Culture of Inclusivity: Why Audio Drama Is Becoming the Space For New Voices

August 29, 2018

 

One of the things I have never been able to relate to is the term “I can’t.” For me, anything worth thinking about is at least worth attempting with an honest effort. I have never not tried something I wanted to do.

 

Growing up, I met my fair share of “can’t do” people. The world is full of them. They’re usually the unmotivated types who prefer to coast through life, not putting in the sweat equity it takes to achieve something worth achieving. Those observations tainted my later perspective of the world, even as I entered the podcasting medium. If someone told me I couldn’t do something, it was all the more reason to try it. That’s not to say I’m not my own worst enemy — I can be–but I’ve never understood why people stopped doing, or never attempted, something simply because they were told “you can’t” — even (especially) if that message is implied.

 

Many moons ago I got into podcasting by hosting a podcast about religious minorities. It was during that series of interviews with voiceless people that I came to see a bigger picture — the reality of many people around the world. By this time, I had already lived in eleven different states and seven different countries — it wasn’t like I was a sociological recluse. But now I was ready to hear (not listen, but hear) people, people different from me. What I realized was that even in the great United States of America, there are people who feel powerless and voiceless. Everyone does on some level. But for many people, the message of “can’t do” is so ingrained in their psyche they don’t realize it is stopping them from seeing their true potential. If they can’t see their potential, how are they supposed to work toward it? Whereas I dare someone to send me a “can’t do” message, I’ve spoken with dozens of people who express a polar opposite reaction. Too many of them, believing the message of “can’t do” is normal.

 

I remember one particular interviewee telling me that she “never considered blogging” as a vehicle to spread her important message. This was back in the day when everyone had a blog. That revelation was unconscionable to me. But the genuineness in her voice was unquestionable; the — to me — simple act of writing a blog wasn’t even in her periphery. I couldn’t understand it. But here was a human being in pain, who never considered blogging. For her, the thought was no easier than you thinking about leaping from wherever you’re reading this to the moon.

 

That was enlightening and can serve as a personal awakening — assuming you’re receptive to it.

 

From the beginning of her life she’d been fed a message of “can’t do” and didn’t realize it was wrong until she believed “she could.”

 

Over the eight years I’ve been podcasting, I’ve seen a message very similar to this from far too many people. It is heartbreaking.

 

I served in the military, and even though the military is far from perfect (and far from being evolved even now), it is still years ahead of the civilian community in terms of giving people an equal voice (via regulation). That always skewed my world view and, even after I left the service, I didn’t realize by just how much. I joined when I was eighteen (signed the papers when I was seventeen), and spent my entire life around people with “can do” attitudes, because saying “can’t do” gets people killed. Imagine my surprise when I rejoined the civilian world and was hit with so many stories from people who truly believed they couldn’t do something.

 

There are reasons why people feel voiceless.

 

As unreal as it is in 2018, we still have sections of the world that don’t want certain types of people to have a voice. Those barriers to empowerment are emboldened by their echo chamber of rhetoric. It’s more important than ever for people with access and opportunity to be given the belief that “they can” by someone who cares, who refuses to be a bystander. (If that sounds ridiculous to you, go back to the beginning of this article and read what I shared earlier.)

 

As an author and audio dramatist (creator of fiction podcasts), it pains me to hear others say they feel like they don’t have a place in the creative market space. I have to remind myself of those life lessons I learned from listening to other people, those caring, intelligent people who started the race of life two hundred yards behind almost everyone else. I have to remember there are people who have been told from the fragile start of their lives that what they had to say didn’t matter — a message that was constantly reinforced. I have to keep in mind there is at least one woman in the world who didn’t realize she had the right to blog about her legitimate frustrations about unequal treatment. I remind myself of this daily because I am part of a community with space for everyone; space that is under-utilized but could serve as a vehicle of empowerment, if leveraged.

 

The world is full of rich, diverse stories, but all we hear are tales from a sliver of that communal pie.

 

When people in the developed world don’t believe they have a place in audio drama, there is something very wrong that requires all of us to come together.

 

Based on my eight years in podcasting, the past four in audio drama, I understand this medium and I am confident there is no place more ready for true inclusivity than audio drama. That which starts here can serve as the model for other storytelling mediums. After that, the snowball effect will carry momentum forward.

 

Except for the extreme fringes, everyone can have a voice in audio drama. Mics are cheap and software is free. One of the greatest evolutionary stages of the audio drama market space over the last three years has been its growth and focus on inclusivity. Never before have I seen so many voices becoming so prominent.

 

You may listen to podcasts, but may not realize there are fiction podcasts tucked away (sometimes in the darkest crevices of your podcatcher), waiting for the world to find them. I assure you, they’re there. Whoever you are, wherever you are, you are being represented in a podcast, somewhere. But, even for all its growth over the last two years, audio drama still has a long way to go. There are voids that still need to be filled. At no fault of its own, this category still has room for other voices. Maybe even your voice.

 

Do you have a story in your head?

 

Have you ever felt like no one would be receptive to it, but it still won’t go away? Is the story begging to be told? Does it move within you?

 

Do you not see yourself reflected on television, Netflix, Hulu, etc.?

 

Do you not hear your story in the podcasts you listen to?

 

Why not make it yourself?

 

Take your space.

 

The space is there and a welcoming community awaits, ready to devour all types of new stories. No question is too elementary. No lack of knowledge will be scoffed at by experienced audio dramatists.

 

Come, ask us.

 

If there was ever a community brimming with a “can do” attitude regarding inclusivity, it is the audio drama community.

 

You do have a voice. Your voice carries a message, a story, that needs to be heard. Don’t listen whenever someone tells you that “you can’t,” because we’re here to show you that “you can.”

Call to action for those in the audio drama community: be present, be ready to help anyone who has any questions about how and where to start. Keep those arms, long held open, wide.

 

Paul Sating is an author of two fiction novels (Chasing the Demon, 12 Deaths of Christmas). His next book, Novel Idea to Podcast, is a how-to-podcast book for writers and will be published in October, 2018. He hosts Horrible Writing, a podcast for writers and audio dramatists. You can find all of his audio dramas, novels, and even sign up for his newsletter at paulsating.com.

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