The Nod, the popular Gimlet Media podcast about black life and culture hosted by Brittany Luce and Eric Eddings, is back from summer vacation after completing its first year. Luce and Eddings have been podcasting for a lot longer than that, working on other Gimlet shows and making their independent podcast For Coloured Nerds, which ran for three years and 42 episodes. We talked to them about blocking out time, forgiving yourself when you’re working hard, and the edit meetings that can transform an episode.
This instalment of How I Work is packed with practical insights into living productively, and it might be our favourite instalment of the year. So even if this is your first time hearing of The Nod, read on.
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Current Gig: Co-hosts of The Nod. The Nod is a podcast that tells the stories of Black life that don’t get told anywhere else. Our show ranges from an explanation of purple drink’s association with Black culture to the story of an interracial drag troupe that travelled the nation in the 1940s. We celebrate the genius, the innovation, and the resilience that is so particular to being Black—in America, and around the world.
One word that best describes how you work: Eric: Organised chaos Brittany: Anxiously
Current mobile device: Eric: iPhone 8 Brittany: iPhone 7
Current computer: Eric & Brittany: Macbook Pro
First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
Eric: Oh lord, this is a long story. But I have worked in MANY different industries as a digital strategist. But in 2014, Brittany and I started For Coloured Nerds. A podcast that we did on the side, it was a Black cultural criticism show and that got us on the radar of Gimlet. I worked on two of their shows, Mogul: The Life & Death of Chris Lighty and Undone. In 2017, Brittany and I pitched Gimlet The Nod and the rest is history.
Brittany: I have a film degree from Howard University, finished during a recession, bopped around for a few years doing literally any job that would take me (city government, high school sports coaching, public television archivist, nannying, lingerie salesperson at Nordstrom), took the GMAT for no reason. Ended up in New York in 2012, worked at a motorcycle dealership for a year, got fired from there, had no job for 6 months, then worked in corporate marketing, started For Coloured Nerds, an independent podcast, on the side with Eric in September 2014. Quit my marketing job to work at Gimlet in September 2015. I hosted a show called Sampler. That ended in 2016, and in 2017 Eric and I pitched Gimlet a show that became The Nod and here we are.
Take us through a recent workday.
Brittany & Eric: Every single day on our team is different, but most of them feature some combination of scripting an episode, recording tracking (i.e., narration) or minor corrections and clarifications called re-tracks, conducting interviews, doing research, cutting tape, writing pitches, or attending an edit meeting.
If our episodes are in any way equivalent to a delicious burger, edits are the special sauce, the meetings that make the episode a real, living thing. An edit is when the whole team sits in a room and the lead producer on an upcoming episode plays their most recent draft. While it’s playing we all sit and furiously take notes, and then after it’s done, we all share our notes on what changes need to be made to inch the episode toward the finish line. They can be gruelling and sometimes tough on the ego, but it’s such a testament to how much of a group effort our work is. Edits have been the key ingredient to not just our show, but to making us better producers and hosts.
What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?
Brittany: I don’t really do apps for the sake of apps—I value utility and minimalism. I most often use Instagram for entertainment, Pocket for reading longform articles, and Twitter to stoke my anxiety. I journal all my thoughts and feelings via the iPhone Notes app. Oh and I LOVE GOOGLE CALENDAR! Every time I close my eyes I see a Google Calendar weekly view and I love that about myself.
I am an obsessive pen and paper listmaker outside of work, but at work I type everything out in the MacBook Notes app. My handwriting is so ugly and unintelligible that if I had to handwrite as fast as our workflow required, it would be a waste of time.
Eric: I like apps. Notes has very recently changed my life. I used to use Evernote but some of their recent changes made that untenable. Now I put episode ideas, notes from our edits, to-do’s, and more in Apple notes and it just works. I’m also obsessed with Google Sheets. There isn’t a problem I can’t solve with a spreadsheet!
What’s your workspace setup like?
Brittany: All ergonomic everything. I have a laptop stand, a second monitor with its own stand, a wireless keyboard and mouse, and a footrest because I have shorter legs, and when I have my seat adjusted to the right height, my feet don’t touch the ground. If I don’t work with this setup, I’ll get shooting pains in the right side of my neck.
Eric: My workspace is best described as managed clutter + hot sauce headphones.
What’s your best shortcut or life hack (no matter how small or niche)?
Brittany: I try to protect my time outside of meetings and reserve it for actual work: cutting tape, scripting, ideating, and calling sources. Every Friday around 5pm I look at my schedule for the next week and slap a “Don’t Book” over every gap in my schedule. It makes people think twice before adding me to an unnecessary meeting and it helps me manage my time and energy.
Eric: I do not under any circumstances try to multitask. Multitasking is a lie. I find that when I try to do two things at once, I’m more easily distracted and both things don’t turn out great. When I am doing a task I try to intensely focus on that one thing.
Take us through an interesting, unusual, or finicky process you have in place at work.
Brittany: I don’t work well on scripting or cutting interview tape after 3pm, so when I have a big deadline or assignment, I don’t fight that. Instead, during weeks with lots of deadlines, I’ll schedule writing/cutting in big blocks in the morning and do it from home. My mind is so clear when I first get up. It makes work feel like a joy and not a chore. I get up about 5 or 6, eat a little something, then work straight until about 10 or 11 a.m., when it’s time to head out for my first meeting of the day.
