“You can’t be everybody’s cup of tea.” -Kacey Musgraves
Guys! I’m back! I’ve been off the internet journaling map for three whole months! I missed you guys. I missed this. Writing! Free time! Man, it feels good to be at a coffee shop, drink in hand (I traded bourbon and ice for coffee and milk foam today because it’s the afternoon and to quote one of my new co-workers, I’m “feeling myself.”) and laptop screen open. Remember back when I had that post about quitting my job at Granite and being all nervous about not having that routine of a 9-5 and worried about going stir crazy with no real work schedule? Who wrote that post??? Seriously. What on earth was I thinking? Was I actually under the impression that I would just be job-less and sit around sighing longingly out the dining room window wishing of workdays gone by? Sometimes I crack myself up.
I’ve actually been up to quite a bit since my last post. For one, I started working at this new brewery in the Crossroads (actually right around the block from where I’m currently sitting) and while it seems utterly redundant to quit a brewery and then work for another brewery, I only have two shifts a week and it is maybe seven city minutes from my house. So, while it seems exactly the same it’s not. Exactly. For two, I picked up a trivia-hosting gig at a charming, hole-in-the-wall dive in Waldo. I’ve always wanted to be a trivia emcee (as hilarious and low-brow a dream as that is) and two Thursdays a month I comb the internet for little known facts and gems about everything from currency to college stats, arrange them into multiple choice and true/false format in a Power Point presentation and then slowly sip rye manhattans while I do my best to entertain and inform regulars and strays for two whole hours. I’m still doing voice tracked weeknights at the station to keep myself relevant in the radio circuit, and – despite my daily chanting of the Martin Family Mantra (as deemed by only me) “Two People, Two Pets” – Doug and I went on a weekend window shopping tour of local animal shelters back in April and came home with a scrappy little, tiger-striped, wire-haired ball of energy we named Scrimshaw Meriwether Martin. Our house has now become a “Two People, Three Pets” household. We lucked out, though and ended up with a super smart dog who is very eager to please, so my nightmare scenarios of waking up in the morning and stepping into a soft, steaming pile of dog shit on the floor on my way to make a pot of coffee or coming home from work to find a gory scene of cat carnage littered across the living room rug while the dog picks his teeth with their little cat bones are nonexistent. I’ve actually even lost a little weight from our two-a-day walks in the midwestern humidity! At any rate. Point being? Things are poppin’.
I also deemed the start of 2017 the start of Becci Martin’s “Career Year!” (Said with the exclamation point and usually followed by the gusto of a slammed fist on the table – much similar to the way one pounds along with a live Irish band at 1 AM.) I’ve been wanting to break into the voice acting world here in the city, and I figured I’d stop employing excuses and instead just make some realistic, proactive, adult steps forward and got myself an agent. As fancy as that sounds, she is nothing more than an avenue to find auditions for me. Agencies contact her for a project that needs voiced, she sends out a mass email to all her clients that fit the description, we record our auditions, attach them to a reply email and hope for the best. You’ve heard it said from actors in general that they audition for a living? Pretty much 100% fact. I also decided to revamp my profile on the Adobe Creation Exchange (ACX) and throw myself into audiobook auditions and see if I couldn’t snag something. I made it this year’s goal to get one voice over gig. One. I figure, don’t set the bar too unrealistically high, because the amount of people in this city – let alone everyone on that internet audiobook exchange – is a pretty impressively sized pool of talent. A lot of the talent out there also has some pretty padded portfolios of previous work. I laughed out loud when I was reviewing my ACX profile. It had a section where you could list your previous projects or any awards that you had won, and you know what mine said? Previous Projects – “None, but I’d love to be your first!” (LOL. Literally.) But, you gotta start somewhere, right? Starting is the hardest part.
So, I’m auditioning for projects my agent is sending me and getting crickets in response and I’m auditioning for audiobooks on ACX and getting rejection messages back months later, and then – out of the blue – I get a message from one of the authors who’s book I’d auditioned for a couple weeks previous. He said my audition was the “most promising yet,” and he wanted to set up a time to chat on Skype and send me a copy of the manuscript so I could read the book in it’s entirety and see if I was still interested in narrating it. Totally elated, right? I’m talking cloud nine-type shit. I read the book, we chat on Skype, he gives me character back-stories and explanations of plot twists, the whole nine yards. I get off the call and tell Doug I’m feeling pretty confident I’m going to get this gig. After that call? Crickets. Crickets for maybe three whole weeks. I’ve basically written this guy off because I haven’t heard from him and he’s probably hired someone else and why can’t he have the decency to send me a rejection email?!?! Right? So, after I’ve forgotten all about him and his awful book and my one shot at narration fame (I’m dramatic by nature.), he messages me. I got the job. Doug and I go out, we toast drinks, we squeal in excitement (Well. Okay, maybe only I squeal in excitement.), and I throw myself in headfirst. So much so, that I coerced my husband into building me a home studio, which sounds really fancy but don’t be fooled. It’s more or less a glorified blanket fort tall enough for me to stand in, but I love it. I lit up when I saw it. I finally felt like an organized, professional voice over artist. I had a booth, I bought a mic, I bought cables and interfaces and amps and preamps. I was a working adult making adult purchases for my very adult career that was about to take off. Right?
