I wonder whether podcasts are designed for distracted listening. I doubt it. I feel guilty about losing focus on the audio to tie a knot in the thread I’m using to bind a book. Am I meant to dip in and out like this? I feel a great amount of love for serendipity and chance right now, and I wonder whether distracted listening to podcasts means that I’ll drop in on some little gem of information by chance. I wonder if, in fact, it improves my experience of the podcast.
Austin Kleon’s episode of Reading Lives is great. They talk about visits to the library as a kid. I pass the needle into one paper signature and out another. They talk about literary roots, Austin speaks about the texts that were formative for him as a child. I knot the thread at its end. I apply a layer of glue to the book’s spine. Austin’s talking about a middle school teacher who forced him to write, who now only remembers his love of the Beatles. I’m no longer distracted outside of the podcast but within it. My thoughts are stuck a few minutes ago – what were my formative texts?
I walk to the bathroom and wash my hands, thinking about Enid Blyton. I wonder if that was formative. I fast-forward to Sweet Valley High, Sweet Valley University, the terribly traumatic one about a rape on campus which I was far too young to read. I think about John Marsden. I want to read the Tomorrow… series again for the first time. They were formative.
I return to the podcast and I’ve missed half of it because I’ve been elsewhere physically and mentally. I think maybe that’s okay. I think about the times that I cook while listening to podcasts but can’t hear them for a minute because I’m too close to the frying pan noise. But then I come back and accidentally drop in on a half-thought – it sticks more that way. It burrows in my mind. Yeah, maybe distracted listening is okay.
While I feel bad for the people who made the podcast, I also feel like it’s embracing chance and accident.