I have also learned that when I’m on an intense deadline, it’s best to just to lean into it. I just accept that deadline weeks are weeks where I’m eating out a bit more, taking more cabs, and skipping the gym. I used to freak out about getting off my routine, but now I just embrace it. My hair might be a little fucked up for a few days, but I won’t miss that deadline.
Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them?
Brittany & Eric: Our show couldn’t come out without everyone at Gimlet, but the most credit by far goes to our lovely team: senior producer Sarah Abdurrahman, editors Emanuele Berry and Jorge Just, and producers Kate Parkinson-Morgan and Wallace Mack. They produce and cut our interviews, book guests, assemble Pro Tools sessions, get our story structures in check, co-write with us, record our narration to keep us from sounding goofy, write our newsletter, choose music for scoring, and manage The Nod’s social media. We also work with an engineer, Cedric Wilson. He’s uniquely responsible for mixing the show and giving it the rich and polished sound it has.
They are the smartest, kindest, hardest working, funniest people we could ever hope to work with.
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
Brittany: I use the MacBook Notes app to take minutes of every meeting I attend, and I use its checklist function to keep my daily to-do lists. I break all of my working tasks down by type and then prioritise them, then I determine how long it will take to do each must-do task, and then I schedule those tasks around my meetings. I get so much satisfaction from checking them off each day. It’s a source of true joy in my life.
Eric: I’m very scatterbrained and get distracted very easily with a lot of to-do’s and meetings. So, I typically try to keep them focused on a just a few “must complete” tasks each day. In between, I can let my mind wander to the million small tasks that run through my brain. It’s a very imperfect system.
How do you recharge or take a break?
Brittany: I go for a walk and call my parents, who are both retired and probably also tired of me calling them. I’ll do that or hole up in the bathroom and scroll Instagram. Right now I’m obsessed with following my hair stylist Illeisha Lussiano aka @thehairartiste, and also lifestyle accounts @blackgirlinom and @brownkids. I also find Amazon shopping really soothing. Something about stocking up on a 3-pack of liquid hand soap makes me feel whole.
Eric: I also enjoy a good walk and will sit and watch Instagram stories like they are TV. In addition, I watch a ton of actual TV and movies. I get lost in the stories, and when it’s over I usually get cool ideas of things to try or new topics to investigate. Lastly, nothing beats hanging out with my 3-year-old. I’m always more physically tired, but playing with someone who only cares about having fun will immediately rid you of the pains of the day.
What’s your favourite side project?
Brittany: I actually don’t have a side project right now. We put For Coloured Nerds to bed last summer, and at the moment I’m enjoying having my weekends back after three years without them. The only things I’m committed to outside of work at the moment are hanging with my baby niece and cooking my way through my cookbooks. Right now I’m into Kelis’ My Life on a Plate, Alison Roman’s Dining In, and Melissa Clark’s Dinner: Changing the Game.
Eric: I’m also on side project hiatus. But I’ve been trying hobbies that I always thought were ridiculous (note: I was wrong in most (all) cases) and it’s been really fun. Taking care of plants, home decorating, yoga. It’s been awesome pushing myself out of my comfort zone. My hip alignment has never felt better!
What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?
Brittany: I have to read so much for work, that I mainly read cookbooks or Bon Appetit (THE ONLY MAGAZINE I SUBSCRIBE TO—PLEASE INVITE ME TO YOUR TEST KITCHEN!!!) when I’m not working. Other than that, I’m reading Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward and I Can’t Date Jesus by Michael Arcenaux.
Eric: I tend to read more articles than books and really enjoy longform journalism. Longreads is one of my favourite websites. It’s awesomely and broadly curated and I always find new writers to obsess over.
Also, I really REALLY enjoy TV/movie recaps and criticism. Some of my fav TV writers are Angelica Jade Bastién, Alanna Bennett, Alan Sepinwall, and Ali Barthwell.
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Brittany: Myleik Teele, CEO and founder of CurlBox—She’s excellent at whatever she does, she’s honest and funny, she strives to maintain a personal life outside of work, and she’s a new mum.
Eric: Mike Schur, the creator of The Good Place, Parks and Rec, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. No one else more accurately captures the type of humour I love. I need whatever process he has.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Brittany: When working, obey the HALT check: Try not to say, do, or decide anything lasting, permanent, or important if you’re feeling hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Do a quick self assessment, then figure out which of your needs can be met before you have to act on something. As the great Kathy Tu of Nancy always says, “There is no such thing as a podcast emergency.” So give yourself a break and the opportunity to do your best work.
Eric: Stay low and build. We’ve seen a really crazy amount of positive change over the past few years we’ve been in podcasting. But through it all we’ve tried to just focus on the next episode, making it good and then moving to the next one. It’s made me better at my craft and forced me to stay present, to not get too caught up in what’s ahead, because every single episode is important if we want people to come back week after week.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
Brittany: I’m terrible at maintaining time to relax and enjoy myself, or to just do nothing. Most hours of most days of my life are consumed with activity. It’s a hard habit to break, and a harmful one to maintain, but I’m trying.
Eric: I’m good at organising things, but between my kid, work, and a social life I don’t really have the best time management skills. I try a lot of different systems but when things get crazy they all break down. One day.
Answers have been lightly edited and some links have been added.