Missing the Boat. Again.
I've talked before about waiting too long to write about an idea. This has happened to me a few times before, and I'm sure other writers can relate. But I experienced something even worse than that recently: my podcast idea was taken. I don't mean stolen—that would actually be preferable to this, because then I could blame the situation on theft and not on my failure to take action. No, I just mean someone else had the same idea, probably around the exact same time, and executed it.
In 2017, I started thinking that I wanted to launch a podcast one day. I started toying with ideas, thinking about what I hoped to achieve with this (connecting with people and hearing their stories) and things I was interested in (music and philosophy came to mind). The first few ideas I had I dismissed quickly, but then I came up with this: People would select songs that told the story of their lives and then we would have a conversation about them. I initially said 3-5 songs, but then limited it to just three—any more than that would be too much; three seemed just right. Then I tweaked the idea a little more and concluded that it didn't necessarily have to be the songs that told their life story, but the three songs they felt reflected any significant moments or phases or aspects of their lives, and then we'd play clips of these songs and talk about them. I imagined guests sharing memories of their first school dances, when they met The One or when they got their hearts broken; a coming of age road trip with friends.
I kept the idea to myself, for the most part. I did mention to the love of my life that I wanted to start a podcast and that it involved music, but I was afraid to share the specifics because I worried that he'd think the idea was lame. He didn't pressure me to elaborate on the details I do remember him asking me how I was thinking of producing it and I wasn't sure. I knew I wanted to do it, but I knew that I wasn't ready back then.
Fast forward to 2020 and I've been trying to get my life and my shit in order and really think about all the things I want to do and set goals for myself. So I had been thinking off and on about this podcast thing since 2017 but this time I started researching how to license music and ways to get production training for podcasts. I joined a facebook group of women and non-binary podcasters to learn from them. I planned to have my dad as my first guest because he's led a very interesting life and he's a musician too so I'm curious to know what songs he'd pick. As a bonus, he has a very nice voice. And then the other day I opened a doc and started making a list of possible titles (most were not very good) for this podcast idea of mine.
I Googled each title and they were all taken. Most of them were for things other than podcasts, but I still didn't want to confuse people so I scratched those off the list. Then finally, I thought I might have a winner with "Song Stories" but then as soon as I started typing the letters into the search bar, auto-complete read "song stories podcast" and I said, 'Uh-oh.'
I assumed that the worst case scenario would be that there was another podcast with that name. But it was far worse than that: It was a similar name (theirs is "Three Song Stories" instead of "Song Stories") but it was the same idea. Their description:
"Three Song Stories is an exploration of the power music has to connect us to times, places, people, and emotions from our lives. The show bring out the guests' personalities, and personal histories, by mining the connections music has made during their lifetimes. It's also a chance to sit back and listen to the eclectic mix of songs the guests have chosen for their ultimate musical memory short list."
I was crushed. I cried for a few minutes, though I took small comfort in the fact that my idea had been worth sharing after all if it had been made into an NPR podcast. I couldn't be angry with them—they didn't even know who I was; they had not "stolen" my idea. I don't even like using the words "my idea" here, because it suggests that I and I alone can own it. We just happened to have the same thought—and probably at around the same time, too; Three Song Stories launched in 2018, which means that they may have thought of it in 2017. It doesn't really matter anyway, but it reminds me of something I read about in Elizabeth Gilbert's book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
Gilbert, who I wouldn't call religious but who is very spiritual, has this theory that ideas are like these mystical things that are trying to get creative people to carry them out. And if you don't move forward, then it (the idea) will find someone else who will.
Usually when I don't take action on something soon enough, it's because I'm scared or trying to figure out how to go about it. Sometimes I'm lazy or I think I have more time. With this podcast though I just didn't feel ready. But maybe I should have forced myself into readiness and just did the damn thing. It's not about "winning" either; I've never been competitive, despite almost everyone I know being that way. I don't even care who wins board games. It's just that I had this dream and now I feel like it's gone.
Maybe I can modify the idea in some way. Maybe I'll come up with a new idea that I like just as much as this one. There are quite literally hundreds of thousands of individual podcasts in existence; there is bound to be some overlap. But for now, I'm feeling this loss.