I Know The Way Through These Woods
Those of you who have been following this newsletter for a while might have realized that I am a person who tends towards the positive.

You've got this! Keep at it! All will be well.

You also may have noticed that I also have a tendency to get sucked into watching every episode of a TV show (or listening to every episode of a podcast) back to back to back.

I am a binger. Sue me.

So, one evening, not so long ago, these two tendencies collided.

I was watching my latest binge-fest. The name of the television show is not important.

What matters is that one character – who has been through a lot – spoke to another character – who has also been through a lot – and said, "I know the way through these woods."

These are, to me, the most reassuring words a person could say.

Look, one person cannot actually know what another person is going through. The best they can do is to try to understand. To empathize. To try to show that there is a possible way out.

And right now, in this little podcast world we're living in, we need all the empathy we can get.

There is a lot of insecurity out there. A lot of self-doubt. Heck – there's a lot of industry-wide doubt.

It's easy to wonder if the years – or decades – we've put into our craft are for naught. If we have all wasted our time and our talents on a skill set that has no value.

But I know the way through these woods.

These woods are scary. They are challenging. But there is a way out into the light.
Scary "dark forest" photo by Jeff Finley on Unsplash.
My brain keeps ticking back to the idea of the dark forest. So, if you've read or listened to Jessica Abel's Out on the Wire, you might know what I'm talking about.

Jessica describes the angst that comes with making a really good story.

See…mediocre stores are easy to make. They are straightforward. And simple. They sometimes feel like you could write them in your sleep.

But good stories aren't easy. They require struggle. They require effort. They require sweat.

When you're producing a really good story you will, inevitably, find yourself in the dark forest. Turned around amongst the trees in the dark.

Utterly lost.

But if you can find your way out, you'll have made something truly valuable.

When it comes to storytelling, finding yourself in the dark forest is actually a sign that you're doing something good. Important.

Is the same thing true of our industry? Does finding ourselves in the dark forest mean that we're going to come out the other side, stronger and more alive than we've ever been before?

Heck if I know. This is not a fairy tale, and I do not own a crystal ball.
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What I do know is that I have been here before.

The death of the audio industry has been imminent since long before I pulled on my first pair of over-the-ear headphones. (They were Sennheisers. So crisp and clear. I miss them.)

I was told not to go into radio. Radio was dead. Radio was over.

But radio never felt dead to me. It was fun and exciting and vibrant and so, so rewarding.

(In an emotional sense, not so much in the economic sense.)

And yeah. I spent a couple of decades watching as my beloved colleagues got laid off whenever advertising dollars waned. But you know what? They all came out of it okay, eventually. Some found better jobs in audio. Some found new careers altogether.

And then podcasting became a thing, and there were jobs everywhere.

But in 2020, I became the person who was laid off, during a pandemic no less. And now the radio station that laid me off is facing the threat of yet another round of layoffs.

And podcast jobs are no longer easy to find.

Around and around and around it goes…

But this time – at least for me – there is one thing that feels different. Always before, I was just waiting. An ax was hanging above my head, and it could drop down at any moment.

But this time, the ax has already fallen. The worst has happened. I was laid off. I survived. And I love my new-ish freelance life. Really, I do!

But I am tired of waiting for someone else to clean up this mess our industry keeps finding itself in. I'm ready to find my own god-damn way out of this dark forest.

(If you're interested in thinking more deeply about that from an industry-wide standpoint, I highly recommend that you check out the work Mia Lobel is doing. She's way smarter than me at this kind of stuff!)

We're already starting to see small signs of life in this industry. Proof that the job market will pick up again and green lights will be lit. In the meantime, in the words of Douglas Adams…
Don't panic.
And don't sit around waiting for the ax to fall, either.

I know staying calm and productive during challenging times can be…challenging. So, in case it's helpful, here are some of the things I'm doing to keep busy while our little industry finds its way out of the dark forest.

And...one little caveat.

Okay…a big caveat.

I am really, really lucky. I am not entirely without work. And I had a very busy 2023, which means I was able to put some money aside to weather this slow season in audio.

