Looking in the Mirror-And you!

So as the last part in my series here, I have to touch on one more little bit of self examination. It goes along with my last post, talking about negative self talk. It’s negative self opinion about your own talents.

In my time serving the voiceover community, I have heard so very many talent talk about flaws in their voice or delivery, their mouth noise, their read, or any one of a number of things. I honestly make a point with every one I talk to to reassure them that whatever it is they are worried about, that they believe is ‘their’ thing, lots and lots of other people do too.

Working from home is such an isolating profession, and the voiceover industry in particular since we spend so much of the day in our offices or booths. You hear your voice, or maybe one or two others on a regular basis. Me? I hear dozens, and have heard dozens. I can promise you that you’re not flawed or unique in your amount of mouth noise. Or whatever you’re worried about! Don’t let your anxiety or negative self-opinion drag you down and lead you to be hard on yourself for no reason. You’re not alone!

We all have so many details to worry about as self motivated entrepreneurs, so don’t let something this minor trip you up.

Now let me say as an addendum here, there is one way that positive self talk can harm you, and it’s not about mouth noises. In extreme cases I’ve seen people so convinced that they knew what they were doing, they ignored pro advice from experts in the VO genre because they believed that they knew best. There’s a good self examination, and good self opinion, and there’s evaluating advice that we don’t want to hear from people who know what they’re saying. And it’s pretty easy to figure out who is worth listening to–the internet is all around us as a fantastic research tool to figure out who’s done what, worked with whom, studied with whom and so forth, plus reams of past advice in many cases. (Thank you FB search-in-groups function.)

Many talent have seen a flood of people enter the industry, lured by unscrupulous coaches after their dollars, or idiotic articles that paint voiceover as nothing but ‘talking’. These newbies will often make transparent grabs for advice, having done little to no research or learning on their own, and in some cases have even asked for people’s client lists! That being said, sometimes you might get a grouchy response when you ask questions or look for information, but don’t let the snark dissuade you. We’re good people. We work hard, and the best friends I’ve ever had have come through industry relationships.

Next week I’ll be discussing another major thief of joy from my voice talent friends-comparison.

Looking in the Mirror-What Now?

So you’re here. You’ve got some guides looked at, you’ve made your notes, and you’re full of ideas. Now what?

The place you’re at is a tough one. It’s easy to get paralyzed at this point, or to have an awesome start, but then fall off the wagon with your plan a few weeks or months later. (It bears an uncanny resemblance to those New Year’s Resolutions!)

I have two pieces of advice for you to help you get going on your self improvement train. Number one, keep it small. Whatever your first task, your first step on what you want to do is, keep it as small as possible. At this point, getting the ball rolling is a whole lot more important than how far it moves. You want to keep it small to help make it (whatever your steps are to your goal) doable, and something that can turn into a habit. If you make grand and vast plans, life will probably get in your way in a hurry, or you’ll fall off the wagon before you can lock in your habit forming, so that you’ll have the regular turning to your tasks as part of your daily routine.

Second piece of advice–watch your self talk! Maybe this sounds a little too ‘self-help-book’ to you but listen to me for a second. The way we talk, to others and ourselves influences our thinking. The more you state or think something, the more you’ll believe it. If you call yourself stupid or some other negative word it’s easy enough to believe it on some level over time. You don’t have to talk to yourself in sunshine flowers and hippies, but if you call yourself stupid, counter it. Say, ‘no, I made a mistake, that doesn’t make me stupid.’ The reason why I emphasize this is because many of the voice talent I’ve met are extremely self critical, particularly when they make a mistake, and feeling like you’ve failed will only make you do so. You’re going to screw up on your goals. Maybe you’ve fallen off the wagon for a while. Accept it, learn, and get the heck back on! The race is only over when you’re dead.

Next time will be my last post in this series, covering one of the most common things I’ve seen voice talent do in the 7 years I’ve been in this business.

