Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

Tying together poetry, parenting, and advertising in a neat little package

Archive for the tag “advice”

On life, death, and all that stuff in-between

It’s interesting how some things come full-circle.

I attended the funeral for the father of my best friend in college this weekend. As I sat there in the very last church pew, I listened as the priest spoke about all the things this father, grandfather, husband, and friend would never do again: tend to his garden, prune his fruit trees, play with his grandchildren.

A sad occasion, obviously…so I surprised myself when this :15 TV commercial featuring The Most Interesting Man in the World popped into my head:

There really is no better time than now to start beefing up your obituary – and as this concept settled into my brain, I began thinking of all the things I’d like to accomplish before I pass.

Not a “bucket list” of what I want to do, necessarily, but what I want to accomplish. And to me, those are two different things.

How will I be remembered? Will I even be?

There are plenty of things I’d like to do: visit a foreign country, sing in a band, resume playing with my indoor soccer league. Things I’d like to accomplish are a bit more difficult, because they require more time and effort and are harder to define in concrete terms: be a good father and husband, make a positive difference to someone through my poetry, land a national animation voiceover gig my kids would be proud of.

These kinds of accomplishments are not the kinds of things you go out and just do, and check off your list. They require time, patience, and wisdom…and although I have plenty of the first two, that last one I have found to be the most elusive.

I try to be a good father and hubby – spending time with the kids, teaching them, supporting them, supporting and loving their mom. I keep working to make inroads to get my children’s writing published, not just because it’s my vocation and I’d like it to be a career, but because I genuinely feel that someone, somewhere might benefit from it. Perhaps that’s unrealistic, perhaps that’s egotistical…I don’t think it is, but it’s what I feel nonetheless.

Working hard and taking chances

My baby!As for that voiceover gig, I’ll keep plugging away with that, too. I’ve voiced enough commercials, corporate videos, and other random projects…so a national animated voiceover project – while still a longshot – is an attainable goal if I don’t give up.

And I don’t!

If I come across an audition for a project that is not right for me (deep movie-trailer voice guy is one of ‘em!), I skip it. But if I see something that I’m not sure if I’m right for – but could be – I’ll probably go for it and see how it sounds. How else does one grow and develop their skills if one doesn’t take chances?

How does one “beef up the obituary” – or the resume, for that matter – without a little extra perspiration?

Whatever you do in life, you’re not going to get any better or go any further if you don’t push yourself. Even if there are a hundred other voice actors competing for the gig, what have you got to lose? Even if your manuscript has received 50 rejection slips from agents and editors, the next one you send to might be the one who loves it! Whether I succeed or fail depends entirely on whether or not I give up, and believe me…I’ve failed so much that success just has to be around the corner!

(At least, that’s what I tell myself.)

TMIMITW took a chance!

Well, actually it wasn’t The Most Interesting Man in the World who took a chance – it was Jonathan Goldsmith, the Jewish, Bronx-raised actor who portrays him.

As I mentioned early in this post, things have a way of coming full-circle sometimes, and this is one of them. As I searched for the commercial online, thinking about those 15 seconds of wisdom the Dos Equis’ copywriters had shared about beefing up one’s obituary, I stumbled upon a recent blog post about how Goldsmith was cast as the company’s Latino pitchman.

If you don’t think you have a chance of scoring a big sale, nailing a big gig, or even winning a lottery…think about the odds that Goldsmith faced as a new York City Jew auditioning against 499 Latinos!

That’s right – out of 500 actors, he was chosen. And if the casting director had picked anyone else, The Most Interesting Man in the World would not be the man we know today.

It pays to take chances. And you only have NOW to take them. Tomorrow might not get here.

Better get busy.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

 

 

What to do when you lose your balloon

My heart sank as I watched my 4-year-old’s new blue, Mylar balloon fly out of my truck and up, up into the sky.

He had just gotten it at my chiropractor’s office, and after stopping at a local Dunkin Donuts, I had forgotten it was in my pickup when we came out. All it took was me opening the passenger door, and zoom! – the thing took off like a rocket in the wind and shot skyward.

