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Blog // Simplicity
1 month ago

This Week I Quit My Podcast

The next This Week I Quit is my podcast, Seventeen Trees, a little seed that never blossomed.

You didn’t know I had a podcast? That’s OK. For a while there, I forgot I about it as well. Anyway, I had a podcast called Seventeen Trees. And now it’s gone.

The Brief Story Of A Podcast

I started Seventeen Trees in October 2018. At the time I had a great studio in Tokyo, which had been designed in part for podcast audio production. I’d also spent that year building a house in the Japanese alps, which prompted a lot of thoughts about the intersection of creativity, nature, and sustainability.

And I missed podcasting.

So, I decided to start a podcast aimed at the idea of living well and in harmony with nature. The connections between ecology and spirituality run deep for me. Whether it’s visiting a Shinto shrine in Japan or a Shaker village in New England, I’m fascinated by the way people’s beliefs shape how they experience nature.

With Seventeen Trees, I wanted to emulate the tone of the On Being podcast, something considered and patient, encouraging of reflection. Each episode, I would read a piece I’d written, then talk about how the piece was written and unpack some of the ideas a bit further. Some were older pieces, which created a chance to explore how my beliefs had changed over time.

But the podcast was pretty much finished by the spring of 2019. When I packed up the Tokyo studio, I didn’t have a plan for how to keep the podcast going. Once the pandemic stopped my plans to build a London studio, it was unlikely the podcast would rise again. I tried, but it was over.

Just Because You Can

Back in 2018, I missed podcasting. For a few years, I’d collaborated on a moderately successful film review podcast. It was a lot of fun. But I’m not really a film reviewer, and the podcast ran its course and was the subject of a piece in the previous series of This Week I Quit.

The experience left me hungry for more. I wanted to podcast again, but with topics that were closer to my areas of expertise.

During my years in Tokyo, every time I met someone at an event, or over coffee, I would ask myself if they could be a good co-host. I was looking for someone with the work ethic required to keep a weekly project afloat, deep subject knowledge, and a great speaking voice coupled with the kind of sharp wit that brings a podcast to life. Sadly, I didn’t meet anyone with the trifecta.

But I didn’t want to use this as an excuse to stay out of podcasting. So, I decided to go it alone.

Most podcasts have two or more hosts, or feature a host conducting interviews. Solo podcasts are rare, but not unknown. They can work well, especially in shorter formats.

I got a logo made, created an account with Simplecast for distribution, made some backing music and recorded some episodes. It was a lot of fun. I managed to keep up a pretty good near-weekly cadence of shows.

But, it was the worst time to start a podcast. I was going to be moving soon, and I didn’t have a plan for how to keep this project going beyond that move.

Define Lightly

Looking back over my journals, notes, and writing from that last year in Tokyo, I was motivated to “make things.” Too often I’d found myself at the end of my time in a city feeling like I hadn’t achieved much. I’d work a lot, learn a lot, but not always have a lot of things I’d finished, made, and shipped.

So, I focused on things that were easy to make and light on planning: prints, zines, and the podcast. I wanted to get it made rather than try to make it perfect.

I couldn’t know that when I packed up that Tokyo studio, it would be so long before I had a recording space again. It’s already been two and half years, and I’m still waiting.

Maybe a little more definition would’ve helped – like rather than leaving it open ended, saying the podcast would run for a certain time, then end.

The thing is, while the podcast wasn’t happening, it was still weighing on me. Listeners would email to ask for more episodes, and I felt guilty about not recording any more. I would try to write for new shows, only to get stuck and feel bad about the whole thing.

Giving Seventeen Trees a definite end gives me a chance to honour what I made. For this, and other reasons, I didn’t leave Tokyo feeling like I’d underachieved.

Was There Another Way?

The obvious question is, why not just keep going? After all, you can record a podcast anywhere, with all sorts of cheap equipment.

That’s true. I’ve recorded that way in the past, and I tried it last year here in London. None of the results felt satisfying.

A podcast isn’t just an opportunity to project words at a listener. There’s plenty of podcasts I’ve stopped listening to simply because they sounded horrible. The podcasts that appeal to me are sonic experience, and it’s a comfort and joy to relax into their audio environment.

And I want to create the thing I enjoy as a fan.

This requires a good space to record in but also the physical and mental room to edit carefully and craft great backing sounds and music. I managed to bring that to both the podcasts I’ve worked on.

To Podcast Another Day

Of course, I’d like to try podcasting again. I love the medium. For now, my voice pops up occasionally on social audio (especially Twitter Spaces). In the future, when I have a studio again, there’ll be another podcast.

I’ll try to find a co-host, but if I can’t, that’s okay. I’ll integrate more closely to this site, so the existence of the podcast isn’t a surprise. Most importantly, I’ll have more of a plan about how to keep it going.

Mostly, I’ll just enjoy doing it and putting the thing into the world for you to hear and enjoy.

This Week I Quit is an occasional series about using minimalism and simplicity to foster creativity, productivity, and well-being. The series originally ran from 2016 to 2019, and you can read a summary of that series here. You can find an archive of all This Week I Quit articles here. You can also follow the hashtag #ThisWeekIQuit on Twitter.

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