So if you're not feeling like you have the bandwidth to do the things that I'm doing, that's okay. Give yourself some grace. It's hard out there right now, and we all need to be kind…to ourselves and to each other.
Pitch things.

Sure, it might feel like a weird time to dedicate a bunch of unpaid hours working on a project that may or may not ever be funded. But there has actually never been a better time to research and develop new ideas. Good projects ARE getting made. There is ALWAYS a market for great stories. And fortune favors the BRAVE.

Learn things.

I could dedicate the next month to doing nothing but learning new skills related to my interests, and I still would not have learned everything there is to know. If the skills you want to learn relate to podcasting, and you happen to be a member of AIR, there is a wealth of new and previously recorded workshops on their site. You could sign up for one of the workshops my friend Elaine Grant is offering. You could check out Radio Bootcamp.

Or if what you really need is a no-cost option, just click your way around the Transom website. So much to learn!

Share things.

As you've probably noticed, I share my knowledge pretty regularly, through this newsletter and my own workshops. And you should expect to hear from me a bit more often, at least until my schedule starts picking back up.

But you might not know that I offer 30 minutes, for free, to virtually anyone who asks. So if you have questions about a story you're working on, a podcast you're developing or if you simply want to talk about what the heck you're doing still working in audio, feel free to reach out to me. I don't have all the answers, but I really enjoy asking the right questions.

And remember, you don't have to wait until you're an audio "veteran" to start sharing your knowledge. There is something truly rewarding about connecting with others.

So if you're looking for a little mental pick-me-up, consider offering help or encouragement to someone in your audio community!

Clean things.

You would not believe the utter disarray on my desk (and computer hard drive) at the end of production for Believable: The Coco Berthmann story. I'd love to say that I got it all cleaned up before moving on to my next project, but that would be a lie.

But at this point, the project after that project is close to being wrapped, and I can finally see the top of my desk. So calming!

Take care of physical/mental health things.

Oh wow. The list is long. Neglected doctor's appointments. Not enough exercise. A lack of healthy food in my fridge. When my work life gets busy, my body pays the price. So, now that things are a bit more calm, I'm taking the opportunity to take care of all the things I've been ignoring.

Say "yes" to things.

My friend Jen invites me to trivia night? I say yes. My husband wants to meet for lunch? That's a yes, too. My friend Jeanne would like to join me for a walk? Yes it is!

And I'll be honest. I don't always feel like doing these things. Uncertainty is hard. And sometimes all I want to do is sit on the couch and doom scroll LinkedIn posts about the death of the job market.

That's why I try to always say yes. Because the one thing that I do NOT need is more doom scrolling.

Yes is always the better choice.
And if all else fails, I have one more, last ditch suggestion…

Fall down the Kate Middleton rabbit hole.

Okay, I am very happy to learn that the Princess of Wales appears to be alive and healthy and going to farmer's markets.

But if you'd like to experience a master class in making something out of (maybe) nothing, I suggest heading over to Instagram and checking out @popapologists and their 29 (!!) part series on Where TF is Kate? Seriously, everyone I know is talking about this series.

Mostly because I keep bringing it up!
Just a reminder...our next Narrative Beat workshop is less than three weeks away!

This one is gonna be all about narrative story structure. What is it? How does it work? And how do you find the right structure for your story?

This is always a fun class, with lots of interaction and, often, some lively debate. Plus...Princess Bride gifs! Who doesn't love a good Princess Bride gif?

These workshops often sell out, so reserve your spot today.
WTF is Story Structure
Date: Sunday, April 7
Time: 1:00-3:30 pm Eastern
Cost: $50

Get your ticket now!
And yes...even when our industry is not in disarray, I always reserve spots for those who can't afford to pay full price. And this workshop is no exception.

So if $50 is outside of your budget, please reply to this email and let me know. I would be happy to send you a code for a free or discounted ticket.

And if you're fully employed in this topsy-turvy audio world and would like to sponsor a spot for someone who is not, please reply to this email and let me know. I'd love to be able to accommodate as many people as possible.