One of the lessons I’ve learned in hindsight is to give myself more time and brainspace to think while managing a podcast – especially as a research process, but even otherwise. Usually what tended to happen was that I’d be so caught up in the nitty-gritty of each episode – listening to/reading a range of fan texts and shortlisting them for each episode, planning episodes, recording them, and transcribing, editing and sharing them – that I didn’t have much room to take a step back and just think. I was running more or less on autopilot. Apart from the PhD, over the last year, I’ve also been a part of a conference planning committee, written and presented a paper, written a children’s book, conducted two workshops – one for young people and one for adults – and moved houses. Which inevitably meant that even when I did have some time to breathe, life got in the way. All of which was compounded by the mental health impact of living through a pandemic and several political crises. Going forward, there’s not much I can do in terms of planning life and world events, but I want to try and deliberately schedule some downtime because having my brain and schedule full all the time meant that I experienced several bouts of burnout. And both research and personal experience (with both research and children’s book plots) has shown that downtime is crucial in making connections and gleaning insights – not working on and thinking about something all the time is more likely to allow my brains to form connections subconsciously.

Image courtesy Incidental Comics

While I didn’t manage to incorporate this downtime during the first season, I did find these connections happening when I wasn’t thinking about the specifics of the episode themes, texts, and discussions. This especially manifested when I was transcribing episodes (which was a much less brain-heavy task) and listening to edited episodes to note any errors or discrepancies. What this meant was that connections between episodes which I hadn’t deliberately planned happened almost organically and a theme or text which was cursorily mentioned in one episode led to a much more detailed analysis and discussion in a future episode. For example, we briefly mentioned She-Ra in Episode 12 and then had an entire episode dedicated to She-Ra in Episode 16. This didn’t just happen with media texts but also discussion strands and ideas – sometimes taking me completely by surprise. I’ve found this happening when I write children’s books as well – when I get towards the middle or end of the book I’m writing, I’ll find that I’m pulling together strands from earlier in the book almost like I’d deliberately planted these clues and ideas – though I had no conscious awareness of doing this. Similarly with the podcast episodes, since I was so steeped in them from January to October this year, I’ve picked up on themes and ideas from different episodes and texts which hasn’t just informed my thinking about them but also the direction of future episodes.

Moreover, the technical and practical details of planning, recording and editing episodes also influence how future episodes are planned, recorded and edited. In bursts of enthusiasm, I’ve often suggested too many texts while planning, assumed my co-participants would have the same time/enthusiasm to suggest their own texts/go through my texts, haven’t kept an eye on the time while recording resulting in really long episodes, been overly or not-enough cautious when it comes to marking edits of episodes. Of course, some lessons have taken a little longer than others to learn – and others haven’t yet manifested. However, the whole podcasting process has been a learning endeavour and I will make sure to plan better for next season by incorporating the missteps in my experience here. I can’t say that I’ve definitely managed later episodes better than earlier episodes – there are things I’ve done better in both and things I could have done better in both. But when looking at all the episodes as a whole, there’s definitely lots to learn from. I’m really happy that even when I was doing things inefficiently or not-as-effectively, I was still learning throughout the experimental process.