It’s interesting that when you start something different in life and really spend time pursuing it, you start looking at other things through that particular lens…
I started gardening as a teenager using a few pots outside. I enjoyed it for both the process and the reward and over time my gardening has morphed into a much better situation. With a bigger yard, a bunch of lumber, liner, dirt, and coerced (not really) labor later, I currently have several nice, raised bed planters.
As I looked at the beds this year it struck me that they were a lot like voice over in certain ways…at least in my life. I started out dabbling and pretty much fell in love with VO, the learning, the process and the outcome (and the VO community!). After a couple of years with passable audio gear I leveled up to a real Mic, dedicated computer and luckily had the same wonderful labor guy turn lumber, MDF, padding, insulation, foam, rubber backed rug, tennis balls and rubber cups into a beautiful, float floor custom recording booth.
For the first couple of seasons with the raised beds I looked to see what was growing best and then tried to figure out why. I followed the directions for all the plants but found some just did better than others. Tomatoes were easier than I expected, and lettuce just sort of raised itself as long as it had water and didn’t get burned. Sweet pepper plants, on the other hand didn’t grow very bushy and yielded no peppers (oh wait, that’s not true, the second year I tried I had a couple that looked like shrunken heads, definitely a crummy ROI).
It was pretty much the same with auditions and jobs. While getting the gear together helps and a clean sound environment is a necessity, there’s nothing like getting into auditioning and actually voicing jobs to see what genres you get the best reception in. Documentaries, narration and explainers were my first tomatoes and lettuce and when I started with medical narration it was like putting in the beet seeds, a great fit for my background and I really enjoy it (but I don’t give the weeds an inch here). I will tell you that at the moment, I still have at least one genre like my first pepper plants, desired but haven’t gotten the conditions quite right yet (notice I said yet). And there are some plants (and genres) I haven’t applied myself to (yet, ha). But I’m always learning and growing so we’ll see where the journey next takes me.
Since I enjoyed the beets I had success with last year, I planted some beet seeds again this year. I figured I had time to get to them and sort them out (and promptly spent most of my time in the booth and at the computer) putting them on the back burner until I finally looked and found them tangled together with weeds and each other. But something else happened that I really didn’t expect. With at least some water and sun, I got volunteer plants. The ones that went to seed, fell to the bed or made a cozy place in the compost suddenly showed up. So not only did my beets have weeds, they had tomato plants fighting them for space and sun. I like tomatoes and would love to grow them all but honestly, I got an entire battalion fighting over territory.
I realized while grimacing and ripping out ones I had no room for that this was also like VO genres. Sometimes one type just keeps coming up and without purposefully looking at how I want my balance of genres to be, it just naturally overtakes the others. I have to make conscious decisions to spend time on my VO beets if I want them to grow. Like every plant that I save needs resources and attention, every audition in a genre needs my undivided focus and care. I only have so many waking hours to give. If I let them all stay they often take over and either smother my other plants or use my time and voice beyond a healthy level. In both cases I had to start making choices.
Back in the beginning all the plants had at least some of my attention and plenty of sun, water and space and the garden was a part time venture. Then I started my VO journey, digging in (sorry, couldn’t resist) and over several years became a working voice actor. As I spent more and more time in the recording booth and at the computer, the garden would often dry out, weeds sprouted up, other plants overgrew and some failed. In addition to making choices, a more recent challenge has been finding a work-worktime-ROI balance and choosing where, as a voice actor, my time is best spent. Again, a matter of having only so many waking hours.
To help me become more efficient and maximize my return on time invested I tried something new on both fronts. In the garden I tried using cardboard to do weed blocking. Let me tell you the least appealing part of gardening is weeding so if I don’t want to do it I have to find a system that works to handle it or at least make my time investment minimum. To keep the analogy with voice acting running I also tried something new as a voice artist working with a voice over branding and marketing guru for the exact same reasons. While I can do quite a few things and do several of them rather well, I want to keep my focus on doing the voice acting I love and make sure this is my time priority. As I look down the road I can also envision a time where voice over adjacent services may be something I partner with to keep my VO garden growing.
Me, I’m not so far on this journey that I know where all my lettuce and tomatoes are or if I am going to keep the same balance of plants from year to year. The same can be said about the genres. When I add one I never know if it’ll be a pepper, a beet, lettuce or a tomato until I’ve been working in it a while. I haven’t completely given up on the peppers by the way. To take the analogy in reverse, one thing I haven’t done with gardening that I make sure I do with voice acting, especially with a newer genre is to read and listen to everything I can and get a good coach or mentor. It’s an investment so I’ll have to decide if and when I’m ready to make it in order to get peppers growing in my garden.
So what are your tomatoes and lettuce, the genres that keep showing up in your Inbox?
Are you thinking of adding beets, in the form of another genre to your repertoire?
What are your peppers and do you want them enough to learn from an expert, work at it and try again?