DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #31: Why I Can’t Think…no, I mean why I have to work to get over writer’s block sometimes. What did you think I meant?

Hey, it happens…well, actually, THIS doesn’t happen to me, because I don’t write music, but you get the idea.

DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:

The first person to ever comment on my audioblog said something that became eerily prophetic. To be clear, I do mean the first *person*..technically, the first comment I ever received was an automated comment from WordPress welcoming me to the world of blogging. Don’t get me wrong, that was very nice of the automated comment, and I thanked it, but the first living, breathing human being to comment on my audioblog was European voice-over talent and blogging machine, Paul Strikwerda. Being the damn good blogger that he is, he said something that has haunted me more and more as time goes on (and NO, I will not attempt to read this with his Dutch accent):

“Having a blog can become a burden if you feel that it’s a must. Before you know it, it becomes one more thing on your to-do list and you start putting it off.”

I haven’t quite reached that point yet, but as time goes on, I occasionally get the feeling that it’s starting to feel like that. I’m not putting it off, nor do I consider it a burden, but this audioblog is occasionally feeling a bit more like a…chore, I suppose would be the proper word. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing, that’s my favorite part! What I don’t enjoy is thinking of something to write about. Writer’s block has been most unkind to me on more than one occasion.

For that reason, I decided to reach out to my fellow bloggers this week, and to any potential bloggers worried about not getting anything started due to writer’s block. Here are some ideas that I have!

1) Talk about why your life sucks. Okay, not quite, but rather, talk about a problem you recently had in your VO career and see if you can’t write your thoughts about the best solution to it. Other people may appreciate your contributions! Not too long ago, my main email address crashed on me, and I think my story of how I solved the problem and remained in contact with my clients will probably end up becoming one of my next audioblog entries.

2) Talk about why other people’s lives suck. The VO industry only has so many subjects that haven’t been talked about. I won’t repeat them here, because I don’t need to…you’ve likely heard them over and over again. What’s the best editing program, is ISDN worth it, how do I market myse–NO, NO, I promised I wouldn’t repeat them here, sorry. Still, write about some questions that you see others asking, so that way, if somebody else ever asks you one of the many questions that gets asked for the eighteen quadrillionth time, you can just say, “Well, I actually wrote on this–here’s a link, have a look!”

3) Write about how you don’t have anything to talk about. Very lame if used repeatedly, but once in a while won’t hurt if it’s given some context. I did it once!

4) Strike up a conversation about VO…with someone who has nothing to do with VO. Why do we want to know what outsiders think? Because it gives us a very good idea of how our business is perceived and, by extension, the value of our business. I was depositing a check from one of my gigs not too long ago, and the guy behind the desk asked me, “Voice-overs sounds like a cool job…how does work find you?” Most working voice actors should know what’s wrong with the last five words of his question. Actually, hold on, I’ll give you a second to go back and count the words.

Okay.

Anyway, I responded, “Ho boy, if only it were that simple…work doesn’t usually find me, I have to find work.” That could be a blog entry in and of itself!

5) Set a deadline, but wait until the last minute to actually do anything. Some see this as irresponsible, and indeed, with certain things, it is. However, if used properly, procrastination can be a powerful creative tool. I once had an English teacher who assigned both in-class and take-home essays, and he always said, “Guys, the in-class ones are so much better. I think it’s ’cause you’re pressured to do well. When the pressure’s off, you guys suck!” And he’s right! When the pressure’s on, you think harder. For that reason, I write (and voice) an audioblog entry every Sunday, but about 90% of them are conceived and written Sunday morning. It’s not just me, either! Even Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the guys who make “South Park,” said that they only feel they’re at their creative best when an incomplete episode is due to go on the air in a few hours.

Writer’s block doesn’t have to cripple you, and I hope some of these suggestions will keep your creative juices flowing. On the other hand, sometimes writer’s block inevitably does cripple you…so take a week off! Y’know what’s going to happen? Nothing. Nobody’s internet presence is indispensable (and yes, I’m counting myself as well). The world will continue to go on it’s daily business. If you write, write for fun, and about something you enjoy!

DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #24: Why I’m Confused…no, I mean why I’m confused on how personal I should make my audioblog entries. What did you think I meant?

C’mon…that’s not how it works.

DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:

When I set first set out to make a bog late last year, I asked the VO community for advice on what makes a good blog. The most interesting thing, to me, was how consistently I received two particular pieces of advice that were completely contradictory! The first one was, “Personalize your blog, so you can make sure it’s unique.” The other piece of advice was, “Don’t talk about yourself.”

…Umm…wait, what? Am I, like, the only one who was confused when I read that?

