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!

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DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #12: Why I Felt Worn Out…no, I mean why I felt worn out in trying to find new things to talk about in VO. What did you think I meant?

Bring HIM into a booth, and then we’ll have something new to talk about!

DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:

The other day I met a zebra from the Columbus Zoo, and learned something valuable about VO. Me and the zebra went to Walgreens to pick up some cold medicine, and then I took him back to my studio and got to know him a bit better. We talked about his family, his kids, and then I asked him if he’d like to record some stuff for a project that a client had recently given me–animal noises. I’m sure the client probably wanted me to do all of the animal noises, but since I believe in going the extra mile, I went out and got an actual zebra for the zebra sounds. I squeezed him into the booth, and he recorded some of his more traditional calls. I thought he was a blast to work with, but I know other people have horror stories about working with zebras. So to all my readers and listeners, let me pose this question: do you traditionally find working with zebras to be easy, or are they a hassle to work with once you get them inside the booth?

No, that did not actually happen…but GOD I wish it did, because it would give me something new to talk about. And c’mon, you have to admit that opening paragraph got caught attention. Few in their right minds can just ignore a blog entry that begins with someone talking about their adventures with a zebra. Granted, I’m sure a fair deal of you left once you realized what this blog entry is really about, and sure, discussions about hanging out with zebras probably exist in social media discussions among safari guides (actually, do those exist?), but never in the context of VO. If I actually did bring a zebra into the booth, that would be something genuinely new, that nobody has talked about before.

Here’s why I bring this up. One of the problems with VO–a problem that I would imagine faces any profession–is that there’s only so much to talk about nowadays. I have nothing but good things to say about how fun VO is, but it’s a profession that can be a little on the monotonous side. We follow a fairly “wash-rinse-repeat”-style routine. We market ourselves through our various marketing methods. We send out auditions, acting under the assumption that we will never hear back. We hear back from some, and then a few of our regular clients ask us to record a project. We then cheer up a bit because we get to do the fun part, the actual recording!

…Then we get to the editing. We listen to the raw audio, maybe adjust the EQ a bit, add a bit of compression, and then we spend the next hour looking at waveforms for clicks so that we can edit those out, and occasionally to correct some P-Pops that jump out a bi–

–Actually, gimme a sec. Let’s see, go to the waveform, highlight the “p” part of the word, turn the lower frequencies down…

“…and occasionally to correct some p-pops that jump out a bit.”

There we go. Then we send off our completely edited projects to the client.

And then…in that peaceful reprieve that follows the completion of our work…there is a sigh of relief…when it is done, and we remember…that we are alive…and human……

…Until we go to Facebook. Or Linkedin. Or Twitter. And find our peers discussing the things that we’ve been doing all day. Questions like…

*What’s the best microphone?

*Am I ready for an agent?

*Should I join AFTRA?

*Should I go to the VOICE conference?

*What’s the best editing software?

*What do clients expect when you say that you can write the copy?

*Could you listen to my new demo and give me some feedback?

*What about SAG?

*Will the merger help the VO business?

*I need help setting up my home studio, what materials should I get to dampen the sound?

*What’s the best P2P site?

*D’ya guys think my headshot is okay?

*What’s it like to do voice-over jobs for videogames?

*Is this rate appropriate for this job?

*Does a background in radio help for VO?

*Does a background in theater help for VO?

It can be a tad exhausting in the sense that the same old questions tend to arise. One of my readers, Susan Bernard, recently told me that she’s afraid of starting a blog because, to quote her, “I’m seeing a lot of hashed re-hash and it is hard to want to add to the noise.” Well, she’s kinda right! So why do the same questions persist?

Because they’re helpful questions to ask. They’re the right questions to ask. Don’t ever be afraid to speak up and add something new to the mix, but sometimes just contributing to the mix is both helpful and appreciative! Yeah, the discussions may be the same, but often the contexts are completely different. Here are some thoughts from a few of my colleagues on that very subject…

Dave Courvoisier: Because, even if it’s been done before, the context and the audience is different. Every year, our newsroom does a story about the last minute rush to the post office with IRS Tax forms on April 15th. Nothing new…but it’s been a year since we did it. Sometimes it’s a familiar story, but with modern twists, or a new player shows up, or new developments come around. The union-vs-nonunion debate has new life with the possibility of a merger. New mics are always coming out.

Terry Phillips: Great ideas are worth repeating….plus your opinion on a subject may not have “been done.”

Paul Strikwerda: The trick is to look at an old topic in a new way. A good message is worth repeating. I take the temperature of the VO world by looking at what’s being discussed on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other forums. I also add my own experience to the mix. Frustrations can be a great source for inspiration.

Long story short…yeah, the same questions come up, but that’s because they’re the same questions that continue to be relevant. So yeah, it can be a little tiring thinking of new things to bring up in VO…but keep talking, and you might be surprised how “new” your opinion may be. On that note, if any of you should manage to get a zebra into your recording booth…TELL ME.

PS: Thanks to my VO colleagues who were willing to share their thoughts with me!

PSS: Wait! I know! Something new! Chris Rock said that acting for animation is easy, I could TOTALLY blog about tha…….wait……………eight actors already did?……..Aww, ****!