Tell me, is it possible that driving one’s car off a road, flipping, landing upside down, crawling out, then projectile vomiting could be considered a personal victory? An even better question: Don’t you hate it when people write a sensational first sentence just to get you to read a largely unrelated story? You don’t? Good!
No, this crash didn’t happen to me, at least not recently. But I can imagine how it could. This falls under the classification of Things You Never Expected as a Direct Result of Getting an Education In Voice-over.
In the pursuit of authenticity and creativity in my performances, I have been doing some exercises to help me internally loosen up, to go outside my comfort zone and allow myself to be a little… weird. Odd. Embarrassing. Extremely annoying. Barely tolerable. Whatever you want to call it. The result of these efforts has been dramatic and fruitful. Well, to be honest, “fruitful” may not be the word some people close to me would call it.
One thing I have been trying is singing in the car. When you stop pointing and laughing, I’ll explain. Unless you are a sociopath, and I try diligently to suppress those urges, then there are built-in internal regulators in our minds which reign us in when we are in danger of severe social faux pas, embarrassment and ridicule. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. An overabundance of internal governance is a death sentence to creativity, especially as it applies to performance. You need to be able to risk mistakes and face discomfort in order to be creative. With this in mind, I am trying to learn to let my insides out. To be utterly and openly myself, full volume, emotional, vulnerable, fierce, no holds barred.
Unless somebody else is around.
This is where my challenge is. Conversely, this is also where my freedom lies. In voice-over, expressive freedom and free flowing creativity are huge assets. You would make a mistake to think you can merely act like you are these things. It doesn’t sound the same. You must be them. If you aren’t this way naturally, you must do the personal, internal work to get there. That is the way it is with me, anyway. And that is why our efforts to stretch and grow need to take place in our lives outside the booth as well as in.
Do you have songs that you can’t help but sing? My list is extensive. If I am alone, if one of those songs comes on, I will open my mouth and let fly without thinking about it, glass shattering, ground rumbling, sweat flying, and mothers covering the ears of their small children and shuffling them indoors as if there were going to be a gunfight in a western movie.
Unless somebody else is around.
As I was driving recently, Love You With My Life came up on my playlist. You’ve probably never heard of it, but for me it is one of those songs. I opened my mouth, hesitated, looked furtively around, then shut it again. I had cars all around me. Whew! I dodged a bullet! I almost had these people who don’t know me, don’t care about me and will probably never see me again witness one of my most personal, vulnerable moments. I’m so glad I didn’t. . . wait, what am I saying? I should be trying to push my way past my self-protective inhibitions, not hiding my head under them like blankets at the first sign of discomfort.
Girding my loins
I know overcoming my fear of embarrassment is critical for me, so I did a gut check, girded my psychological loins and opened my mouth again. I would love to tell you that all of my personal barriers broke while I sang and that I have never struggled in this way again. However, if I did, my nose would certainly grow like Pinocchio’s. Since I am getting my photo taken later today and the photographer has already made me pay for damage insurance on her camera because she is afraid my ugly mug will break it, I’m thinking a Pinocchio nose is ill advised since it will only make things worse.
The truth is I was embarrassed as hell. But, I took that painful, terrifying step off the cliff and didn’t even die! Forgive me if I admit I was proud of myself in that moment.
As the song ended, I woodenly kept my face forward to avoid the stares, pointed fingers and scrunched up faces of people crying from laughter while they pee themselves in their cars.
Deep breathing slowly helped me to relax into the knowledge that I had completed that exercise, I did not die, and wouldn’t need to face that discomfort again any time soon. Then Mister Blue Sky came on. Uh oh. ELO was followed by Boston’s Man I’ll Never Be followed by Mandolin Rain by Bruce Hornsby, followed by Hootie and the Blowfish with Hold My Hand. You guessed it, each one of these is one of those “must sing” songs for me. Somebody in control of the musical universe was mercilessly stabbing a voodoo doll in my likeness, reveling in my discomfort. Determined to rise to the challenge, I sang. All the way home, much to my chagrin, I was never by myself on the road. I admit I was extremely self-conscious all the way until I pulled into my driveway, pulled a paper bag over my head, and walked inside.
Refusing to fail
In order to get past the walls of our personal comfort zones, we must by definition become uncomfortable. If you want to sing in the car with total disregard to the damage being done to the eyes, ears and innocence of everyone around you and potential lawsuits you may face, you have to roll the windows down, open your mouth, close your eyes and let it set you free.
On second thought, maybe don’t close your eyes. Your life expanding experience of personal freedom may get turned into your life changing month in traction at the hospital as you recover from driving off the road.
The best learning comes not when you take steps like this, but when you repeat them. And repeat them again. A single step doesn’t lead anywhere, but you can’t get anywhere without that single step!
Take that step!
If you are interested in learning voice-over creativity and freedom, sing in the shower! Sing in the car! Vocalize your love and your pain. Let the anger rise, tears fall and the laughter come. If singing isn’t your thing, that’s fine. Whatever your internal barriers may be and whichever exercises work for you, do them. As you become more open, expressive and creative, so will your voice work.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to call my attorney. Some woman is suing me. Something about a cleaning bill for stains on her car’s front seat.