Putting It All Together

We’ve all done it.  Attended a conference, workshop or diet farm where we learned oodles of great tips and skills to help us get to the next level in whatever we are trying to achieve.  Our bags are stuffed with great ideas we have every intention of implementing the moment we arrive home.  This is a new beginning by golly and we’re going to just soar with all we’ve learned.  Then our feet cross the threshold of our homes and all that great knowledge, drive and determination go poof! right out of our noggin.  And before we know it, 4 months have passed, you’re cleaning out your office and what’s this?  Oh, it’s that stuff from that thing I went to back when.  What was it I was going to do with all that stuff?  I’ll just push it aside for a while longer.

This time, I’m really going to try to have a different outcome.  I’m going to put together a schedule for myself and make every attempt to stick to it.  It will take self discipline and determination and I know I may fall off the wagon but I’ll really try to get back on track.  Wish me luck!

Living Through It All Again

It’s been a really tough couple of weeks.  My focus has been awful, sleep has been interrupted at best, my emotions all over the place, I can’t write anything for lack of concentration and my productivity non-existent.  It started in a subtle way and was hardly noticeable but before I knew it the wheels had come completely off the bus and it was a train wreck of chaos.   I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  Maybe it was the change in the seasons.  After all, we’ve been living with tropical storm winds for over 72 hours now and it was starting to get on my nerves.  Maybe it was my moon was in Virgo and Pisces was in retrograde.  Maybe it was my biorhythms (remember those?!)

Whatever it was I kept plowing ahead feeling like I had a lead shoes on my feet and a kryptonite helmet on my head.  Nothing was coming very easy.  Everything was a challenge.  It was really starting to get to me.

But last night I was awoken yet again at around 4:09amish but this time I remembered the dream I was dreaming just before I woke up.  I was being laid off all over again.  There were a few minor details that weren’t the same, like for some reason my Mom was with me and what I was cleaning out of my files included lots of bags of vegetables and a squashed PB&J sammie which I never took to work, but everything else was the same.  Except for one vital thing, this time I wasn’t happy to be leaving to start my new life, this time I was anxious and worried.

AHA!  Finally some enlightenment.  You see the past several weeks I’ve been looking for new health insurance.  I stayed on my old plan because it was really good and surprisingly wasn’t super expensive.  But now I’m making the last break with my old life and it’s a biggie.  I never realized how difficult it is to compare and select plans because for so many years I just picked between the 2 plans my job offered.  Now I’m having to do all the leg work and evaluation by myself and apparently I’m a lot more anxious about this than I thought I was.  What a relief to finally realize what was holding me back and to identify the dark cloud in my mind.

I think I’ve found a few plans that I’m interested in.  Once I get that done I’ll be able to get back to my new life with excitement, hope and energy.  It’s funny how something can weigh on you and you don’t even know it.  But it sure is great to figure it out and take the boogy out of the boogy man.

A Sparkle or a Smolder

For a long time now I’ve been struggling with my voice.  I know, it sounds silly.  After all, it’s something that is so intrinsically a part of us that how can it be a problem?  It’s kind of like my struggle with clothes.  I want to be a size 4 but in reality I’m not.  Probably never will be.  GRRRR.  And that’s not easy to accept.  But that’s a topic for another day.  With my voice, I’ve always longed to have that sultry, husky voice that I so admire in many female voice talents.  The kind that envelopes you in texture and feels all cashmere and warm.  And I do have that voice, in the morning before I warm up the vocal cords.  The problem is, I’ve been trying to make that my default voice and it’s not.  Trying to change my voice at this stage of the game isn’t a wise thing to do.  Not only is it like trying to change the hand you sign your name with, awkward at best, it can be dangerous to your vocal cords if try to make them do something you naturally aren’t supposed to do.  But I’ve been dinking around with placement for over a year and all I’ve managed to do it screw it up magnificently!  Any of you who’ve tried changing your golf swing know from whence I speak.  It’s brutal.  I finally came to the realization that I’m not and never will be that voice I so admire.  Sigh.

Just as I was getting used to this idea I was talking with a fellow voice talent, Philip Banks, and recounting this oh-so-tragic realization.  I am not and never will be a sultry voice, my voice is bright.  In his inimitable British way, Philip said “some people are a sparkle and some people are a smolder.  You are a sparkle.”  In those 15 words, Philip managed to take news I’d considered shattering and make it instead a wonderful thing.  I’m a sparkle.  Yes indeed I am.  Just like diamonds and emeralds and rubies.  Who doesn’t like a little glitter in their life?  Pretty dang cool.  All of the sudden I’m kinda happy about my voice, at least the one I used to have.  I just need to find it again.  Maybe it’s in that drawer I’m afraid of opening.  All I know is, I’m a lot more content with the voice I was blessed with that I was 30 minutes ago.  And excited to see where it can take me.  It just took some mental adjustments accompanied by a long distance kick in the pants.  Thanks Philip.