Looking in the Mirror-How To

So when you decide it’s time to slow down, to do that self-examination, how do you go about it? For me, it starts with picking up a pen, and writing. Personally, writing on paper has always helped untangle my mind. I love making lists and writing out my thoughts to help me get myself in order. I often discover numerous things about whatever I’m working on while I’m writing. Other methods may include sitting down on the computer and doing research, or typing as opposed to writing out your thoughts. Whatever works for you, as long as you’re taking time and taking a good look at where you’re at, that’s the important thing. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have a hard time with recording their thoughts, or even just stopping long enough to do so. I believe this is important though–even if it’s a pad and pen on your counter you scribble on as you move through your day. Or an app on your phone, whatever works!

While you’re here, ask yourself some questions. Where do you want to go with your business? What is your ‘big’ goal? How are you going to get there? Do you have an infrastructure in place to handle a greater amount of work? Do you have a business plan, and if you don’t, when will you make one? And don’t get overwhelmed because something seems big or far away, when it comes to your goals. Make the goal, but then look at what the first step is. The goal is important, but after that, it’s only the step in front of you that matters. For right now, just get down as much as you can. You can fine tune later.

When you’re looking at guides and how-to’s, make sure you’re considering how they can work with your specific life circumstances. Kids, outside jobs, and many other factors influence how we make organizational plans fit our lives. It’s easy to give up on getting more organized or evaluating things if we feel like we’re failing whatever plan or guru we’ve found. Don’t let someone else’s idea of how you should be running your business make you feel like you’re not good enough.

The important thing is to take a solid look at where you are, where you’re going, and how far you’ve come. To make plans, and consider new things. To admit things you could have done better, but also to celebrate your successes. The mirror may be uncomfortable sometimes, but we all need to take a good long look to be sure we’re going where we want to, and we know how to get there!

Looking in the Mirror

In my recent series, I discussed many of the lessons I learned after having been in the hospital with heart failure at 36. One of the major ones was the need to stop and asses where you are from time to time. In these next few posts, I’ll be looking into that concept more in depth.

Like many people in our line of work, I’m often very busy between career and real life concerns. There’s the work itself, which takes up a fair bit of time. There’s marketing, client management, and looking for new leads. You’ve got to make sure you have enough work, pay the bills, and try and tuck some away for a rainy day. (Not to mention taxes.)

Then there’s plain old life needs. I don’t have kids, but I have a number of personal concerns I have to deal with regularly. I try to get out once in a while and have fun, as well as work on outside projects, and try and diversify my income. I have some down-the-road plans, as I’ve always wanted to grow what I do and be able to not have to rely heavily on audiobooks for my income. (I do love them! Don’t get me wrong, I just don’t want all my eggs to be in one financial/business basket.)

But what I’ve found I have to take time for, and is sometimes pretty difficult, are those moments of looking in the mirror. Evaluating where I am and what I’m dealing with, not just with my business, but with how business and life balance and interconnect. It can be easy to just work and work and work, and worry only about what’s right in front of me. Then I find myself weeks or even months down the road with no notion of how I got there, and behind on numerous ‘office’ aspects of my business. There’s always more that I ‘mean’ to do, things I ‘should’ do to get more organized, or other vague ideas like that.

For me, making the effort to do these things is about staying mindful, staying present, and not just letting life sweep me along. It’s also about having people to keep me accountable, and making the effort to do the needed things even when I don’t want to. I’ve taken a little time off this week to sit down and consider where my business and life are going. I’ve been working with voice talent since 2011, and I’ve been very lucky to have had as much success as I have. I’m very grateful to everyone I’ve developed a relationship with, and how much goodwill I’ve found throughout the community. I hope sharing some of my journey to business accountability can help you consider your own mirror, to see where you are, how far you’ve come, and where you want to be.

Blogger Profile: Bob Souer – Rerun

bob_souer_professional_story_tellerThis series came to mind before the new year, and I knew one of the first people I wanted to feature was my father–and not just because he’s my Dad! I can’t count the number of people over the years who have mentioned Dad’s blog and how much they’ve enjoyed it, learned from it, and valued his words. They usually start out by telling me how awesome my Dad is, and then mention the blog, but still… 🙂

Dad has been blogging since May of 2005. He doesn’t post on a regular schedule, but I know that his readers find him worth the wait. His posts cover a pretty wide range of topics, but one of the first things he told me when he and I were discussing blogging, online content, and how you should present yourself was that he made a point of featuring other people whenever possible. Not only does it generate goodwill, and make you look good, there is also a lot of cool stuff going on out there that people should know about! In that vein, Dad also keeps a pretty lengthy blogroll of everyone he’s ever been able to find who blogs about voice over in some fashion.