“That’s my balloon, daddy,” the little dude said, eyes fixated on his rapidly disappearing reward for being a good boy.

“I know,” I said, “I’m so sorry. I’m really, really sorry.”

Then, after a short pause, he said, “I’m gonna miss my blue balloon, daddy.”

ID-10055026 (balloons)“I know you will, Bub.”

“That was a nice balloon.”

“Yes, it was nice.”

“Maybe I’ll get another one sometime?”

I smiled. “Yes, you will. I’ll make sure you get another one.” Then I looked at him once he was sitting in his car seat. “You’re a good little dude, you know.”

He returned my smile with one of his own. “Yeah, I am a good little dude.”

Perspective envy

I wish I had the attitude my son had today. Granted, there are a multitude of instances when he can be a frustratingly demanding little man – like most 4-year-old boys – but there are plenty of times when he has such a good grasp on handling adversity that he makes me wonder if we actually share DNA.

I like that he makes me think.

You see, I’m the type of person who needs things to go the way they’re supposed to go. I wouldn’t say I’m a type-A kind of person, but I do take comfort in consistency, in predictability, in the familiar. If I’m planning a trip to the beach, I don’t want it to rain. If I’m preparing for a project, I don’t want the specs to change.

(This is why I dislike winter so much; in the summer, no one ever has to cancel dinner plans because 12 inches of snow is expected, and no one is ever late to work because they can’t drive faster than 20 mph.)

So when I see this little fellow dealing with life the way he does, he makes me wonder why I can’t be more like him (the thoughtful, pleasant ‘him,’ not the screaming, I-want-it-now ‘him’).

ID-10056952 (soccer ball)Making the best of a situation

It’s one thing to say we must learn to smile in the face of adversity – it’s another to actually be able to do it. When I tore my ACL last year, I tried to be positive even though the negative thoughts deluged my brain:

How am I going to take  care of the kids?
How am I going to help my wife?
How am I going to run my voiceover business?

Over the course of several weeks, I learned how to balance these things, and the injury turned out to not be as earth-shattering as I thought it was when it first happened. I still need surgery (March  28 is the date!) and have no idea how I’ll do anything for 2 weeks following (I’ll be on crutches with no weight-bearing), but I figure I’ll get by. I’m trying not to be as anxious as I was the first time around.

Note that I didn’t say I’m not anxious. I’m still anxious as all get-out…but at least I’m trying not to be.

Putting adversity to good use

As I was thinking about my son and his balloon, and wondering how I might tie the incident in with a blog post, I came across a news article about a Subaru dealer that decided to take advantage of a union protest.

Now, whether you are pro-union or not, you have to admit – what they did is ingenious. Did they think they would get more customers in the door by using the protest sign as advertising? Probably not. Did they think it would make a good chuckle and perhaps get people talking? Most definitely.

Did they expect it to end up on Yahoo! and have their dealership name be spread across the entire country? Doubt it…but now look what happened when they tried to make the best out of a situation!

We all lose our balloons sometime

I’ve recorded auditions and then forgot to email them. I’ve submitted auditions I thought I was perfect for and have gotten completely passed over.

I’ve had multiple plans this winter that had to be cancelled due to weather issues, as mentioned earlier.

I’ve dropped a log on my foot shortly before my indoor soccer season was to begin, so I decided to play goalie, only to snap a tendon in my finger, so I end up on the field, only to tear my ACL, and subsequently find out I won’t be able to play again for a year.

All these things annoy me and can ruin my day if I let them - but if I’m paying attention, they don’t always get the better of me.

A few days ago, my wife crashed her car sliding on some ice in the road (did I mention I hate winter?). She was only going 20 mph, but managed to do $3000+ worth of damage. We now have to find $500 for the insurance deductible, we have to pay for a rental car for possibly two weeks, and we also have to shell out money for two new car seats for the kids, since they can no longer use the ones that were in the accident.

