Narrator Jeffrey Kafer wrote:
“If this is an April Fools joke, it’s the most narcissistic one I’ve ever seen. Hope you got all the attention you were after, Paul.”
He was probably just kidding, but in a way, Jeffrey was right and he was wrong.
My April 1st post about me quitting blogging was indeed a prank, but was it narcissistic?
LOOK AT ME
Narcissism is characterized by egotism, vanity, and selfishness. At worst, it is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration.
If I were to have an inner need to be admired and an inflated sense of self, I have definitely chosen the wrong career. Voice-over artists are the invisibles of the industry. We are servants of our scripts. If we’re doing our job right, people pay more attention to the message than to the messenger.
Unlike on-camera actors, we don’t get recognized when we’re walking down the street, and our craft doesn’t get much recognition either. No network will ever think of broadcasting the Audie Awards to a global audience.
There’s no Academy Award for the best voice-over performance in a motion picture. Name one narrator who’s made millions pimping his pipes… I just did my taxes and I can tell you with utmost certainty that it’s not me.
Contrary to popular perception, our work isn’t glamorous either. We voluntarily lock ourselves up in a padded box, dressed in sloppy clothes that won’t make any noise, and we talk to people who aren’t even there. Normally, that sort of behavior would warrant a psychiatric evaluation.
Are voice-over people self-centered? Well, if you and I don’t take good care of ourselves, it becomes hard to take good care of others. Since we personify our product, it’s in our best commercial interest to stay healthy. That doesn’t make us egotistical, does it?
If anything, our small community is the most selfless group of professionals I’ve ever been part of. It is a caring community and a sharing community. There are no industry secrets. Go ahead and try it out. Go to a Facebook or LinkdIn group and ask a VO-related question. Within the hour you’ll get a number of responses from people who know what they’re talking about, free of charge.
Every week there is a plethora of blogs, podcasts, articles and webcasts to choose from, packed with valuable industry insights and practical tips. Again, you don’t have to spend a penny to receive priceless information.
Here’s another remarkable thing.
As voice actors, we often compete against one another for the same jobs, yet we manage to remain friends. If there is a cutthroat mentality in voiceoverland, I haven’t encountered it. Sometimes we tease one another, but we don’t badmouth colleagues. If anything, we’re “goodmouthing” each other. We recommend and refer colleagues to clients and agents. And if one of us lands the gig of the century, we celebrate!
A CHARITABLE BUNCH
Not only are we generous with our advice and support, we give freely to worthy causes and to those in need. With one month left, I’ve already reached 86% of my fundraising goal for my annual MS Walk, thanks to readers like you. One audio book narrator wrote to me:
“I just received a nice royalty check from my last four books. I’m glad to donate part of it to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.”
I almost cried when I read those words!
Now, if you’ve followed my train of thought closely, you’ve no doubt noticed that I addressed Jeffrey Kafer’s comment by focusing on our community. But as you know, Kafer wasn’t talking about our community. He was talking about me. This put me in an interesting bind.
If I were to respond to his characterization, I’d be forced to talk about myself, thus running the risk of coming across as a narcissist.
If I were to let it rest, I’d be evading the issue.
What happened after I published my made-up story on April 1st, blew me away. It took no time for this blog post to gain traction. People read my sad story, they shared it and they started commenting on it. I received thank you messages. People emailed me and said they understood why I had decided to quit. Some wanted to know if I was okay, because I didn’t respond to the comments that were posted on my website.
There were a few skeptics among the commentators, but the majority of readers seemed to buy it and wished me well. By the end of the day, almost 700 people had read my farewell-article. An all-time record. What did that tell me?
If we trust the source, a story doesn’t necessarily have to be true to be believed, as long as it is plausible. Apparently, lots of people see this blog as a reliable source of opinion and information. That’s the best a blogger could hope for!
I was also overwhelmed by the unexpected outpour of appreciation. Reading all the comments almost felt like listening to a eulogy. I also felt a bit guilty because I knew I was pulling people’s legs.
KING OF THE HILL
Most narcissists are interpersonally exploitative. They take advantage of others to achieve their own ends. If you know me well enough (and I think you do), you know that that’s not me. I blog because I enjoy sharing my experiences with whomever is willing to listen. To me, it’s a way of giving back to a community that is giving so much to me.
Narcissists wish to be recognized as superior and they’re preoccupied with fantasies of success and power. I don’t see myself as superior. I’m proud of my achievements and I know what I’m capable of. I’m also very much aware of my limitations and my weaknesses.
I don’t need power, but I strive to empower.
And what about success?
I measure my success by the number of people who tell me they have benefited from something I wrote. Here are two examples:
“Paul, I not only read your blog, but like a lot of the readers, I await the blog, which should be appearing in 41 minutes, with great anticipation. Why, because it’s (A) loaded with content (B) stimulates me to action, changes my thought processing or introduces me to things I didn’t know existed (C) it is directly relevant to me and most of my friends.”
“Paul, in my 50 years of voice work, this is the best and most practical advice I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Thank you many times over for the wonderful insight.”
I didn’t add these quotes to give myself a public pat on the back. You’ve already done that by the way you responded to me supposedly pulling the plug on this blog.
My point is this:
If something I wrote somehow contributed to someone’s success, I feel successful.
If you believe that makes me a narcissist, so be it.
I much prefer tulips over narcissus flowers.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice