The constraints of liberation

PSSST! Doing a podcast, a vlog, a newsletter, a blog, an article? Here’s a little tip that I learned from working in both radio and on newspapers: 

Set a limit defined by your chosen media (time, words, space, pages) and DON’T EXCEED IT.

Word counts and time limits and space restrictions are your friends, and they’re even bigger friends of your audience.

Doing an open-ended vlog or podcast or written piece may feel liberating, but it’s really just self-indulgence, and it’s also disrespectful to your audience. It’s like handing them your notes or your rough draft and saying “Here… the bigger point is in here somewhere, but I don’t feel like slogging through all this shit to find it… you’ll suss it out.” 

And my attitude, even with a person I like, is usually “No, I won’t. Get to the point.” 

And ultimately how can I enjoy someone who has so little respect for me –their audience– that they assume that I’ll drop everything and sit for as long as they’re going to take to stammer through whatever point they’re trying to get to? 

That’s the big problem I have with a lot of podcasts, vlogs, etc: that they just tend to go on and on and on and on and on. Every diversion, every stray thought, gets included, and the bigger points get lost in what, in the wrong hands, just comes across as discursive, self-indulgent, stream-of-consciousness rambling. Yawwwwwwn.

Radio, by contrast, is a finite medium. When I do a radio show on the air, the show starts at a certain time, I have a finite amount of time to do my show, and then the show ends at a certain time. 

If I’m on from 6-8 am, I’ve got two hours.  So I have to decide: what do I want to communicate to my listeners? What’s important? What isn’t? What songs do I want to play most

It forces me to make choices. If I want to ramble self-indulgently, I’m free to do that, but when 8 am comes, I have to relinquish the mic.

One thing I love about instagram is that the video length is capped at one minute. I can’t present anything extraneous. So if I do a video for instagram, I’ve got to present my thoughts in one minute. Not 1:05, because then I have to trim either from the beginning or the end. One minute. There’s no temporal room for self-indulgence. Unless I want to send my viewers link-jumping to a continuation, again, I need to pare it down to the essential.

Following these examples, when I decided, earlier in the spring, to do an online weekly “radio show,” I decided that it’d be one hour long. I just finished putting together this week’s, and at one point, I realized that it might run 1:00:54. I had to find 54 seconds to edit away. 

Fifty-four lousy seconds. What’s the big deal? 

The big deal is: if I decide that 54 seconds overage doesn’t matter, then, eventually, that 54 seconds becomes 1:54, then 2:54. It’s important because it means I haven’t kept my word. It’s an unwritten agreement: I tell listeners that my show is one hour long. You like and respect me enough to take an hour of your time and listen; in turn, I respect your time enough to not go a second over an hour. 

And yes, this show had a thirteen minute talk segment which could have been trimmed. But I liked that part. And I think most people who listen won’t mind it, because they know that I’m not adding that thirteen minutes on top of an hour that’s already there. 

Finding 54 seconds to trim was easy! 

Moral of the story: don’t disrespect your listeners and readers. Set a limit and don’t exceed it. 

P.S. Here’s the link to this week’s UNCLE MAX RADIO SHOW.
One hour and not a second more, although this week it was 9/10ths of a second less

I’ll make it up next week. Promise!

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