At the start of each new year, the number of attendees in my yoga class doubles from the usual 25 devotees. Swarms of earnest wannabees clutch sticky mats, and aspirations for inner peace. Welcome to January, that aspirational time, when we re-commit to the virtues of hard work, achievement, and re-invention.
Just as the would-be yogi comes to the mat in search of enlightenment, and a fabulously toned core, we voice actors strive to book ever more work, organize our computers, sharpen our performance, and market ourselves every day.
Somehow by late spring, our priorities have shifted. We might fixate more on cable news, not as a potential client, but as a verbal punching bag. Searching Google and LinkedIn for potential clients and marketing leads has devolved into following the latest celebrity canine on Instagram – not that there’s anything wrong with that – and checking the clothes dryer lint trap. Again.
What happened? Now, not only do our chakras remain pitifully misaligned, but us list of to-dos has become as flabby as well, our core.
As voice actor, and yogi, I’ve discovered these disciplines share many similarities. If the flow of performance is similar to the flow of yoga, how do we attain that Zen state that comes with staying in the moment, being, and doing, whether on the mat, or behind our mic?
Both voice acting, and yoga involve practice. Just like piano lessons, and conjugating French verbs, there’s no getting around this mundane activity.
What aspiring yogi lands a perfect tree pose first time out? Sure, there’s always that buff showoff in the front row. For the rest of us, it takes weeks, months, nay years of practice, if ever — to find this kind of balance.
Balance factors into a voice actor’s life as well. Somedays we stand before the mic, barely able to articulate the simple script in front of us. We get frustrated, self-critical, and defeated: Adverse conditions in which to stoke our creative fire. We approach our telephone or email like it’s the enemy of the people rather than a reasonable means to start a friendly conversation with a potential client.
Forget landing the perfect pose, or perfectly articulated eLearning audition. Your practice is the journey. Be bold. Try that pose, and wobble on one leg like an elm in a strong wind. Even if you end up in a corner, a leg wedged behind your neck, crunching on a bag of Doritos, hey, you tried.
Bent out of shape because you didn’t book that national commercial? Take a deep breathe. Exhale. Repeat. Pace yourself. Grab a bag of chips (or a green apple), if that helps. Get back behind the mic, and interpret the heck out of that script, then pick up the phone, and talk to the people.
It’s customary in yoga to set an intention. Same with my VO meet-up tribe as we ask each other: “So, what do you want to accomplish today/for this quarter?” On my most resistant days, setting, and sharing a goal keeps my head in the game, gives me a shot of encouragement, and makes me more productive. The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but throw in a little action, and – ta da! – you’re making new friends and booking more work.
Perfectionism and self-judgment are the enemies of yoga and creativity. Try this instead: Focused attention, then detachment. Do the pose; hold it as long as your breath can sustain it. When it’s over, release the effort. Likewise, record that audition, the go for a walk.
Even if your voice over practice falters as the calendar drifts into summer, begin again. Like all good practices, it takes time to arrive at your destination. When all else fails, consider these words from a leading voice in contemporary yoga, Rolf Gates.
We show up, burn brightly, live passionately, hold nothing back. And when the moment is over, when our work is done, we step back and let go.