I recently read an article about podcasting that gave me some good direction in the form of pointed criticism. The first was Ten Reasons Why I Don’t Listen to Your Podcast. I’m probably most guilty of #1 and #5. I’m mainly dwelling on #1: “It’s not about anything.”

What is Howell Creek Radio about?

I feel like I need to answer this Question in order to get my podcast writing back on track. Maybe Howell Creek Radio is about something and I just don’t see clearly what that is yet. But it also might not actually be about anything.

Charitable answers to the Question that come to mind are “poetry,” and “finding meaning in everyday experience.” But a lot of it tends to be “Joel journals about being in the thick of his own life.” That’s where the podcast began, and now I have the vague feeling that that’s where it’s coming around to again, like I’ve made a giant loop and am back where I started. It’s not a good direction for the podcast long-term; if that’s all I’ve got, I feel like I may as well screw the cap on and be done with it.

So what could it be about?

Behind the name Howell Creek Radio is a longing to return to country living, where I started out life. I like to think of it, in a warm & fuzzy sort of way, as the kind of podcast that would emanate from a cabin in the woods. Weather reports, descriptions of what’s going on in the local wildlife, simple pleasures, etc. I feel poetry’s a good fit for that kind of theme too. Only problem is, I still live in the city, and have too little opportunity to study what little wildlife exists around our home.

It could be (and often is) about writing and creativity. But in order to be a credible witness to those things, I probably ought to have a demonstrated track record of them concurrent with and outside the podcast itself. Another thought is that the podcast would actually become fictional in nature: i.e., feature pieces of short fiction (which I have experimented with in the past). If done well, that could be a good fit in an area of podcasting that isn’t already too crowded.

I could go on and on. But, in short, I’m ready for Howell Creek Radio to be about something. What is, or could, that something be?

Firstly, I listen to your podcast because you’re a friend. Would I listen to it otherwise? Perhaps not. But, that’s hard to conclude definitely.

Secondly, I enjoy it because it is your perspective – creative with a flair of artsy. You can draw together disparate ideas as you paint a picture in my mind. Case in point was the Manning the Pumps with the ship imagery juxtaposed to the menial sump pump.

Thirdly, it provides respite from my daily routine of news, finances, and facts.

In summary, it is an extension of you – part of your expression within your life. To make it “about something” or “purposeful” would change it – at least the part of it to which I have been privy. Perhaps more primal questions would be, “Who is my audience?” and “Who am I trying to reach?” If the answers to those are indefinite or unconcerning, the status quo could easily be maintained.

Ted ·

I agree that the current defining feature of the Howell Creek Radio podcast is that it is “about Joel” and I think it is safe to say that your current audience, myself included, are happy hearing about Joel’s thoughts, and life. I often find that listening to your life and thoughts causes me to think about my life and thoughts so Howell Creek becomes an almost self-reflective and meditative exercise—sometimes in a serious vein, sometimes more humorous. Your most recent podcast made me chuckle aloud, envisioning your past, but also seeing parallels with the moments of absurd in my own life.

I don’t think you should consider Howell Creek value-less simply because you cannot put it in a category. Life does not fit in a category.

That said, I don’t think your audience will grow much beyond those who personally know you if you retain the current format. Life doesn’t fit in a neat category (and people don’t either) but people want things distilled down into neat categories and nice boxes for them. You could alter your podcast so as to accommodate the typical desires for consumption, or you could hold your course and imagine your podcast as a stalwart rebellion against the narrow categories society applies to life and the arts.

Therein we can see an argument for keeping your podcast as it stands. However, whether it be taking a stand against social expectations or simply satisfying the interest of your current audience—I don’t think either of those should guide what you do. Neither should trying to increase your audience, or conforming to social and artistic expectations.

What brings you joy? That is the question that needs to be answered and that, quite simply, is what should guide the path of Howell Creek Radio. If Howell Creek is satisfying your creative urge, and vision, then it is accomplishing its goal however many (or few) people agree. But it seems you are feeling personal artistic discontent with where Howell Creek is at—and to me that does indicate things may need to change, or, as you say, bottled up entirely. No particular artistic venture lasts forever.

I have been pondering the thought that some of the creative material I have to share might be best expressed in a fictionalized, semi-autobiographical format. With this present in my own thinking, I find your idea of the podcast being fictional as something worth pondering further.

What happens if you lean back, close your eyes, and imagine that you are Joel, living up north in a cabin on Howell Creek. What happened this week in your life, Joel of Howell Creek? What happened in your small community up at Howell Creek? The idea here would be rather than Howell Creek Radio being a place where you read the fiction of the real Joel, it would instead becoming a full-embodied fictional world which could function as a metaphor and canvas were you could talk about your own life intermixed with philosophical musings, and so on.

You could make the narrator/radio host something of a vague and abstracted figure and place some version of yourself and your growing family in the Howell Creek community, or alternatively you could more fully embody the host of the show. In any case, this fictional environment could give you more freedom to explore ideas, and your life, while at the same time maintaining a greater level of privacy for your family (a desire that may grow as your family does).

In an odd sort of twist, this would allow Howell Creek Radio to still be “about Joel’s life” for those who know Joel and can read between the lines, and for those who don’t personally know Joel then Howell Creek Radio could be a charming fictional podcast exploring upper Minnesota culture and the meaning of life.

I could go on with ideas, but I think you get where I’m going and I’ve made this comment long enough.

Rundy ·