5: Week 1 of trying to pitch
I am writing this issue on Wednesday night, simultaneously as I try to finish the edit of a podcast episode that is due tomorrow at 10 am. The time right now is 11 pm. Will I make it in time? Will I be able to finish both writing this issue as well as the episode edit?
I guess we will find out.
This is issue 5, the first issue since I committed to writing this newsletter weekly, the first issue updating my new resolve to send out pitches. In this issue, I will tell you what progress I have made but I will also tell you about my night editing. Let’s go
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 5 of my newsletter detailing this segment of my journey.
I just realised I can’t find my kindle and I am absolutely distraught. I was looking for it because I wanted to procrastinate a little by reading a couple of pages of a book but I guess the universe wants me to stay focused on the task at hand. I can’t remember the last time I saw it, I know I had it last week. I think I even had it on my birthday which was on Tuesday (7th June.) I remember going to the coffee shop a couple of days ago and wishing I had taken it with me. This was Saturday, June 11th. I haven’t seen it at least since then. So I don’t know. Okay, I am going back to work.
This update will kind of break down my editing process but not entirely. I am a sound engineer on this podcast. Basically, I put the audio elements together. The workflow starts with the interviewing, transcription and story development. I am not part of all that although I do an early audio quality check for recorded interviews. At the end of the production of an episode, I get a script and the recording of the host narrating the script. The script will generally also include some comments on other elements for the episode: where to put music, what sound effects to use, etc. For the rest of it, I am allowed to use my own creativity.
My personal workflow is generally in four phases
I edit just the interview and narration together first
Then I sound design, add music, the theme song and ads.
Finally, I go over the entire edit again and plug gaps
The last thing before exporting is mixing.
For today’s tight deadline, all of this will be happening more or less at the same time. I am still at the early bits of what I am guessing will be a 30-minute episode.
I think it is better for me to track progress with how far along I am in the script instead of how many minutes I have edited. I don’t actually know exactly how long this episode will be and the interviewee in this episode speaks slower than the average person. I am currently on page 8 of 18 and I am about to take a 10-minute break. Hopefully, I finish in the next two hours.
One of the most time-consuming parts of editing is looking for audio elements. So say there is a scene I want to sound design, maybe someone is walking in a grass field. I want to get footsteps. It takes a long time to find the right-sounding footsteps. When I have more time for my project, for certain audio elements, I will actually make it. I did that in this episode but only to record myself shouting something I wanted to include in a scene. Scenes also take a lot of stacking up. So I will find all the sound effects I need, I edit them because in their raw state they don’t work as well as I need them to, I will layer them on top of each other and probably do a couple of extra things.
On my laptop, I already have large libraries of audio elements I have used on previous projects but I am always trying to keep things fresh, so with every new assignment, I look for new music and new sound effects and new ambient sound. It takes time to do this.
Page 10. Not even halfway there but I am going to take a nap now because I haven’t really slept in three nights. I would have probably been farther along but there was a section I just finished working on that required me to do a lot of sound designing. Done that now so I know the rest of the episode will take maybe just another 90 minutes. I will do that in the morning,
Did I make it in time?
Well, it’s 4 pm now as I write this and the answer is no, I did not. I did not finish the edit and this newsletter in time. I was done with the edit by 11 am and I sent it for review. I am expecting feedback soon and will leave a small update for that at the end of this issue. I clearly didn’t make it in time to finish this issue so my weekly updates are already up to a failed start.
I am not deterred by this of course. One of the reasons I am trying to do this weekly is to really confront the idea of consistency i.e sometimes consistency doesn’t mean you did great, it seems to mean you did. At work, I already beat myself up every time I am late or miss a deadline narrowly or just don’t come clutch. doing things like things where I get to define success myself, I am going to practise being more generous. I have tried to do that with my language learning (I have been learning french for a number of years now.) In the past couple of weeks, I have struggled with going to the gym and I am also trying to be generous with myself about this. Things like this require generosity. I need to afford myself the generosity that other people might now. It’s only through generosity that I can actually perfect the process. I am sorry that this first update is later already, I will try to send future updates earlier.
Week 1 of pitching
The idea of pitching has consumed me this week. I have brought it up in conversations with friends multiple times. I posted the following on my WhatsApp status:
“Send me frequent messages asking me why I haven’t yet pitched any story until I get over myself and start sending pitches.”
Immediately two people asked me this question and I was forced to give them some answers.
I feel underqualified
I have produced near 40 podcast stories, many of them under the same episode on my old podcast. Why do I feel underqualified? Well, in a small way, I don’t feel like a real producer. For my podcast, I just did stories I had some curiosity about. There were some stories I didn’t even know the entirety of why I was chasing them but I still did them. I never really had to create pitches. I am scared that I don’t know how to do that, how to create pitches. The simple reason for this is that I just have never done it before, not really. I feel like people are able to call themselves producers because they have done a lot of producing, have I done enough producing?
I am scared
I am scared I don’t know how to do it. I am scared that my life depends a lot on my ability to do this that I can’t get myself to fail at it. I want to do it and succeed not do it and fail and have to try again. I am experiencing inertia. You would think that the fact that I know what the problem is means I know how to fix it and I will fix it but instead…
What have I done?
One thing that has consumed my thought a lot is what qualifies as a story? Every single passing moment of this week has included the backdrop of me wondering what a story is. Are stories big things with great impact and influence or are they small things about someone’s day? I am having a hard time knowing what a story is. For one, I have started to imagine that stories are more than the thing I used to do with my old podcast. My old podcast was always intimate, about one person’s relationship with an idea. The episodes were an attempt to pit multiple perspectives against each other to show the limitations of our personal bubbles. But without that guide, I seem to fall flat on what makes a story pitchable. This is exhausting.
One thing I know I do need to do to get over this is I need to fail. I need to create pitches and be turned down a number of times. Whether I fear it or not.
I have some rough ideas for pitches, my goal over the next couple of weeks is to fail. I intend to pitch and expect failure. I just have to accept that so I can stop being afraid of it.
Meanwhile, I am currently sitting on an idea I want to pitch to a publication. I need to watch a couple of youtube videos and possibly email someone before I can send that pitch but that is likely to become my first real pitch so wish me luck(I would actually appreciate hearing from you)
I think this is where I end this issue.
Update on my edit: It’s gotten the green light. I need to fix just one thing but it all seems good. Aisha (my boss on this project) says it’s okay. I need to react to that. I have been trying to get a ‘wow’ from Aisha for like forever. I don’t want to make work that is adequate, I want to make work that’s darn right amazing. Every week, I hope this is the week she says ‘wow, you outdid yourself Mo’ but it’s been a lot of ‘sounds fine’ lately. We go again next week.
Thank you for reading this issue
Radio workshop, a South Africa-based podcast produced by Children’s radio foundation recently added me to their team page as a reporter. It feels nice.
Their new series on a South African township called Alexandria is currently airing and you can listen to the first episode now.
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