Studio Shoes

One of the great things about working from home is the ability to wear whatever you want to get the work done.  No one knows what you are clothed in and no one really cares, as long as you get the job done.  So for the most part, I jump out of bed, shower and put on something comfortable, right down to my shoes.  I really didn’t give what I was wearing much thought, after all, I figured it was an achievement to get out of my pj’s.  Recently I started working with a voiceover coach, Marice Tobias, who believes everything in your life affects what your voice delivers.  The clothes you wear, what you had for lunch, the argument you got in with your cable company, the shoes you wear.  It’s an interesting thought.  One I hadn’t really considered before.

I put this to the test recently when I was attending one of Marice’s workshops in Chicago.  She’d mentioned the shoe thing when I went on a retreat in February with an amazing group of women.  I was thrilled-finally I could deduct my shoes as a business expense!  Lots of laughter when I proclaimed as such.  On Sunday of this most recent workshop, I brought a pair of what I call my “limousine shoes”.  They’re shoes with really high heels that should never be walked in but can safely be worn while riding in a limousine to the next event where I’ll simply stand in one spot, thus avoiding any potential foot pain or ankle injury.  We were reading promotional scripts for television shows and I did my first read in the flats I’d worn to the studio but for the second read, I put on the black 4 1/2 inch snakeskin pumps with brass studs along the vamp.  Believe it or not, it really did make a difference, the engineer even heard it and commented on it.  Here’s a link to what I mean.  The second one has a heck of a lot more sass and attitude about it.

All this of course is one big rationalization for a recent purchase of way-too-expensive beautiful pale green tinged with gold snakeskin 4-inch pumps that now reside on my studio desk just waiting to be called in to action.  And I’ve really used them a few times.  Maybe someday they’ll see action at an event but for now, I’m trying to decide if this is a studio expense or an acting expense.

New Horizons

A few weekends ago I took part in a VoiceOver workshop taught by Marice Tobias.  I’ve just started working with her this past year and as with each good coach I work with, I take away something new every time.  Not just all the really great talent I meet at these workshops, and let me tell you I’ve been in the midst of some of the stars in our business who are amongst the most generous I could hope to meet, but I often leave with a completely new perspective.  One I hadn’t considered before.  And it’s not like I’m making vast and dramatic changes like all of the sudden switching from being left-handed to right handed, or to actually liking mushrooms, or to speaking Latin as my primary language.  These are the subtlest of changes to my delivery, my approach.  The interesting result of these tweaks is once I am done incorporating them into my process, I look up to find a brand new horizon in front of me.  Not that the old one was bad.  But this new one is a result of a refinement to the path I’d been on before and now was no longer traveling.  That’s the cool thing about learning.  Once you learn something, you can’t go back to not knowing it.  Your perspective is forever changed.  It can be a bit uncomfortable, always having to adjust your vision, but this is far outweighed by the opportunities that stretch out before you as far as the horizon.  And the exciting thing is realizing this horizon is in front of you for a brief time, that there is another equally amazing horizon to come.  And another.  And another.  You just have to keep embracing the tweaks and the changes they bring.  Now that’s cool.

Circular Reasoning

The other day I had to go to the Apple store to get a tweak done to the old gal.  I’ve had this laptop for coming up on 4 years and I love it.  I’ll be very sad when it dies and I’m hoping that won’t be for quite a while.  So anywho, while I’m there I said hi to my favorite Apple guy, Andrew, who sold me my first laptop almost 4 years ago.  Andrew and I always get in the best of conversations when I get to see him.  Which isn’t as often as they used to be as I’m not working downtown anymore.  The random topics we cover, once I get finished bugging him about when Apple was going to hook up with Verizon for the iPhone.   That’s just not happening fast enough for me.  But I digress.  On this particular day we were discussing word and number games, crosswords, suduko and the jumble.  Andrew does the jumble which I occasionally tackle but don’t relish it like he does.  He gave me a hint.  He said his grandmother taught him to look at letters in a circle, to write them that way so you can try letters on with each other until you find the ones that go together to make the word.  I thought this was a brilliant strategy.  Take out the linear in the letters and you’ll find the answer.  I’ve employed it many times over the past few days to much success.  I’m now enjoying the jumble a bit more.

This can be applied to so many aspects of life.  I, especially, have a tendency to find a way of doing something and thinking that’s the only way that task can be accomplished, that audition performed, that path followed.  Sometimes things do have a definite way of doing things, such as constructing a house or baking a cake.  But the key here is to shake up the thinking on things that I tend to put on auto pilot.  Not just the letters in a jumble but all aspects of my life and career.  I’m going to put many things in a circle as I look at it so I don’t get stuck in a linear rut.

Back to Basics

As you know I’m an actress as well as a voicetalent.  I very often audition outside of my home but I also have a fully equipped home studio where I audition and record jobs from.  This is a wonderful improvement as my commute used to be 25 minutes driving and then walking about 1800 steps each way to get ot my office.  Now I just walk about 17 steps to my studio.  This has wrecked havoc on my daily goal of walking 10000 steps for my health but I’ve adjusted by adding a run now that the weather has finally broken.