Wrong. I’m sending finished chapters off to this guy for his approval and I’m getting back some pretty constructive-less criticism: Your narration voice is off putting. That character sounds nothing like we had discussed. Why did you over enunciate those words? Read this line more sad. Take in what’s going on in the scene you’re reading and imagine that as you’re reading it. I mean I can’t technically put those in quotes because they aren’t exactly verbatim, but those were all actual criticisms after he listened to the first chapter. Awesome, right? In a nutshell, “Hate it all. Take it from the top and this time, do a good job. Just read. It’s not rocket science.” So after that first round of feedback, I’m crushed. Totally deflated. I told one of my friends that it felt like I had just taught my kid how to walk and he’s crossing the street (because for some reason, babies first steps are on highly trafficked roads) and he gets hit by a semi truck. I should also mention that in addition to narrating this book, I’m also producing and mastering it. So, every time there’s a revision I have to go back in to the studio days later, listen to the original file, talk along with it until I match my voice, re-record all of the changes, and cut out the bad and paste in the new, add the exact same effects as before and adjust the volume so it all sounds consistent. Then mix it down, submit it and hope it’s the ticket. Otherwise? Round three. That’s a lot of work for one person who isn’t getting paid one red cent for her efforts.
Now, please don’t read that and think, “Oh, Bec just can’t take criticism.” Not true. My high school days were pretty much nothing but acting and public speaking (I only threw in golf to have that coveted “well-rounded high school experience” that colleges wanted to see on student applications.) and having worked in radio for the majority of my adult life I’ve been dealt my fair share of criticism from colleagues and listeners. Criticism is essential for growth and progression. But there’s a way to go about it that boosts the effectiveness of how it’s received. Ya know? You can’t just tell someone they suck in sixteen different ways and then expect them to rush off energized and excited and ready to try again. Come on. To quote me – “Get real.” Tell them what they’re doing wrong and point them in a direction to fix it and then also express what they are doing well so they continue to do it. Otherwise I might as well be wearing a blindfold in a basement, groping my way through the room I’m in to find the door to the stairs. It’s a waste of my time and his. Plus, with creative projects everyone interprets things differently. That’s part of the whole “creative license” that an actor is entrusted with so they can “do their thing,” so to speak. Every actor has his own way of performing. As I explained to this guy when I finally got the balls to advocate for myself and my talent, which could actually be a whole other post in itself (as a doormat, it was quite the red-letter day for me). He had told me that I was reading one of the lines all wrong. It was clearly written the way he had read it, why didn’t I read it that way? Well author guy, guess what happens when someone writes a sentence and asks two different people to read it? Do they read it exactly the same? No. They each read it how they read it because that’s how people reading things goes. *throws hands up* Alas, I digress. Suffice it to say what started off as an exciting new adventure had turned into a burdensome time-suck that I had to convince myself daily of being a worthy cause of my time.
So, fast-forward a handful of weeks. Here I am, doing this book thing, taking notes and recording chapters and making edits – feeling like perhaps this isn’t what I’m meant to be doing. I mean sure, I’ve had people tell me that I have a good voice for that kind of thing and I’m a good storyteller, but did I honestly think that kind words from friends and family would mean I would actually be successful at this? Maybe I’m not as talented as I thought and maybe what this guy is saying is true – that I’m a ho-hum narrator and I can’t do character voices and my creative instincts are off the mark. Well, one morning I’m on my way in to the studio to bang out a few more chapters and I get this call from my agent. Apparently one of the clients I auditioned for around Mother’s Day liked what they heard and decided to go with me for their project. So, we set up a record date and I met them at a studio in town (a real one, not a blanket fort) and for a little over an hour I stood in a booth and read copy for six different ads promoting alcoholic drinks made with Tropicana. Turns out, they’ll eventually be running between songs on Spotify (Eeeeee!) for those who don’t pay for an ad-less premium account. And, here’s the thing…
Up until that point – that day – I had felt like my instincts were all wrong and voice acting wasn’t something that would ever really happen for me because there were too many others out there far better and with much more dynamic voices and in a sea full of that kind of talent how would I ever get picked? Friends. That day I was vindicated. I. Had. Talent. I had creative instincts! I was a professional voice actor. I played it cool while I was there, but as soon as I walked out of that studio and into the parking lot I burst into spontaneous laughter for no other reason than career affirmation, I guess. I just wish I could have bottled that feeling that afternoon. After being totally down about that freaking audiobook and all the feedback I was getting that made me feel so off the mark, I was finally – as the kids say these days – on point. After that afternoon, my outlook has been totally different and my conversations with that author have evened out and my confidence has been restored. I’ve even recorded fifteen out of thirty-six chapters in that book (Halfway point, here we come!).
Now, I don’t want you to come away from this thinking, “Oh, precious little snowflake Becci. Needs to be praised and affirmed all the time to be able to do her work and have worth.” No. What I want you to take away from this is that you literally can’t be everybody’s cup of tea. If you are hot tea in a world full of porch-brewed iced tea of course you’re going to be the odd man out and question yourself and your talents. But, you know your worth. You know what you are and aren’t good at. You know where your skills lie. And if something inside you says that you’d be the successful at a certain endeavor, listen to it and chase it down until you get a freaking side-ache. Everyone has the power to succeed. And when the criticisms roll in with out construction, remember this: It may be inevitable, but it is not insurmountable.