But at least my wife suffered no injuries and is alive and well. At least the kids weren’t in the car at the time. At least we had more family time this weekend because my wife was out of work.

I may lose lots of balloons – literally and figuratively. It’s knowing how to let them go and hold onto what’s important that really matters.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

How much are you worth? More than you realize…

Whether you are voiceover talent, a children’s writer, photographer – or do any type of freelance work at all – you have, at one time or another, probably had to explain your rates to someone.

ID-10084724 (Mic)You’ve had to explain why you charge what you charge.

Or explain why you can’t do something for free.

At my monthly SCBWI critique group meeting, one of our members, an illustrator, was telling us how frustrating it can be when she tells prospective clients her rates, then has to explain why she charges those rates and why she can’t accept low or no-budget projects.

“We can’t pay much, but it’ll be great for your portfolio!”

That’s one of the lines she’s hears all too often. She also gets this:

“We expect this will lead to more work!”

Or this one:

“You charge how much? But it’s just drawing.”

(Voiceover friends, do these ring any bells??)

shutterstock_55511725 (woman-camera)

“You charge HOW much? C’mon, you’re just taking pictures…”

I told her I get that all the time – and nearly every voice artist has. It can be frustrating, indeed. (I even wrote what became a popular blog post about rates and the value of one’s work last year, detailing why some rates are high and others are low.)

We talked about attitudes and expectations of clients and how to find a balance between keeping clients happy, attracting new ones, and maintaining rate integrity.

Then, following our meeting, one of our other group members shared a video that helped really put things in perspective.

Knitting: it’s a lot like voiceover

And a lot like writing. And illustrating. And photography. And teaching music. And any other kind of skilled work.

The video our fellow member shared was recorded by a woman named Jess who does “knit-for-hire.” That is, people pay her to knit sweaters, afghans, and other items - and Jess states in the video that she loses a lot of people when she tells them the cost of a custom-made, hand-knitted sweater.

Just like voiceovers and children’s publishing, there is more to the craft than simply “reading” or “writing.” As Jess explains, there are a number of factors which can determine the price of a knitted sweater: type of yarn, type of stitch, patterns, sizes, swatches, etc.

I encourage you to watch this video and, if you are a skilled worker, see if you immediately feel a kinship with her, as I did! And if you are in the business of hiring skilled workers, perhaps this will provide you with some insight as to how much is involved in something that might seem simple:

Surprised, aren’t you? I have to admit, even though I didn’t know a thing about knitting, I knew exactly what Jess was saying and why she felt the need to post the video.

So be proud of your craft! Be proud of your rates! And if you’re looking for someone to voice or produce a project for you, or write something, illustrate something, or knit something…please understand, we’re not trying to make more money than we need.

We’re just trying to earn what we’re worth.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Are you doing your best – or everything else?

Yesterday, I read an article about McDonald’s Corp. that got me thinking about how I approach my voiceover business – and life in general.

ID-100188772 (burger)It appears that the burger chain is losing customers. Why? Because people aren’t eating burgers anymore? Nope. Because people are eating healthier these days? Not really.

The reason Mickey D’s is losing customers – particularly at lunch – is because they have been working aggressively at building up their beverage offerings to compete with Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks.  The article explains that while the fast food giant has been creating multiple beverage stations, hot and cold coffees, latte’s, frappés, milkshakes, and smoothies…beverages are not the reason McDonald’s core customers patronize them.  In other words…

Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks are not your competition, McDonald’s.

Know your competition

It should come as no surprise to anyone (other than the company’s execs, apparently) that McDonald’s’ competition is other burger joints:  Burger King, which is offering the Angry Whopper, BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich, and sweet potato fries; Wendy’s, which has a huge hit with their Pretzel Bun Burger; or even Taco Bell and their Doritos tacos. What new product is McDonald’s promoting right now?

Chicken wings.

News flash: KFC is not your competition, either, folks.

So what does this mean to the rest of us?

