I listen to a lot of podcasts and watch a lot of online video, almost none of which is produced by broadcast professionals.
The production values of what I watch and listen to varies greatly. Some are pretty decent, but most are pretty awful compared to something from a traditional broadcast network. The sound quality on most of these shows is terrible. The video quality is laughable. They tend to be poorly edited.
So why do I listen to so many podcasts on which the people are amateurs who sound like average folks sitting in a coffee shop chatting? And why do I watch videos with random backgrounds — laundry or whatever happened to be sitting around when someone started the camera?
Why do I eagerly listen to such shows — such as the one I was listening to on the way home tonight — while I expect myself to produce network-quality audio and video before I can allow myself to move ahead?
I listen to such shows because I find value in what they have to communicate, even if their hosts are about as professional as old men gossiping as they eat their biscuits at Hardee’s in the morning.
So how does my attitude about them compare to my standards for myself? Well, it’s a double standard — but it’s one to which I’m frequently blind.
When I make something, I expect it to be good enough to compete with what professionals might make. If I record audio, I expect it to sound as though it was recorded at a decent studio or a radio station. If I make a video, I expect it to look as though it was recorded and edited by broadcast professionals. Maybe not network pros, but at least as good as what I might see on local television.
And this is why I’m always disappointed in myself. The things I produce never match my expectations.
My lighting isn’t even enough. My sound isn’t perfect. And most of all, my performance grates on my nerves. I meander. I make goofy expressions when I can’t figure out exactly what I was trying to say. And I get simple words wrong — things that make me feel as though I look like an idiot when I watch the final product and wonder why I randomly used a word incorrectly.
Even to me, this sounds ridiculous. I find great value in shows that are produced by people who don’t seem to care about production values, but I can’t relax and let myself learn from my mistakes — because I’m too scared to look ridiculous to the world. My ego gets in the way, which makes it harder to learn.
I’m annoyed with myself about this, but I haven’t been able to get past it so far.
I know it’s good to care about production values. I know that it’s good to have high standards. But if I expect my work to be perfect from the beginning, I’ll never allow myself to do enough of it to get proficient.
I’m going to tell you a secret. I have a feeling that I can be good at this if I do it enough to get comfortable and relaxed. I need a lot of work. I need a lot of experience. I need to keep producing content that’s not perfect in order to slowly get good enough that I won’t be embarrassed.
When I was a child, I was accustomed to being able to do most things perfectly from my first try. My ego enjoyed starting something in school and doing it right from the beginning while others struggled. I came to believe that’s what I was supposed to do. Eventually, I figured out that I had developed a habit of refusing to try things which I couldn’t do perfectly from the beginning.
Broadcast-quality audio and video are things I can’t do perfectly from the start. They’re too technical, but even more importantly, they require a lot of work to get the performance part correct. I have to allow myself to do sub-standard work — and hope I don’t run off anybody who might watch — so I can learn how to do it right.
I was encouraged by one small development this past week. When I made a video about work and doing what we love, that wasn’t planned. Although I had been thinking about the subject for half a day, I had no intentions of making a video.
But around 9:30 p.m., I suddenly decided I wanted to talk about it. Since there was nobody around to talk with, I just grabbed some books from the shelf and got in front of the camera to talk with you instead.
When I make videos, I tend to make multiple takes, starting over half a dozen times. This time, I just turned the camera on and talked — without any planning — and that was the only take.
Now the truth is that the piece might have been only half as long if I had carefully planned it — and not so meandering — but the point is that I allowed myself — for the first time — to just go with it quickly, without fixing anything.
If I’ll do that once or twice a week for the next year, I suspect I’ll get pretty good at this. But it makes me cringe to think about people seeing me do that much sub-standard work while I figure out what I’m doing.
I just wish I could give myself the sort of grace that I give to the people I listen to on other shows. But that would require me to allow myself to be human — and that’s something I’ve never been very good at.
I either need to get good at this or I need to give it up entirely — and the only way to get good at it is to let myself be sub-standard while I learn. Let’s see whether my ego can allow that.