Asking My Wife to Listen
In the lead up to releasing the podcast, we tested our ideas to make sure we could create a product that matched our expectations. There were a number of test sessions and records so we could dip our toe into the podcasting swamp and see if it came out unscathed. These tests were for technical setup, playability, shifting play styles for an audience rather than for just the table, and then final- listenability. To get to this point took a lot of time, energy, cash, and emotional resolve. Not only was the process new, but the business that sat behind the podcast was a beast to untangle. Websites, podcast hosts, and affordability all intermingled with character choice, story arc and microphone technique conversations. Lay that on top of a full time job and the brain space to keep it all in check took an almighty effort.
We finally arrived at what we thought was the start – the first episode, and we cautiously asked a few select people to listen and give us some feedback. We started with the kind people- those we thought might be gentle in their response. I asked some colleagues and close friends to have a listen. People who would understand the process and the vulnerability that came along with a first showing. The response was more positive than we would have hoped. They agreed with us that there was something worth listening to and something that might have appeal to a like minded audience. We were funny, in a kind of "listening to a bunch of doofuses who were entertaining" kind of way. But also, our characters had depth and interest and there was intrigue into what their backwards and forwards journey might be. It was a buoyant period of verification that was both
invigorating and intimidating. We might be onto something here- sweet. But we now have to actually knuckle down and do it – uuuuugh. In truth though, while it was definitely work and not play to make these things, it was a very enjoyable work to be doing. Even with the brotherly disputes about content and process (yes- Justin and I have had a couple of moments!!!), playing was fun and listening back to it was quite enjoyable. Even now, after a dozen or so episodes, I find myself enjoying anew the episodes we recorded short a while ago.
It wasn’t enough though, to see if those that liked us would listen. Yes – each of our mothers would listen and congratulate us on a job well done, but that was akin to winning the best dressed award at sport. It could be seen as kind of hollow victory, even though my pink tartan mixed netball outfit deserved every award it won. We wanted to test to see what harsher critics might say about the work. We wanted to see if the market was broader than just those that sat in an adjacent community to ours. Does our storytelling hold up in its own right? Is this something that might have broad market appeal? What expectations should we put around the engagement of an audience with the characters journeys when we finally put this into the world?
For me, my harshest critic is my greatest love- my wife. She “forgives” my love of RPG and accepts that our family needs to provide me the space to play. She knows I go off to play weekly (or more) and that the process of playing is fun, cathartic and a huge stress reliever in my life. But she has no real idea of what we do, and has no real inclination to find out. I remember clearly asking her to listen to the first episode..
“Honey, we have edited what we think is the first episode of the podcast. Do you think you might listen to it and tell me what you think?”
Eye Roll. “I suppose so, but I don’t like podcasts and I am not into D&D. How long does it go for?”
“About an hour”
“Is it just you dinguses on it? I hear enough of your voice for my liking and Justin is so loud I can hear him when you record two suburbs over”
“Yes honey – just us – it would mean a lot to me if you listened”
"Ok – when the boys go to sleep we can listen to it together. I am going to need a gin though”
“No problems- I will set it up”
To be fair- this paints my wife in an unflattering light. She has made plenty of room for me to pursue this intangible idea, and has supported me to go forth with it. But also to be fair – she doesn’t really want to know anything about it.
Anyway – that night we sat in the lounge room, with the lights dimmed, and a cold refreshing beverage in our hands and I played the episode. It felt like we were old timey people listening to the wireless, but it felt warm and comforting to be able to do this together. I was nervous- more so than my wife would understand I think. I was hanging on every moment for a laugh or a chuckle, a sigh or a gasp. I was riding the episode on two levels -both in terms of listening and enjoying it myself, but also enjoying the reactions that my wife had to it as well. As is her personality, the funny moments were met with a couple of big laughs – but only those from other members of the group. The moments from me we met with a wry smile and a whispered “idiot” as she looked at me from the corner of her eye. And to her credit she listened to the whole episode without disengaging or being distracted.
At the end of the episode the conversation went something like this…
“Is this what you do every week?”
“More or less- when we aren’t recording there is a lot more conversation interjected in the game, but essentially that is what we do”
“It is pretty good- not my thing, but you guys are fun to listen to and the characters are pretty interesting. I had no idea what all the dice meant, but that didn’t seem to matter. The story held its own and the characters where somewhat believable.”
“Oh – cool. I am glad you enjoyed it – do you want to listen to the next episode”
“Nope – I still don’t like podcasts.”
There was other feedback- mechanical and detailed - that has all been taken on board, but that overarching response left me with a huge sense of relief. If my wife thought it had legs, then most people would find Fumble Through worthy of at least a listen. And it wasn’t until that point that I knew we had made a podcast worth making. I think at the end of that conversation I exhaled a breath that I had been holding for months.
And so we went on to keep recording and editing and arguing and creating – and we released the first episode into the world and things have moved on. But I will always remember that crossroads, where with a word my wife had the ability to empower or to crush one mans goals. And I am thankful to her for her “kind” words.
Love you sweetheart
P.S. I have deliberately used the term “My Wife” in this reflection so as you read it out loud you can take full advantage of that.