Know your strengths

Whether you’re a restaurateur, a salesperson, a voice artist, or a writer – whatever you do for a living – you have to know your strengths.  You need to know what it is you do best and who it is you need to do it for; otherwise, you’ll be trying to attract the wrong customers and giving the customers you do get a likely inferior product. (Did I mention McDonald’s is serving chicken wings?)

Personally, I would love to voice movie trailers. Unfortunately for me, my voice lacks the gritty, hard-edged quality that most movie trailer voice actors have. So I’m content to voice commercials, corporate narration, and on-hold messaging. Having started out acting, I have voiced a number of characters over the years – from a pre-Colonial American soldier to a lumbering, digital super-villain – so I’m happy to lend my talents to documentaries, museum recordings, and audio dramas.

But movie trailers…I’m just not seeing it happening.

DSCF2068 (Mic - Katie)That’s ok, though, because I’m not wasting my time auditioning for gigs I have no chance of winning. Being a voice actor, children’s writer, and stay-at-home dad to two kids under the age of 4, time is precious to me.

Trying to make myself appear to be something I’m not by offering something I’m not 100% capable of doing well does a disservice to the prospective client as well as to myself.

Know your limits

When I was younger, I auditioned for everything: trailers, audio books, TV commercials. I never sent in auditions I thought were sub-par, but looking back on it now I realize many of those auditions were probably tossed after 5 seconds of listening; I just wasn’t cut out for many of those gigs!

Likewise, as a children’s writer, I specialize in poetry. I like the compact, succinct little vignettes and stories that poetry allows me to create.  I’ve written about a half-dozen picture book manuscripts, but for now, I do not see myself writing any middle-grade novels or YA (Young Adult) fiction.

For one thing, I can’t imagine being able to sit still long enough to write that many pages just to get my story out. For another, I don’t think I’d be able to keep the plot, characters, or settings straight.  Some people have told me writing poetry is a lot harder than writing a chapter book. I have no idea if that is true.

I also have no intention of finding out!

Know when to stretch yourself

When I say we need to play to our strengths, I’m not implying that we shouldn’t step outside our comfort zone(s) now and then. Otherwise, how would we grow?

There’s nothing wrong with testing the waters now and then.  If you’re a voice actor, try auditioning for a role that might be a stretch, if you think you can pull it off. If you’re a prose writer, see what happens if you try to write some poetry. Maybe it’ll be awful…maybe it won’t be half bad. But at least you’ve pushed yourself and can learn from the experience.

It’s when you start spending an inordinate amount of time outside your area of expertise that things may start to falter.  It’s great to develop new clients and new things to offer…but not at the expense of losing your old clients.

Unless you don’t mind losing your old clients.

Sometimes growth requires pruning

ID-10079994 (cellphone)Just like cutting the branches off a large tree helps it to grow and be healthy, the same might be said about your business.

Verizon, which started off as a landline telephone company, realized there were less headaches and more money in wireless communications. So they eventually sold all their landline services and became a strictly wireless provider. In this case, they expanded what they were doing, realized there was a more profitable way of doing it, and totally changed the focus of the company.

But you’ll notice, they didn’t start selling computers, TVs, and all sorts of other equipment. They continued offering phone service – just a different type of phone service.

They knew their strength was communications service, not communication devices - and they knew their competition was AT&T and Sprint, not Apple and Samsung.

Assessing my life

As previously mentioned, I’m a voice actor, children’s writer, and stay-at-home dad. I’m also a husband, neighbor, friend, indoor soccer player, and parishioner. How am doing with these? I’m not sure.

There’s more I could do to build up my business. I don’t write as much as I’d like. I never feel like I spend enough time with the family - even though I’m with the kids all day long. And those other responsibilities? I wish I could be better at those, too.

Sure, it’s a juggling act. But it’s also a juggling act I created myself. I do the best I can, and if the day comes when I find I’m just not fulfilling my obligations in one of those areas, something will have to go.  I can tell you, it certainly won’t be the family.

