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Now let’s move on to this week’s story. It’s a short one and it begins with someone who works with clay.
Imagine being a potter who is being tasked with making the same pot, time and again. Eventually, you’d be able to do it in your sleep. Because of your experience, you’re likely to produce some darn good pots, but boy, what a boring life you would lead!
You’re like a one-trick pony walking round and round, without ever getting anywhere but the familiar.
The thing is, to many, the familiar is a safe place to be. It’s predictable. It’s comforting. It’s all they ever want. We all know people who, when on vacation, return to the same place, doing the same things, eating the same food with the same people. Monday spaghetti. Wednesday meatloaf, and fish on Friday. It’s their idea of heaven.
This is the place you get to when your career is on autopilot. You may even think things are going well because coasting is comfortable. You just phone your voice overs in, and the clients pay good money to hear you do your trick.
A long time ago I started learning to play the piano. After my family had to move I stopped taking lessons, and all I could do was play on the white keys. I became the king of C major. To the rest of the world I sounded pretty good, but there was this whole repertoire that was completely outside of my reach.
You see, in order to grow you have to step away from your comfort zone, and do things that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Unless you prefer staying stuck in a rut.
My comfort zone as a voice actor was the script. It was right in front of me, and all I had to do was read it. It was almost too easy.
Then I joined a band of colonial reenactors (see photo) who were doing historical plays in front of a live audience. This meant I actually had to learn my lines!
The first time I went on stage I was terrified I would forget what I had to say, but -miracle of miracles- I didn’t, and it felt like a tremendous accomplishment. It was actually freeing, not to have to look at a script. I could focus on the acting, and not on the words.
When I came back to my VO studio for a short commercial, I decided to ditch the paper, and memorize the script. The director who was listening in was clearly surprised and said:
“What happened to you? You sound so much more natural! Did you take some kind of class?”
I said to him: “I’m just trying to make a new pot.”