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A migraine in two minutes

Although I had more intense, intimate stories I could have used for the Life In Two Minutes assignment, this was the only one I was comfortable putting out there. It shows, too–everything from the My Life Is True project, which was the assignment’s inspiration, hits a lot harder. I hope that at the very least people who have suffered from migraines can relate to this, though.

At first, I was certain that  this assignment would be easy; oh, spend two minutes talking about my weird, wonky, fairly storied life? Sure, I do that all the time! Then I realized that the majority of Big Important Things I’ve gone through aren’t stories I’m entirely willing to share with this class, or the internet as a whole—at least not without an alias to hide behind. Weird how that works, isn’t it?

Eventually, after writing out one very personal story and ditching it (three times), attempting to write something about Wilfrid Owen and his relationship with Siegfried Sassoon and failing to get any research cobbled together on the history of women in insane asylums, I wrote up a short piece about having migraines.

I’ve discovered that (again, thank you Ira Glass) the biggest component to a successful radio ANYTHING is a good script. You can’t just ad-lib this stuff, it has to have structure and thought behind it or it won’t work. That’s one of the main reasons “This American Life” is so successful—the writing is EXCELLENT. I don’t think mine compares, not by a long shot, but at the very least it tells a coherent story. It’s got a beginning, a middle and an end. Somebody could hear it with no context and understand it, which makes it at least moderately successful in my book.

I also thought this assignment wouldn’t utilize much in the way of audio editing skills since I didn’t have to splice in any sound effects or background music. WRONG AGAIN! Turns out when you record three minutes of audio, finding a full minute to cut out is pretty difficult. This led to an unexpected and rather annoying effect in the final edit: there aren’t any significant pauses in the recording. Turns out that when humans talk, they pause sometimes to add emphasis, breathe, indicate a change of subject, that sort of thing. The tempo of my final story sounds rather stilted and unnatural because I had to cut the majority of the natural pauses to fit in all the stuff I wanted to say.

Overall, I’d like to go back and edit what I wrote in order to make that more concise. It’d make the audio sound better if I had more room for pauses and breath, rather than mashing everything together for the sake of saying ALL the things. Brevity has never been my strong suit, though, and I’m at least glad I figured out a way to do this assignment in the end; it’s one I had my eye on from the beginning of Audio Week.


  1. Wow. Wow. When do I get to stop saying Wow at the work you do? Your comments about writing of the script are right one, and even if not a script at least an outline. It is all the difference in the world on the listeners end.

    And your reading is natural, the voice inflection makes it feel more like a performance than a reading. I agree that the time limit is a factor, yet I cannot really say what I would cut out, but in many ways it does need some pause.

    I only know of migraines from growing up and hearing my Mom talking about the night in livid pain she spent in the bathroom with a migraine. I do not know what I did in life t never have experienced one. It begs the question for me as to what the evolutionary gain it is to have this kind of internal pain.

    I wondered a bit what kind fo subtle background sound would be appropriate, no cheesy effects, but maybe something rhythmic, like a pulse or a banging pipe.

    I hope you can stay away form the shadows shadow and it’s lunatic light.

  2. I approached this assignment in a very similar way, and it definitely was the one I spent the most time on. I will agree with you that having to write everything out over and over again to get things scripted just right is key. The inclusion of words from someone else was really nice making your two minutes versatile and not so strained.

    My migraines are never as intense as yours, but I get monster headaches often enough that I can relate. I love that this story is based on an unconventional first but a very important one.

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