This week I woke up with a panic attack.
It started when I opened my phone
and saw an email
and my chest
My heart started beating faster and somehow bigger.
Big enough that I was aware that it was there and that it was pumping blood and that the motion of pumping blood was that of expansion and contraction and that this was a big deal and life depended on it and this was my life happening in each pump and that made my mouth dry and I couldn’t talk but that didn’t matter because I didn’t have anything to say and maybe I should have something to say because I always seem to have something to say on WhatsApp status - on Instagram stories, on Twitter, saying thoughts, talking about work that I should be doing or want to be doing or dream about doing, and things and shit and what am I saying and how is it important and for what and why and how and what am I doing and fuckkkkkkkkkkkkkk
The email did not bring news of rejection; perhaps things would have felt better if it had. The frame of mind I was in is one where an acceptance email of any kind would have thrust me into an anxiety spiral. This email, however, contained the most potent trigger. If someone knew all my anxieties deeply (perhaps from reading this newsletter) they could not have written a more potent email. The email brought with it high stakes, something to prove, an opportunity to fail and the worst of them all, a deadline.
Incase you are new here: My name is Mo Isu. I am an audio producer based in Lagos, Nigeria. I am currently attempting to build a career in audio journalism. I have taught myself everything I know so far. You are reading issue 11 of my newsletter detailing this segment of my journey. Read the about page for more
You’ll suffer. But you’ll write it anyway and it’ll be great.
I did not know what this newsletter was going to be when I started it. What I had intended at the beginning was to document the process of making stories and building a career. I wanted it to be a behind the scene of sorts.
I have a soft spot for process documentation. The internet is stuffed full of milestones: I graduated, I got the job, I got promoted, I relocated, I finished the thing, my company became a unicorn. Act Two will get to a milestone, somewhere at some point, I don’t know when or what or how. I wanted to document that, this not knowing. That was the intention: to document process, but I did not know what that meant. I did not know what this newsletter was going to be.
It’s clear to me now what this newsletter is about - it is about my anxieties.
It is about me wanting to move forward, move past this. Whatever this is.
It is about all the things I say instead of moving past this, it’s about all the things I do instead of moving past this. It’s about my problem of self-stagnation.
It is about how I am a master of planning and intending to do something but not actually doing it. It’s about all the nothing I do instead of all the something I want to do
Dreaming of doing.
Intend to do
Plan to do.
My pitch was accepted. I have 4 interviews to conduct and a 2000-word essay to write. I have two weeks to do it. I have not written an essay in this form before. I have not consumed many essays in this form even. As of today, I have 9 days left to do this…
Will I be able to?
It was not a long time ago when a friend asked me how I handle writer’s block. My answer to her was not straightforward - my answers to questions seldom are.
I haven’t had the privilege of writer’s block in a while. You don’t get to wait for inspiration when you have work to do. I first came across this idea in a comic by Justin Irabor. If you know him, you know him as thevunderkind on Twitter.
I don’t have the privilege of writer’s block. I mean I still experience the struggle of not knowing what to write or what to do. But you know how writer’s block manifests in practicality as ‘you staring at a blank page with a blinking cursor’. I don’t know the last time that was me. I have so much anxiety about so many things I should be doing, staring at a blank page is just not something I am occupying time with. I prefer to procrastinate.
The thing I do experience is a fear that I will do a bad job. There’s just no room for not doing the job. So like my friend said to me earlier this week,
I will struggle but I will write it anyway
Will it be great? For that, we will have to wait and see.
What does it take to feel qualified?
In the last issue, I spoke about my struggle with feeling qualified. The latest in a string of essays about what is clearly a deep sense of imposter syndrome. That issue featured a conversation I had with my friend and ended on a note of me making a laundry list of things it will take for me to feel more qualified. Here’s what that list is currently looking like
Consume good work and learn from it
I think this is the easiest way to acquire a sense of qualification. It’s like that popular advice for writing better - read more. I know my struggle with feeling qualified has to do with me achieving things but I also know that I need to be intentional in my consumption and so this is the first thing on my list.
Develop Systems, Models and templates
A lot of conversations I have with people that want me to do some work with them start with a question of how I am going to do it. In fact, I think this is a pretty pertinent part of sending pitches. You have to include who you are going to talk to and how you plan to tell the story. So that’s this item. To develop systems, models and templates for every bit of work that I am going to do. Systems I can communicate to the people I am working with and templates that get me to do a task quickly.
Document everything - everything
I already do this. A friend of mine reached out to me earlier this week because he had an interview for a producer role but he hadn’t previously worked as a producer. He wanted to ask me some questions about what it took to be one. I sent him a link to a document I had prepared two years ago that broke down the responsibility of a producer as I understood it. I am noticing that I document a lot of processes. I have waned on doing that this year but this is clearly a useful practice. This is a note for me to continue it.
Take courses, get certification
I hate to admit it but certifications do bring me a sense of validation, progress and qualification. I think it is time for me to do more research on what online courses and certifications I can take in relation to audio production, sound design and journalism.
Do bad work
Sounds counterproductive but I can only do work that is as good as I am currently. And I need to do more work to get better. There is that feeling of looking back at the work you did in the past and seeing how you have gotten better. All this to say, is that I need to do the work I can do now and stop waiting to be better/more qualified before attempting it.
Get comfortable with no
I want to say that I don’t mind rejections but that’s a lie. The only rejections I don’t mind are the ones that don’t feel like my life depends on it. And in a lot of situations, those are the only ones I seek. I have to try my hands on things I like and stop waiting. I expect to get nos because I feel unqualified. But I need to try till I get yes not wait till I feel qualified.
Need I say more? This newsletter has followed my pitching journey for 6 weeks now. We have seen me send my first pitch and now I am in the middle of doing the story for that pitch. Pitching must continue.
Am I missing anything? I want to hear back from you reader. What can I do to feel more qualified?
This week, I am listening to:
Podcast: Love and Radio
Love and Radio is perfect at creating an uncomfortable feeling. I started binging episodes this week but it has been on my radar for quite a while. I listened to a lawyer who exclusively defended people prosecuted for sexual offences and I listened to another lawyer who has heavy ties to suspicious groups in the middle east. The guests are strange and interesting, the interviews are deep and moving, the music and atmosphere bring it all together in a stunning way. I highly recommend it.
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