Monday, August 29, 2011

Flying a helicopter out of my comfort zone

Last January I began to do something really out of my comfort zone. It requires huge chunks of time-often keeping me up long past the time my eyes should be shut. So much time is spent, and yet, I rarely speak of it in this space. Why? I thought that I didn't want the worlds overlapping in public much. The mommy blogger world, the columnist world--and this one. They feel separate, so I keep them separate.

This endeavor has very little in the way of conventional rewards--but I won't stop doing it now. I'm too far in. It's too much a part of my life. I can't stop and I don't want to.

Your brain went in the wrong direction. Turn around.

I'm talking about the podcast, The History Chicks.

If you haven't ever listened, it's ok. It's not eveyone's cup of tea. But if you have never listened, how do you KNOW it's not your cup of tea?

It's not ALL girly, although we do talk about historical women.

It's not ALL educational, although you will learn something.

It's free.

Well, it's free for you. For Beckett and me it is pretty costly. Not only financially, but when you devote as much time as we do to this project, there is a price to pay

There was some start up expenditures, as well as gas, etc, on my car making the 52 mile round trip to her house for recording sessions.There are library fines for holding onto books just one more, ok...two more weeks so we can have them with us when we record.  Upgraded equipment is in our future, as well as attending some conferences that we think will help us.

When Beckett approached me to do this, I was hesitant. I thought my brain was pretty mushy. It had been a LOOOONG time since I had read much non-fiction..and it had been even longer since I was tested on what I had read. That's kind of what the podcasts are for me, tests. Did I understand this women? Did I take her into my life? Can I explain her- how interesting she was and why we should all remember her life? Tests.

Beckett describes the learning curve we did last spring as vertical. Here is a helicopter, fly up. Oh, and thousands of people will be listening as you do. Have fun!


The first few months were frenetic. Some really amazing people gave us some really amazing advice and we tried to follow it as best we could with the limitations that we had. (Beckett works full time and has a family; I  have two deadlines each week, write as much as I can and am still doing all the SAHM things I always did). Also we knew each other, but only online. Sitting across from someone and talking is very different than typing that conversation. Facial expressions, the verbal flow and cadence to their speech,...all things we learned.

I think we began to hit a stride about five episodes in. A routine developed, we got to know one another, we figured out what methods work best for us. Beckett likes to have hand written notes...pages and pages of them. I like to have an outline, several reference sheets and write up my notes- I just remember them better that way. I love to listen to her talk, so sometimes I get caught up in the stories she is sharing. Sometimes I will throw a left field pop culture reference in that stalls her out for just a second.

About ten podcasts in,the process started to be less nerve-wracking, more fun. We started to hear from certain listeners over and over again, begin to form relationships with them. For me, the fear that thousands of unknown ears were listening to be critical began to subside. I began to think of them as people who got me, not people that I had to be concerned wouldn't. They weren't listening to be critical, they were listening to be entertained and informed. I started to feel comfortable behind the mic, and online, and lost any formal, uncertain- what- to- share- edge I may have had. If that makes any sense at all.

We had to take a brief hiatus this summer to regroup. My kids were home, I had to turn my focus to them. But Beckett and I still worked on the project. Things that listeners will never know about, too boring to talk about, really. We really do communicate at least once a day, usually far more than that.

Now we are back for our second season. That sounds so official, so Not A Play Project anymore. But it FEELS like a play project. More so now than several months ago. My brain doesn't feel as mushy, and the vertical learning curve mindset is directed more at the women we study, than on technical issues. I still think of the material as a test, but I also think of it as time to sit down with my friend and talk. Historically based girl talk.

I am more excited than overwhelmed when I think," if we learned this much in less than a year, imagine how much we are going to learn this season!" We do have quite a bit to learn, and are still new to the game--but what a rewarding game it is! Well worth the price we pay.

Now that we know how to not crash the helicopter, how to keep in it the air, we can start to learn what all the other cool buttons are for.

If you haven't checked us out, go! Click HERE. You can listen on that website (in a separate window so you can still surf around while you listen)- or download on itunes (just search The History Chicks), or your favorite podcast aggregator (that's a fancy word for the icon you click on your phone/ipod that delivers the podcast to that device. Come one, if you never listened to a podcast, it's time to get out of your comfort zone!)


  1. I listen to several history podcasts - yes, I am that nerdy. But, even nerds have their uses - in this case, it's useful to know that History Chicks is one of the most fun and entertaining of history podcasts available.

    Susan, thanks for climbing that vertical - you two are a treasure!

  2. Thank you, Rose! That was a very nice thing to read, made my morning!( We nerds rule the world, but shhh, don't tell anyone.)


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