So my day is spent, when I am able, auditioning for various voiceover jobs from my home studio.  I record, edit and email them off to various places and hope that people like what they hearand hire me to voice their job.  I get my auditions from various places-a few agents, some online sites and from a coach of mine, Nancy Wolfson.  Once they are sent off, I don’t think about them again unless I am awarded the job.  Except this time.  Fortunately Nancy followed up with the submission and found out that while my performance was spot on, technically what I’d sent in wasn’t up to standards.  To a layperson, what this means is since I would be recording the job in my studio and then sending it off to the client, this technical failure would eliminate me from consideration as it wasn’t up to broadcast standards.

One of the things that has occurred in this transition is I’ve had to become a wearer of many hats.  One of those hats is I’ve had to learn all about is audio production.  And quite frankly, all I’ve mastered is how to turn the dang equipment on.  I’ve done some other things but it’s like trying to do surgery having only cut a steak.  I really shouldn’t be allowed to touch the equipment.  It’s too dangerous!  Fortunately my friend Bob took pity on me and gave me some settings that I could lock into my system and process my auditions using these settings.  I also put up some additional sound absorption panels in my studio which should help the overall sound in the room.  I think the problem has been reduced somewhat.  Time will tell.

I’ve been so concerned with my performance recently that I overlooked a very basic requirement.  One that can eliminate you right away but is so easily fixed.  Thank heavens Nancy followed up and forwarded to me what she learned.  Otherwise I’d still be sending out a good performance that no one could hear. Paying attention to details like this are so important and shouldn’t be taken for granted.  It’s back to audio 101 for me.

Just say “Thank You”

I’m not good at complements.  Let me amend that, I’m very good at giving out complements, often stopping a stranger on the street when she looks fabulous to let her know her efforts are recognized and appreciated.  But when it comes to receiving them, I stink.  I push them aside, diminish them , pooh-pooh them.  I don’t know why I do this.  Maybe it’s my fear of not getting too full of myself, to be perceived as arrogant or cocky or just plain standing out in the crowd.  So I’d do my best to downplay whatever was being complemented about me, be it a new outfit, a good job at work or kindness to another.  What I didn’t realize in doing this was I was completely insulting the complementer.  This person had gone out of their way to remark on something they found agreeable about me.  They’d made themselves vulnerable in doing so.  My dismissal was complete negation of their actions.  I’d dismissed them, their taste and their kindness with my attempt at being self deprecating.  Wasn’t that nice of me?!!

Realizing what I was doing mortified me.  My attempts at humility were completely backfiring.  Not exactly what I’d hope the outcome would be.  So now what I try to do as I feel the dismissal forming in my throat is to take a deep breath, smile and graciously say “Thank You”.  That’s it, nothing more.  And the appreciation I see in the complement giver’s face is reward enough for me.  I just have to keep remembering do it.  Thank you, I’ll keep trying.

Two Paths

One of my favorite saying these days has become “There are never any wrong moves in life”.  I’m not sure if I made it up or if I am co-opting it from someone far wiser than me but just acknowledging this to myself has helped tremendously.  I put an immense amount of pressure on making the right choice in any situation.  I research every thing I can about a situation, try to think of every contingency and forecast every possible outcome I can think of.  While this planning has it’s merits, it can also be very counterproductive and time consuming.  After all, as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, the one constant is change.  And this is something that can’t be factored into all my thinking and planning.  Which of course totally ticks me off.

So something I’ve really tried to instill as default thinking is there is no wrong move I can make as I make my choices.  I try to assess the information I have available and then make the best decision I can given what I know at that moment.  And if what I decide is proven not to be the best path for me, I try to stay flexible enough to make adjustments in my course.  To not get locked in to only one way to go about something.  As the wise philosophers Led Zeppelin says “Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

Stay loose, absorb the bumps, continue to refine your course.  Wow, 2 quotes in the same post.  I must be feeling learned today.

Tater Tots for breakfast

Yes you read that right.  I said Tater Tots for breakfast.  I’m out of eggs, having scrambled my last ones before I left for New York for the weekend.  I keep forgetting to stop at the store to pick up more.  I know what you’re thinking, “seriously, she can’t remember to go to the grocery store?!” so let me explain.  I live behind a grocery store.  Or at least I used to before they closed it to tear it down and rebuild it.  Just like Steve Austin, “we can rebuild him, make him better, stronger, faster”.  In just 18 short months, I’ll have a bionic grocery store.  Or 18 take forever months if you are trying to record on a very sensitive microphone and every beep and vibration from the big dig gets picked up for posterity.  But I digress.

Like I said, I’m out of eggs.  And because for 16 years, I’ve walked out my back door through the parking lot to my grocers, I can’t seem to remember to stop at the store.  I’m stuck in a rut, an old way of doing something and I haven’t made the conscious change in my mind.  That’s the step I’m missing, the conscious change part.  That’s the hardest step to take because we create shortcuts in our lives and brains to get through the myriad of tasks that need to be accomplished in any given day.  It’s the one thing that needs to happen to create any sort of self revolution.  Rather a dramatic statement.  Weren’t we just talking about eggs?

I’ll try to remember to stop tonight on my way home tonight.  But just in case I have more tater tots in the freezer.