author’s note he tacked on to the beginning that resonated with me. He pretty much announced that the first season wasn’t very good (the podcast is on season three) because he was a first time podcaster and was essentially learning on the job. He flat out said that he had no idea what he was doing. And he was right, season two was much better than season one. But more importantly, you could see the creator’s passion for creative content throughout.

This is not a review of Tunnels, what I want to talk about is this concept that it is okay to suck at something while you are learning to do it. It is okay to suck at something while putting yourself out there and learning at the same time. That it is okay to suck at something and bring people along on your journey as you learn. Because I am late to this party, and this concept is a wonderful game changer for me.

This runs completely counter to my life experiences so far. I was raised in a house where accomplishment, achievement and intellect were expectations. It was about the trophies, and winning as though the skills were supposed to be downloaded instantaneously like Neo from the Matrix when he learned Kung Fu. No attention or space was given to the idea of growth, and the idea of sucking at something while you learned, or worse, failing at something, was not tolerated. Period.

As if that wasn’t enough, I went into politics and then nonprofit fundraising. These are two industries where the stakes are high, the learning curve is steep and unforgiving, and consequences for failure are significantly higher than other industries.

I’ve let the fear of criticism be a primary motivator in my life for far too long. And it has prevented me from doing the things that I actually want to do.

In short, the idea that is okay to suck at something while you are learning how to do it is foreign to me. This discovery is like a brand new tool I am just learning how to use. I can already tell I am going to like it. This concept plays well with my constant sense of wonder and imagination, the two things that most fuel my creative drive.

This concept, which puts attention on the journey and the growth, is going to be key in terms of pushing myself to put my work out there. I’ve been so worried about creating superior quality,  that I forgot that creative writing degree and talents as a wordsmith in and of themselves are not enough. It is a good start, maybe even a running start. But it is a running start on a long journey, and knowing that it doesn’t have to be perfect is definitely going to help with creative paralysis, in fact it already is.

The ghosts of our past don’t have to define or present and don’t get to define our future.

Medium Matters

Art is Freedom

I’m going to spend a lot of time talking about creative content, and I wanted to take an opportunity to tell you what I love about each creative medium. They each have a unique way of storytelling. I’m sure there are mediums I am missing or haven’t been exposed to yet, but for now I am going to stick to those I am exposed to on a frequent basis.

Books

Books were my first love, and still my favorite. I can read a book from start to finish in a day, real world be damned. The experience of an author’s unique voice, and the fact that no matter how descriptive he or she gets, the images of the world and characters they create come from my head, making me feel like I am part of the experience.

Audiobooks

A good narrator can bring a book to life (a shitty narrator can also kill one) while still allowing the listener to get absorbed in the world the writer creates. Audiobooks fill the nooks and crannies of life that don’t require your full attention, allowing for the enjoyment of even more content.

Podcasts

I’m relatively new to the podcast world compared to other forms of creative content. Like half the country, I was drawn in by the first season of Serial (which was amazing in case you missed it) and wanted more. One of the taglines from the podcasting community is “It’s television for your ears.” And that’s the best way to describe it. There’s something for everyone, from journalism to docudramas. From the darker corners of life to reliving your favorite television series.

Television

If books were my first love, television was my second. My first TV memories are re-runs of Lost in Space and the original Star Trek on summer mornings. I came of age at the start of the Golden Age of television, with Friends, X-Files, 90210 (the original, not that shitty remake) and my love has continued to grow as TV evolves. Like books, binging gives the opportunity to spend a day getting immersed in a different world. And a TV season allows for story and character arcs to develop over time, allowing writers to play a long game (ratings permitting).

Movies

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t get out to the movies as much. I don’t really feel like paying $10+ for just the ticket to the cinematic experience. That puts me in a lot of danger when it comes to spoilers and buzz. That being said, who doesn’t love a great movie? Everyone loves Star Wars and has an opinion on Ewoks. Quentin Tarentino changed the rules on how movies were made with Pulp Fiction. And you can get a full story, complete with a sweeping character arc in about 2 hours. And the dramatic effects bring their stories to life, I mean who doesn’t like special effects?

Comics

Much like podcasts, I am a relative newcomer. The cinematic and television universes have done a tremendous job of opening up the world of comics. I also started listening to Jay & Miles Xplain the X-Men and that got me going. Once that door was open, I quickly learned that comics aren’t just for kids (Walking Dead, Sandman, Watchmen) and that their stories have all the complexity and depth of any other medium. They blend the narrative benefits of books with the dramatic effects of art and play a long game that can span years if not decades. And they can retcon (retroactive continuity) whatever they want to suit the present narrative, which is part of the fun.

Performing Arts

Although there are significant differences between the three main types of performances I frequent (Play, Musical and Opera), for the purposes of this post I am grouping them together. The performing arts provide a uniquely intimate experience. Being part of a live audience is to share the same space as the performers. You are surrounded by the experience. A shared experience between you and the performer, and no other medium can replicate that.

This list is incomplete, and so are the descriptions. For the moment they are meant to be. I wanted to get the overview out of my system and out of the way. I will definitely be expanding on each of these, and exploring more over time. Exploring content is a constant and never ending journey.