In short, I would venture that my Dad is one of the mainstays of the voice over blogging world, and someone that is always interesting and valuable to read.

Pronounceology Interview – Rerun

Hey guys! Adam Verner, a very fine audiobook narrator and a fellow Faffer has come up with a great tool for narrators called Pronounceology. As soon as I saw him post about it, I knew I had to get the lowdown on such a great idea and how he came up with it! Here’s all the details about this site, which will make your future research way easier!
1. Pronounceology! What is it? (And where did you come up with the name?)
In a nutshell, Pronounceology is a tool that hooks into the backend of major online dictionaries and pronunciation resources like Merriam Webster, Oxford, and ForVO to provide bulk pronunciations and definitions.  It also acts as a kind of “home base” for research on the web, allowing you to save reports or words you’re looking into, the source URL for pronunciation, phonetic spellings, and any research notes.  I’m hoping it will be kind of like a Swiss Army Knife for research, with as many import and export options as possible.  Right now you can import a spreadsheet or CSV with page numbers, simply paste in a list of words, or import notes from iAnnotate (it’ll pull out just your highlighted terms).  Other PDF sources can be supported in the future if they’re popular enough or in demand.  Other dictionaries can be added down the line, as long as they have an API (Application Program Interface), which is a way for programs to access databases.  Those will form the core functionality of the tool, since that’s the way to search for a whole list of terms at one time.  There are also prebuilt search links for you to go find an obscure pronunciation.  For example, a lot of proper names and places aren’t in standard dictionary databases, so I’ve included links to a search in YouGlish.com or YouTube interviews.  If you’re looking for how to pronounce Richard Cytowic’s last name, for example, clicking a link will take you to a YouTube search for “Richard Cytowic interview.”
The other cool component will be exporting just the phonetics you need back to you source PDF or manuscript.  I know all narrators work differently, and my hope is that the tool is flexible enough to cover many different types of workflows. I’ve always kept my research in a spreadsheet as it’s easy for a proof listener to follow along, but that’s meant I’ve had to cut and paste by hand every set of phonetics back into the appropriate page of the PDF for seamless narrating. Pronounceology will do that for me, though I may want or need to go back through the script to adjust the placing of the text.
As far as the name goes, “ology” means “the study of,” and I often find narrating challenging titles is almost like a study of pronunciation.  Other times, it’s like a Sherlock Holmesian tracking down of elusive vocabulary!
2. Where did you get the idea to create Pronounceology
Basically, I’m a total dork.  But really, I love words, automation, and optimization.  If there’s any way for me to save keystrokes and time and get back to what my true passion is – narrating books – I go for it.  I’m always writing macros on my computer to automate invoicing or perform repetitive tasks.  I’ve longed for something like this to exist for years, and finally decided I should just build it!  There are plenty of great resources out there for pronunciation, but as far as I could tell, no tool that allows you to import in bulk, or multiple terms at a time.  For some titles I would be spending hours and hours tracking down pronunciations, and not every publisher pays you for that time or helps you with it.
3. Are you running the back end yourself? 
No, I’m working with a great developer, formerly with HP.  After interviewing many, many different freelance programmers and full development firms I finally found a great fit, someone who “gets it,” and brings his own ideas to the table.  As of now we’re running in Node.js and totally boosting the runtime environment with a flux capacitor.
4. From what you’ve posted, I see that it’s primarily intended for audiobook narrators, but have you ever thought about elearning pronunciation?
Oh yes indeed!  I’m starting with the audio book industry since that’s my full time job and the community I know the best, but this tool could be useful for literally anyone that needs pronunciations.  eLearning, other voice over, and most importantly, the ESL and language learners market are next on the list.  I’m even hoping to partner with schools or universities to provide “enterprise” accounts for any students learning English.
5. Do you have a place where people can check back or sign up for updates about the site? 
I’m so glad you asked!  Check out the teaser video on Pronounceology.com and sign up for the email list to be notified of updates.  I’ll be releasing more videos with more details in the months to come, and I hope to launch later this year.  You can also contact me at [email protected] with questions or feature requests!  In addition, I’ll be at APAC (audio book conference) in New York City this week and can do live demonstrations if anyone is interested (assuming the pesky WiFi cooperates!).

