In the current social climate, creators are trying to make more content than ever to satisfy high demands. We recently spoke to Stella Cheeks and Erin Cline, co-hosts of the currently on-hiatus Not Your Demographic wrestling podcast, to discuss burnout: what it is, how to recognize it, and what creators can do to care for themselves and their work.
Pod Bible: When did you begin the Not Your Demographic podcast?
Stella Cheeks: We started our podcast right before SummerSlam in 2015. We posted pretty consistently every single week for four years with a few short hiatuses (usually with supplemental content) or missed weeks due to life circumstances.
Erin Cline: Technically it’s “still running” on our Patreon but it’s become much more sporadic.
PB: From where were you sourcing your inspiration for content?
SC: Our content was a healthy mix of stuff from our life (listeners seemed to want to know about us. No idea why) and from wrestling news and content. We focused pretty heavily on WWE due to ease of consumption, but we also peppered in things like Lucha Underground, Impact, ROH, Shimmer, etc. Part of the reason we were so tied to and consistent with weekly podcasts is because we covered current wrestling happenings and, as you know, wrestling moves fast!
EC: Even when we wanted to slow down a little, there was always so much new and exciting content that it was impossible to talk about all of it once a week. People kept telling me to watch Progress for so long and I kept putting it on the backburner that now I feel like I really missed an experience since it’s basically a completely different thing now. But there just wasn’t time for it. And, truthfully, I really prefer live wrestling and, given that chance, prioritized that for a long time over new internet accessible content.
PB: What was your relationship like with your followers/subscribers?
SC: Really positive. We never had a huge listener base when compared to other podcasts; our biggest numbers were around 3,000 an episode, but it fluctuated wildly. Some episodes were 3,000 and some were 400, but the people who stuck around and were invested were overall really lovely. We consistently interact with “demmies” on twitter and hardly ever have to use our block button.
EC: So great! I still talk to a lot of the people I interacted with regularly and have many friendships in real life now that started because they were listeners. It made me sad when I got a corporate job and had to lock my twitter account; it cut a big part of the experience at the knees for me.
PB: At what point did you consider pausing/stopping your podcast?
SC: Not sure about the specifics, but it was sometime during the last year. We were just burnt out. Personally, watching the product, recording the show and finding time to edit while dealing with multiple jobs and school was just exhausting. We also flatlined in terms of numbers, so it felt really stagnant. Like it was a lot of work for very little reward.
EC: Shortly after I started boycotting WWE it became clear that our format from before just wasn’t going to work the same way. With it being Stella’s actual job, too, it was so much harder for her to watch additional stuff. And, for me, it started to feel like we were just talking about how much we disliked WWE all the time, to the point that it wasn’t fun anymore. Once we started more just shooting the shit I started to enjoy recording more again.
PB: Did you ever discuss the burnout on the podcast itself or through another medium with your followers/subscribers?
SC: A little. We would make jokes and, over time, our focus really drifted from talking about wrestling to talking about literally anything else. I feel like you could tell our hearts weren’t in it.
EC: Yeah, I feel like people thought we were joking but we were really serious when we talked about how burnt out we felt about wrestling. People warned us in the beginning that if we were going to make wrestling our jobs we were going to grow to hate it and they were right! Monetizing your hobbies is hard.
PB: Before deciding to take a break from your podcast, did you discuss the idea of taking a break with anyone not associated with the podcast itself (other podcasters, other content creators, family, etc?)
SC: I talked about it all the time! People would be like “she has a podcast” and I would be like “NOT FOR LONG!” I also discussed it heavily with my husband, to weigh the pros and cons. The thing is that I love podcasting and I love doing it with [my co-host] Erin, but I just needed a break and I needed someone with an outside perspective to give me the green light to voice that.
EC: I talked it over with my husband a lot; he hosted an MMA podcast for a long time and they disbanded because they were all burnt out, so it was nice getting some firsthand experience-guided advice. The thing I liked most about it in the end was getting to hang out with Stella, and he was good at pinpointing that and being like you know you can still be friends right?
PB: Did you try to do anything to change your relationship with the topic on which you were podcasting?
SC: This was a huge problem. Our schedules (but taking full credit, mostly mine) are wild and it was hard to find consistency. In addition to that, our relationship with the content changed drastically. I won’t speak for Erin, but for me it became something that was very much a job and not fun to talk about. I already talked about WWE for my social media job, so it always felt like a rehash. As far as adding other content in, I just couldn’t bring myself to devote any extra time to wrestling. Sure, I knew stuff outside of WWE was probably better and worthy of my time, but I had to watch WWE and I found that I didn’t want to watch other wrestling at all after that. Don’t get me wrong, I love my social media job, but doing both the social media and our podcast was difficult. I found myself enjoying our podcast more when we hardly talked about wrestling at all!
EC: It kind of made me hate wrestling for a while! So I had to adjust to how I was consuming something I clearly wasn’t enjoying anymore, that’s a huge part of why I decided to boycott WWE. Even now, I still prefer watching with a group of people because sometimes I can’t motivate myself to watch it when I’m alone, even if it’s stuff I know I enjoy. I looked forward to the recording day because I liked hanging out with Stella on a regular basis, but it changed the ways I felt about Thursday (or Fridays depending on what year) because I always felt this anxiety about if the episode didn’t drop on time because no matter what the issue was it was totally out of my control.
PB: Have you encouraged other podcasters/creators to become aware of their own burnout, or discussed this topic with them after pausing your own podcast?
SC: Not really. I mean, I’ve talked about it casually, but not really as a warning. I do think when you’re an independent podcaster it’s so hard to not burn out. When you do everything yourself, don’t have a producer or a big company behind you, don’t have ads, etc. it’s hard to find the energy to keep going. I hardly know any of my podcast friends who were once whipping out pods every week/month who still do it.
EC: Yes. I have another podcast I’m kind of in the beginning stages of getting together and we had to have conversations in the very beginning about recording schedules and not overloading ourselves. Even when you like talking about something you love and are really knowledgeable about, doing it more than once a month adds up so fast.
PB: Do you miss creating your podcast?
SC: I really do. It was such a big part of my life for four years that it’s hard to not have it every week. I also miss seeing Erin every week. I mean, we text every day, but we don’t see each other as much. I have known her for over a decade and the podcast really brought us closer in a way that I miss. I do think we’ll bring the pod back eventually but the content and structure will be wildly different.
EC: Yeah, I totally do. I hope we can get it back up in some form or another, but I think our time as wrestling pundits is transitioning away. In some ways that makes me happy though, it means things are different enough than when we started (when there was only one other female run podcast about wrestling, The Heels in Heels). Women, nonbinary, and queer folks have always been part of the wrestling landscape and I’m glad the critique and critism landscape is starting to reflect that.
PB: In retrospect, do you think there is any way you could have prevented or delayed your burnout by doing something differently?
SC: Yeah, I think not tying ourselves so closely to a weekly product and being more deliberate with what we covered would have helped. Also, Erin can attest, I am a bit of a control freak and maybe delegating things more would’ve helped my personal burnout. Erin always offered and I was like “no I got it man. No worries!” but that was dumb as hell. If we do come back those are two things that I for sure would want to address.
EC: Finding ways to more evenly split up the work (or have a producer so neither of us had to worry about it) would have helped. And, like Stella said, not tying ourselves in so closely to the week by week format would have helped in the long-run, but it wouldn’t have been the same show that way.