Working Notes — Seoul Tribe 04

Getting Started

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”

— Anne Lamott

I read Anne Lamott’s book titled ‘Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life’ back in college. While all the chapters are timeless, the one that I still will always remember is the chapter about “shitty first drafts.” It was true back then and I think it’s still true for me now: getting started is often the hardest part.

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To recap:

  1. Idea: Seoul Tribe is a new creative podcast that I’m making with the help of two friends. This project has been a whole year in the making counting the very first moment of ideation to the present. It’s a podcast about Korean artists and their music. (Read part 1)

  2. Plan: I turned to a more analog approach in the very beginning so that I could get clear about what exactly the project would look like, who it was for, and what the content itself would be about. I also turned to just raw recording to get my thoughts out in the open. (Read part 2)

  3. Design: With the help of two friends, Seoul Tribe will have its own brand identity and unique web presence. I’ve learned the remarkable value of collaborating with friends who are good at what I’m not and letting them just do their thing. (Read part 3)

I can’t believe this is the fourth installment of Seoul Tribe’s Working Out Loud series!

As my friends Kim (designer) & Jerry (developer) work together to build and design, I’m in a privileged place to solely focus on what I’m here to do: write, edit, record, and produce. This post is all about my writing and editing process so far for the podcast. Enjoy!

Parameters

One of the biggest pitfalls I think people fall into when working on side projects is that we don’t make enough loose decisions early on. Decisions about what the project is really about, who it is for, how it should generally feel, and a whole slew of other parameters.

Since I’d already completed the exercises in my focus journal, my answers helped me make a general plan around how I’d go about my writing process too.

Every month, we’ll have a “slate” of episodes. One slate consists of (1) flagship episode and (2~3) deep cut episodes. Our first debut season will have 10 flagship releases.

  • 🏴 Flagship episodes: A flagship episode highlights a specific artist or group. It is our main block of programming that dives into the backstory and/or general analysis of Korean artists and their music.

  • 📼 Deep cuts: Inspired by Hasan Minhaj’s show Patriot Act, “deep cut” episodes are more casual audio bits in which I invite my friends and guests to discuss a slew of related and unrelated topics with me. They are meant to support the tangents that come out during my research and production of the flagship episodes. These are also discussions that wouldn’t make sense in the main episodes.

After deciding on the general parameters, I was ready to start gathering materials for my very first flagship episode highlighting the South Korean rapper Beenzino.

Raw Materials

After a few moments of staring at a blank document, I thought about where it would make the most sense to start in gathering materials for the first episode. Google? Nope.

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As someone who is thankfully competent in Korean, I went to the best sources I could think of for Korean music knowledge — Melon, Bugs, and Naver. All popular websites and search engines in South Korea. I bookmarked and clipped every interview or tidbit of knowledge I thought was well researched and written.

Of course, I also went to YouTube and tried out various search terms in both English and Korean. I saved all of them to a private playlist for later. Lastly, I went and rewatched any entertainment documentaries I could still find on the artist.

This process didn’t take long, but I also found it hard to know when to stop. It’s so easy to keep worrying about whether you got everything you need or if you’ve missed anything critical. I learned that after awhile though, there is definitely a “good enough” point.

Translation

While I consider myself pretty fluent for a Korean American, I still find English to be the language I’m most comfortable with… especially when it comes to skimming. I wanted to be able to skim my notes quickly later on so I took the time to break out bullet points where I translated key points to remember when actually writing the script.

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I learned so much in reading directly from Korean outlets and interviews. While the Internet is definitely full of translations, I discovered so many nuances and layers to the artist I was researching that I never knew from just watching YouTube videos and translated headlines.

It was also eye opening to get a sense of how the Korean public sees an artist in comparison to what fans based outside of Korea might think or assume. When it came to videos, I turned on the closed captions and made sure I was understanding exactly what the content was saying or implying.

Anatomy

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As someone who works in the creative industry, I’ve come to fall in love with systems and structures. Ideas are romantic and inspiring, but it’s the superpower of project management that I think truly makes them come to life and spread.

One day while chilling with Kim, I ripped out a sheet of paper from my notebook and said, “I think I got it!” I quickly scribbled a simple “anatomy” for what each Seoul Tribe episode would be look like. It was an outline that I knew I could start with and rearrange later on. I typed out my notes and created a template that could be easily reused.

Okay. Now, I had everything I needed to get started with the actual writing. I had gathered my raw sources, translated them, annotated the key themes I thought were important, and I also had a rough template I could plug my writing into.

Piece of cake, right? 🍰😬

Writing vs. Speaking

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Even with all the preparation I did, the process of writing a basic script and recording it has been an incredible learning curve for me.

It’s a lot easier in my opinion to make a podcast that is centralized around guests and interviews. You have a natural counterpart to react to and organically build a conversation with for your recordings. And while Seoul Tribe definitely has guests and interviews, I wanted to be able to carry a large part of it on my own as well.

After writing the entire first part out for in “script” form, I recorded myself reading it dozens of times. Through this process, I fixed the script to have a more natural sound to it and also edited out anything that didn’t feel right out loud.

I’m not going to lie, in the beginning, it was difficult to get myself to not be intimidated by the process. However, the more I did it, the more I got used to it. Practice, practice practice.

That’s it for now!

— Emerline