Did you ever have to listen to someone try their first tones on the clarinet? First, it’s just raspy, toneless hissing. Then it’s a horrible, tortured, screeching sound – usually, it is so loud it hurts your ears. And as the son of a clarinet teacher I’ve had that experience several times. Even with the help of an experienced teacher, learning to get a clean tone out of that thing is a tedious and frustrating process.
Playing the clarinet – or learning an instrument – or getting started in any creative activity, really is always like this. Also in podcasting. Nothing is right! It’s nowhere near what those people create that inspired you! Why is everything. so. hard.
One begins to respect that the new hobby, that looks so easy when others do it, is a serious craft. Some crafts are more easily started than others, but all of them are hard to master. The best works of any type were always created by talented professionals with a deep understanding of the craft.
Unless you master a craft your results may be original, but not good.
There’s this naive-romantic notion people have about creative work. Who never learned a craft thinks that it was best – or even ‘fun’ – to just start doing things and then learn from mistakes. And that that’s how your work would become ‘truly original’.
I think that’s counterproductive and a recipe for failure and frustration. When I start something, I want to at least see the point at which I can live up to my expectations on the horizon!
Teachers guide you through the initial pains and toward the production of something more satisfactory.
And a teacher can be there in person, or they made some tutorial videos you enjoy, or they’ve written a textbook, or … you get the idea: You can freely pick how much instruction you want; how much you read about the underlying theoretical knowledge; how much you want to figure out on your own.
The craft you learn from teachers is the collective experience of everyone in the scene. Concepts, formats, and techniques that have proven themselves: the tools of the trade. That’s what people learn in art school, at the film academy, or university.
For newbies about to create their first podcast episode, this knowledge is being boiled down to a handful of recommendations. And these recommendations are meant to give the newbie a proven recipe for a solid, standard piece – not to make them stars overnight.
‘But if I just follow the standard advice, then my work won’t be original?!’, you might think. Don’t worry! It’s your own interpretation of the recommendations, your own voice, your own topics, your own choice of music, etc. – your work will be unique right from the beginning. At least if you honor the most important recommendation: be yourself.
When you’ve mastered the standard piece, and put the work in to analyze and understand why it works decently well, then you can become creative; vary on the theme, improvise. But you will be doing it with deliberation and purpose. That’s the art!
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