The Year (I was as sick as a) Dog Part 5

So as I was writing my series here, I got another indicator that my brains are still recovering a bit. See, I forgot to mention the fundraiser when I was telling my story! This was such an important thing to leave out, and something that was so important to this journey.

So, like many people, I’ve had trouble paying the costs of health insurance premiums. As a single woman with a freelance job, it doesn’t always work out for me to be able to hit them every month for a year and sure enough, this year my coverage had lapsed.

At the end of October, when my friends Laura Bealko, Jen Reilly, and Lauren McCullough realized I was doing very poorly, the three of them came to me with the idea of doing a fundraiser for enough money to cover my thyroid surgery. (Remember, this was before I found out it was my heart, not my thyroid.) I was a little reluctant. I was raised in a good old ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ type of household, and I hated the idea of asking for money from people I didn’t know. But I had to face facts. I was declining and just living was getting harder and harder every day. So I said yes, and these three angels put things together for me.

And then the proverbial heavenly choir descended. So, so many people donated, and so quickly! I was funded, and more, in less than a single day. I still don’t have words for how amazing everyone who contributed or passed on info is. I’ve spent the past 7 years serving the community to the best of my ability, trying to be a good smile and creative people connector, but this was the first time I had really seen (other than people who hire me, of course.) just how much people cared for me as a person, and the kind of impact I was able to create.

My friends, when I was a little girl, my mom died at the age of 37. When I turned 30 a few years ago, I took stock of my life and considered than in 8 years, I’d be older than my mother ever would be. That was quite sobering. Then I thought about the fact that despite how long she’s been gone (More than 30 years, she died in 1988) people still remember her, still speak well of her, talk about how much of a delight and a light she was as a person. I decided that was my life goal. Regardless of what you believe, the only real immortality we have in this world is in the memories of others. I wanted to leave memories behind like my mother did. That fundraiser was the first (and quite stunning) indication that I’d proceeded a bit of the way to my goal!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who participated in the fundraiser, and thank you to everyone who sent me a check, a paypal payment, or by whatever means. You are all angels in my eyes and although I needed it for a different reason, every penny has been more needed than I realized at the time it would be!

Thank you to my parents and brothers, for your love, hospital visits, much gas and parking and gummy bears spent upon. You were more of a comfort than you know.

And last but not least, thank you to my three archangels. You are beautiful people, and I quite literally owe you my life. Thank you for everything.

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 4

Life lessons learned on the cardiology floor, continued!

Don’t take your life or health for granted. Period: This one hit me two ways. I heard so many codes called on that floor at all hours, and saw some seriously shaken nurses when someone didn’t make it. Life and death were all around me, and it’s times like that when you realize how fragile it is. The second way this one hit me was far more personal. Once I had started on my Pee Marathon, I had my eyes opened to just how sick I had been. My head was so much clearer once all the water started to come off that I realized just how much my mental function had suffered along the way and how much that had probably influenced my decision making and everything else. The truth was, I’d been slipping up on project deadlines and many other things for a long time, and it was only the kindness of others that saved me from disaster more than once. I’m going to make next year my year to work on my leg and numerous other issues!

Take Time Off: Some of us in this business are better than others and regularly schedule vacations and weekends. I’ve always tried to give myself nights and weekends off, but as I’m sure you can imagine, it doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve found more than once that if I have only one task during a day, if I’m not careful I can make that task last the whoooooooole day! I (and you, yes, you) need time off to reflect, consider your business and your life, and appreciate where you are. If I could rewind, I’d’ve made myself take more than one pause, and hopefully I would have had time to realize how I was feeling, and how different it was from how I should be!

