There are a lot of things I love about hosting SSR (and I hope you know that!), but it’s not always easy. If you’ve ever considered starting your own podcast or are simply curious about what goes on behind the scenes over here, I thought you might be interested in some of the challenges that come with having an independent podcast. I call it an “independent podcast” because I’m a one-woman show and I’m not associated with a larger podcast network!
Before you read any further, please rest assured that none of this is meant to sound whiny! I choose to continue with SSR as a passion project and I honestly wouldn’t want it any other way. The podcast and the community that it’s created (hi, you!) has enriched my life SO. DARN. MUCH over the last year, and it’s been well worth the challenges. That being said, I don’t think it ever hurts to be transparent about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here goes!
My instinct is always to plan things super far in advance, which has served me well in the year since I launched SSR. It took me a while to figure out how much time I would need to get everything done and how much buffer time I need to build into my production schedule so I can get episodes released on a weekly basis while still keeping my cool in my work and personal lives. I don’t like to be caught in a situation where I have to record an episode the week before it’s set to drop (more on why that might be complicated below!), but rain checks and rescheduling can happen. For this reason, working with guests to set up recordings can be really stressful! It’s hard to respect their time while also staying on track with the podcast.
2. Juggling the Reading Schedule
I mentioned this briefly in my Year One recap, but it was (hilariously) a surprise to me when I realized that I would actually have to find the time to read every book being discussed on the show. How exactly did this not occur to me until after I had already started reaching out to potential guests for the first few episodes? I really don’t know. Obviously, I love to read, so I mostly enjoy doing this, but it does make it tricky for me to get to all of the “grown-up” books that I want to read. I feel like I’m always so far behind on reading new releases because I’m catching up on reading for the podcast! The upside, I guess, is that this has forced me to get clear about the books that I really want to read. It’s also helped me cut back on my TV-watching!
3. Anticipating All Possible Perspectives
While this can be a challenge, I also see it as an opportunity to learn. As you know if you’ve listened to more than a few episodes of SSR, my guests and I often find ourselves talking about big, complicated, sensitive issues — everything from race to gender to class to mental health. My hope is that listeners know that I never take for granted how personal these topics can be, but it’s not always easy to think about how to best represent that on the spot, and I know that I haven’t always gotten it right. I’ve learned better ways to educate myself and prepare for conversations that might be upsetting or triggering for people, but it’s definitely an ongoing process! It can also be a challenge to take my own politics (which I make pretty clear, I know!) out of every. single. discussion.
4. Listening to Myself Talk SO. MUCH.
I’ve always been a little self-conscious about my voice, so it’s kind of hilarious to me that I now spend so much time listening to it. Strangely enough, this is also one of the most-asked questions I get from people who are considering launching shows of their own: “Is it hard to listen to your own voice?” Well, sort of. But you do get used to it! This was a much bigger challenge for me in the beginning, especially when I started to realize just how many times I say “ummmm” over the course of a normal conversation (I edit most of them out!). More than a year in, I’m more or less desensitized to this part of it, except when I’m working on editing a recording when I know I was a little off my game. I can get really hard on myself!
5. Making Time for Production
It might seem like most (or all) of what I do for the podcast is what you hear when you listen to new episodes every Tuesday. If only that were true! Just kidding… kind of. The hour it takes to record every episode that you hear is only the beginning of what goes in to that episode. After I’ve finished reading each book, I spend at least an hour researching them — gathering various perspectives/reviews, transcribing especially beautiful or important excerpts, and developing interesting questions for the guest. After episodes are recorded, I do all of the editing myself in GarageBand. Editing a single episode can take anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours (!!!!). Then, it’s time to write the intro, record it, put the whole thing together, listen through it to be sure it sounds the way I want it to, and assemble show notes. And all of this is to say nothing of the time I use to communicate with guests and get the word out about SSR!
6. Keeping Reading Fun!
Every once in a while when I’m in the thick of one of those periods where I’m seriously having to juggle my reading schedule (see above!), my husband will look me in the eye and say: “Are you sure you still love reading?” He knows me, so he knows that the answer is always going to be yes, and I’m pretty sure that he only asks to confirm that I’m keeping my love of books at the forefront of all of this. If I’m being honest, there are moments when producing and hosting the show can get really stressful and overwhelming (especially given all of the hats that I wear in my day job as a freelancer), and it’s easy to see reading as a chore. Fellow book lovers — you know that we can’t let that happen! Connecting with other readers on bookstagram has been a great antidote to this temptation. It’s so nice to be in constant communication with other people who are trying to keep their TBR in check while actually enjoying reading. Reading slumps are a real thing, people!