Thinking in seasons.

Hi friends,

How do you do your best and most creative work? 

Do you like to work alone in a quiet studio, with nothing on the calendar? Or maybe surrounded by coworkers in an office, with every hour pre-scheduled? 

As I look at my own life and career, I tend to do my best work if I am: 

  1. Collaborating with other people.
  2. Sticking to tight constraints around time and scope.  

I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of creating seasons for podcasts. Art and creativity (at least for me) work best when there is a clear beginning and end. 

It’s why we still have albums, films, books, campaigns, sprints… compressed periods in which a project is started and completed. 

These boundaries force us into action and making fast decisions. They have a finish line, and you can see it in the distance. 

When it’s all over you can step back, rest, review, and start again. 

The Problem with Digital Media & Subscriptions

Inevitably, this approach conflicts with digital subscription businesses. Substacks and Patreons are a net positive for indie creators, but these models are built for recurring monthly revenue, which encourages “always-on” content creation. 

Weekly newsletters and podcasts, daily social media and blog posts, hourly updates. It never ends.

And then if it does end — if you choose to step off the treadmill — you might feel like you failed, instead of enjoying the success of having made something wonderful. 

This frequently leads to burnout, or never returning to a project you once loved. The “always-on model” is not great for creativity or challenging yourself to take big risks, either. 

One Solution: Make a Mini-Season

Social media should be a playground for artists doing one-off projects, and yet it often feels like platforms and algorithms encourage a single project, and that project is the never-ending daily maintenance of your own personal brand. 

What if you could do it differently? 

You could create a podcast with just five episodes, a TikTok account that only posts six videos, or a short educational newsletter that runs for seven weeks, and then says goodbye.  

If nothing else, this strategy is a good way to fight procrastination and paralysis. Every decision is easier if we know it’s not forever.

Ursa Story Company: One Year, Two Seasons (and Counting)

Image of Ursa Short Fiction in Apple Podcasts.

Ursa Story Company, the podcasting company I started with authors Dawnie Walton and Deesha Philyaw, just celebrated its first birthday! Here’s a recap of what we’ve been up to — Apple Podcasts named us one of its “Shows We Loved” in 2022, we teamed up with audiobook publishers like Macmillan and Simon & Schuster, and we produced audio stories with an incredible group of writers, actors, and artists. 

We’re in the middle of our second season of Ursa Short Fiction, featuring more audio stories and inspiring conversations with writers. It’s the first of many shows that we hope to produce, with a focus on great storytelling. 

And yes: We’ve been recording Ursa Short Fiction in seasons. We took a break between the first and second season, which was super helpful because the first season was all about experimenting and adapting. Did people like the audio stories, or the conversations? (The answer was: both, please.) 

If we hadn’t taken that break and simply charged through, we wouldn’t have had the time, space, and energy to take what we learned and improve the process.

Let’s work together

Ursa is now a full-service production company and we love making podcasts (and short-form videos, too). If you’d like to work together on a podcast idea or need help producing your own show, reply to this email and let’s chat. 

Or you can reply and tell me what you’re up to. Do you have a project that might benefit from seasons?

I’d love to hear from y’all, and I hope you’re having a wonderful summer. 


Photo by Andrew S / Unsplash

About this Newsletter

Mark Armstrong is the co-founder of Ursa Story Company and founder (emeritus) of Longreads. Based in Seattle.

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