When Brandon asked if I’d be interested in writing a post for this blog recounting my experience narrating audiobooks, voice work, etc., I was flattered! It’s not every day a guy is asked to share his particular expertise, after all. I thought about all the years of work I’d had in the industry; the countless triumphs celebrated and travails overcome; the tales of long nights spent in front of the microphone to get just the right “take”…and then I realized that I didn’t have any of that! What Brandon didn’t know about me, is that…
This was my very first audiobook narration; indeed, it was my first project in the voice-over industry at all! Up ‘til now I hadn’t dramatized a single novel, or articulated a historical account, or even conveyed a single-page, motivational pamphlet. To be fair, I’ve had plenty of experience in the performing arts, as a theatrical musical director, an actor, director, composer, and vocal coach–so I wasn’t coming in without any skills at all. But to say that I had any actual experience as a narrator would just be wrong. So then, to be honest, when I was asked to write I wondered: what in the hell do I have to share? Then it hit me: it was EXACTLY my lack of experience in this field that had value! Bear with me.
My entire adult life I’ve embraced an entrepreneurial spirit–I get it from my Grandpa. When I was 19 a friend of mine and I wrote a musical together–my first ever–and produced the entire thing from scratch (never underestimate what can be accomplished between a group of highly motivated college kids with not much in the way of responsibilities). When I was about 22 I opened a sheet music store…and closed it in the same year–we won’t go into it, but suffice to say that I’m not great at business. Soon after, I and some friends opened a dinner theatre…which also closed in the same year (see above). When a theatre at which I was acting needed a musical director, despite the fact that I’d never done it before, I said, “Sure, I’ll give it a shot.” Turns out, I was a pretty good musical director! Then someone needed piano lessons, and now I teach piano and voice as my day job. What does everything above have in common, other than an obvious pattern of trial and error, with a little financial woe thrown in here and there for good measure?
I’m not afraid to try something new; I never have been. One could easily argue that it’s a foolhardy lack of caution on my part, leading only to trouble–and one would certainly find ample evidence in my story! But for me it’s also meant new experiences that I wouldn’t have had before, new skills that I hadn’t considered, and lots of cool, new people who I otherwise wouldn’t have met.
Don’t misconstrue my lack of fear for lack of self-doubt, though. Like most people, I always have that little voice in the back of my head–you know the one–that says, “You can’t do this. You’re going to fail. It’s going to be awful. You’re going to let people down; and more importantly, let yourself down.” This voice is with me everywhere, even now while recording; every time I flub a line (which is more frequently than you’d think), every time I “undo” the wrong thing and lose data, every time I listen back and for one reason or another the quality of the recording sucks–it’s always there. Call it self-doubt, artistic criticism, Impostor Syndrome: it always says the same thing: DOOM to you!
The key for me, then, is to wield the mighty hammer of STFU. Can’t do it? STFU. You suck? STFU. Disaster imminent? STFU. In the end I might fail, and even in failure there is redemption as we learn to overcome; but more important than the failure itself is the fact that I tried something new. I wanted to do something, and instead of worrying too much about the pros and cons, I just went for it! And at the end of the day, I don’t look back on my failures and mourn; I look at the progress I’ve made, and I feel the pride of accomplishment.
The cool thing about all this is that anyone can do it! All you have to do is pick up the mighty STFU hammer and swing it around at any voices that try to get between you and your goal. It will be hard, there will be challenges, and yes, it might end in a fiery crash; but in the meantime it will be a hell of a ride, and who knows what kind of new doors may open themselves for you. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!