And I friggin’ heard it over and over again, too!

“Make sure that your blog is unique to you.”

“Don’t talk about yourself.”

“Personalize your blog.”

“Don’t write ‘ME-ME-ME’ Stories, no one will read them.”

“The best voice actors are the voice actors who let their unique experiences and relationship with words guide the delivery of their copy, and it’s the same thing with a blog.”

“Nobody cares about your personal trials and tribulations, they’ve got their own to worry about, especially since it’s mostly other VO talent who will read it.”

“Only by making your blog personal can you make it stand out among the cluttered blogosphere.”

“Don’t talk about yourself, that’s just advertising.”

The best conclusion I could come to was that good blogs were blogs where the authors kept their personal experiences brief, and then used them to talk about a larger point that was relevant to the VO community at large. So there were personal experiences, sure, but they were usually summed up in a sentence or two before moving on to talk about the bigger picture. For that reason, there is a line that divides blogging and advertising, but it’s pretty razor-thin if you think about it.

For example, here’s something I’ve been really conflicted about. Recently, I got a new website and a spiffy new logo created for me, and–

Wai-wai-wait, hold on, hold on! I’m getting to a broader point, I promise!

Anyway. I was thinking about writing an audioblog entry about the process behind its conception, and why I like my new website so much. The idea, of course, being that I would be starting a conversation about the larger, broader topic of what I think makes a good website (unique design, downloadable demos, easily-accessed contact info, stuff like that). The thing is, every time I sat down to write that entry, I kept thinking to myself, “Hold on…am I advertising? I don’t mean to…how do I make that last sentence sound more helpful and less like the copy for an infomercial…?”

There are a few audioblog entries that I simply never went through with for that exact reason. They just sat in my draft folder, and never saw the light of day. I started from scratch, because I couldn’t help but think, “Hold on…of what use is this to someone else? Not much at all, really.”

I set out, long ago, to divide my blog and my website as distinctly as I possibly could with regard to its goals. I’m not saying I don’t advertise myself. I have to. Go to my website, or my Facebook page (page, not profile), my Tumblr account, or a couple other social media profiles that aren’t particularly conversation-centered…and you’ll find that I advertise the living hell out of myself. Like I said, we have to, it’s the nature of our business. If no one is aware we exist, we can’t expect to get work. My goal, though, was to make sure, to the extent that I could, that my blog would be an open conversation, for anyone, on all things VO. My audience, after all, is mostly other VO talent. I’d have to imagine that if I just turned my blog into a long rant about myself, that the immediate reaction’s just gonna be, “Uh-huh, that’s nice Dave, we don’t care.”

So, for however little it’s worth, here are a few ways I tried to make my blog personal without turning it into a glorified ad.

1) Keep your personal experiences brief. A sentence or two, but a paragraph at the most. One of my earliest blog entries, entry #4, was an entry in which I talked about why I got into acting–namely, because I’m autistic, and wanted to get to understand people better. Personal, sure, but not very relevant to the vast majority of my other readers. Not surprisingly, it’s one of my least shared entries.

2) Add a (somewhat) unique feature to it. For me, that was the narration feature. I figured, I’m in voice-over, so it only makes sense for me to narrate my own entries, right? I figured it would give a personal touch. Sure, many people won’t listen and would prefer just to read, but the narration feature is there if they want it.

3) Add a blogroll, or a list of other blogs people can check out. It’s a nice little way of sayin’, “Hey, I’m not the center of the universe.”

4) Link to other social media in general. I post my audioblog entries in a number of forums on Linkedin, and whenever I find that good discussion has arisen on a particular thread, I go back and edit my audioblog entries to include links to those discussion threads. I think other people bring up great points about my entries and further the discussion to the point where I want future readers to know about it.

5) Acknowledge that it’s partially impossible. My website is for advertising, and my blog is for discussion, and I try to keep the two separate…but there’s no denying that my blog will help me a little bit on the advertising end. Each blog entry makes me a tad more Google-friendly (something we ALL want, let’s be honest), and while I don’t claim myself to be a VO superstar by any means, it did help my internet presence–more people knew who I was after I started blogging than before.

I guess a funny way to end this entry would be a sentence with some sort of “wink-wink” humor to the effect of, “So remember, make your posts relevant, and don’t advertise yourself…like placing videos to projects you did, such as this one I recently completed for Miken Accu-Flex 2.0 hockey sticks.” However, I’m not going to do that. I would never, ever, EVER post videos of VO projects I recently completed below this paragraph.

Okay, sorry, now I backed myself into an uncomfortable position where I have to post the video to make the joke work–you don’t have to watch it, go ahead and ignore it if you want!