Gratitude: It’s in every silly meme on Facebook, and is touted all over the place, I know. You’re probably sick of seeing the very word. I know I am sometimes. But it’s also very true if you ignore the gnat cloud of sugary meme nonsense and think about what it really means. People will stand by you in a crisis in ways that you didn’t think were possible, and I think it’s vital to take the time to feel that presence, and what it means for your life. This can be your blood family, or the family that you make for yourself. Yes you could have more, or different, but there’s always something to be grateful for, even the tiniest of things. And when it’s a solid presence when you’re scared and alone, that’s no small thing.

Next post will be my last entry in this series, telling one more story, and shelling out some serious thank yous.

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 3

So what did I learn from being in the hospital at 36 for heart failure? Plenty!

Periodically assess yourself: Many of the changes in my body and health were small things that accumulated over time. In the business and rush of my daily life it was really easy to ignore just how much I had changed, how low my energy had gotten, and how much I was suffering needlessly. I needed to stop, take a long step back, and really consider just where I was and what I was doing, instead of dismissing my own instincts and the words of others. (which leads to-)

Don’t dismiss the things you don’t want to hear: More times than I would like to admit along the way friends and loved ones told me that I was in danger, that my health was starting to spiral, and I needed to take stronger action. I pushed this aside for a lot of reasons, most of them things that didn’t matter in the long run, and certainly didn’t stack up when measured against how close I was to having a far less happy ending to this health saga of mine. Listen to the people who love and know you. You don’t have to do what they say, but if they’re good people, really stop and consider their point of view whether you like it or not. If it twinges, it’s often something that’s uncomfortably true.

Fix it now, not later: This is one I struggle with and have most of my life, as much as I try to fight it. If I’d paid attention and dealt with the problem sooner, it would not have taken me quite so long to beat it, and probably would have been easier to do in the bargain. Don’t let the needed things go, if you can fix it now, do it and get it over with. I can’t tell you the number of things in my life this has applied to, work or otherwise, and I bet many of you can think of the same kind of examples.

Take risks, even at the worst times: It’s a long, complicated personal story, but during this time, I gave my trust to someone close to me who had lost it a long time ago, and was astounded to find out how much that person had matured. They were willing to put aside some things that had kept us apart, and to see and help me as a person who needed it badly. (and not just the physical help of driving places but the emotional support of holy crap hospitals are scary!)

I’ll be delving into some more lessons learned in my next post!

 

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 2

I was 36! Congestive heart failure was something that happened to old people! What on earth could be causing this?

Bewildered, but still very sick, over the next couple days I endured. The local hospital did their best to run some tests and figure out what was going on.

The real cause of my swelling, my exhaustion, and my trouble breathing, and this reality of heart trouble had nothing to do with my thyroid. It was an old, complicated medical condition I’ve had for a very long time called an Arteriovenous Malformation. (I’ve linked an article if you want to find out what it is in more detail.) My AVM is a sizeable growth on my left thigh that has been there for about 25+ years. After some searching and attempts at treatment in my mid 20’s, I had kind of given up doing anything about it, other than enduring the regular pain. My treatments hadn’t been covered, and were expensive and difficult to manage on a grocery store job insurance/paycheck.

But as the local hospital was bundling me up and sending me to the big city hospital, I was discovering that all this time, the bad connections in my growth had been putting strain on my heart, and this was what was sending me into heart failure.

I settled into my new room, with the cascade of doctors and residents that comes from being in a teaching hospital, and began the long road back to some semblance of health. The first thing I had to do was pee.

A lot.

Seriously. Apparently all this swelling on my body was not fat as I had thought, but as often goes along with heart failure, it was water. With lots of medicine, I ended up 64 pounds lighter! And at this slimmer, svelter size I was finally able to undergo the definitive testing that would allow the doctors to take measurements and do scans that would pinpoint what they needed to do and where to go next. The scans and relevant indignities undergone, they sent me home just in time for thanksgiving. (And oh was I thankful.)

But those 13 days in 2 hospitals gave me a lot of time to think, and I wanted to share some of these thoughts with my friends, colleagues, clients, and dear readers in general–you’ll find some of those in the next post!

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