For now, I’m doing my best, playing to my strengths.  If I ever get to the point where I’m not doing my best, I’ll need to reassess my life.

Although, for the record, I still don’t see any movie trailers or chapter books in my future!

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

The importance of being earnest…enough to advertise

Most dictionaries would probably define “earnest” as “serious in effort” or “sincerely passionate.”  If someone is earnest in what he or she is doing, they put their full heart, body, and soul into it. Which is why, if you’re trying to motivate people to take a specific action, it’s important to tell them.

I felt like I needed to post a short reminder about the importance of advertising, following a conversation I had with a political candidate over the weekend.

ID-10021920 (Times Square)

Hey, wait a sec – did I just see an advertisement?

If you have a great message and no one hears it…does it make a sound?  I’ve written about the subject before, but if you missed that previous post, my main point is, if you want others to know what you’re doing – you have to let them know.

That should be obvious, but unfortunately, it’s not always so.

Political season gears up

Over the weekend, I had a wonderful opportunity to chat with a political candidate during a meet-and-greet sponsored at the business of one of my clients.  She was in the early stages of the campaign - just starting to reach out and let folks know who she is and what she stands for – but was very well-spoken, friendly, and knowledgeable.

The attendees and I talked with her about what she believed, what she thought she could accomplish, and why she was running. Each time she was asked a question, she responded with a direct answer and was unapologetic for her beliefs.

I was surprised that a person this comfortable with public speaking had not run for office before.

And then she told me…she had.

You ran for what? When??

I was shocked to learn she had run for another political office a mere three years ago.  I stay pretty well-informed about our government and political issues, so it came as quite a surprise that she had run a campaign for an election that featured at least two other candidates – and although I remembered both of their names, hers did not ring a bell at all.

I told her I apologized for not remembering her, and half-joked about the importance of advertising…but the fact is, it’s not even close to a joke.

Of course, campaign fund-raising is important, and it can be very difficult to do any kind of promotion without a significant budget these days. Campaigns have to deal with a lot of quirks that normal businesses do not, such as having to raise vast amounts of cash in a short time for the express purpose of advertising; having to pay radio, TV, and newspapers in advance, before any advertisements or commercials can run; and trying to grow as quickly as possible, rather than being able to take a longer, more measured approach.

But the fact is, you won’t get the results you’re looking for – whether it’s an increase in widget sales, customer volume, or an election win – unless you advertise.

If you’re not advertising, you’re keeping it a secret.

shutterstock_134415755 (blurred lights)

There are a million messages out there. Is yours getting lost?

How do you plan to let potential customers or constituents know what you can do for them? How do you plan to showcase services, products, benefits?

If you’re not budgeting for it, how do you expect to get the word out?

Next time you’re reading the local newspaper, try this:  search through the pages quickly and make a mental note of what types of ads you saw. Then flip through it again and pay attention to all the ads, and see if any new ones pop out at you. Finally, flip through it a third time and scan each and every page until you find an advertisement you didn’t notice the first two times.

Then ask yourself, how many people who weren’t diligently scanning the paper missed that ad?  How many people do you think actually saw it and were moved to action?  Was it money well-spent?

It’s not about money; well, ok, it is

Yes, money helps buy commercials and advertisements…but actual “advertising” is more than that. It’s word-of-mouth, it’s meet-and-greets, it’s press releases, it’s phone calls with news directors and show producers, it’s talking to everyone and anyone who’ll lend an ear.

ID-10039778 (stand out in crowd)

It’s great that you’re different. But if no one knows, does it really matter?

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure to help businesses spread their message and grow, and I know for a fact that if they weren’t online, on the radio, or on social media, they wouldn’t be where they are now. Money will buy you the number of ads you’ll need, but the real value is in the message itself – what it says about you or your business, how it portrays you, and how your business can help the people you’re trying to reach out to.

So don’t let that message go unheard or unseen.  Advertise.

The people who hear about you today will become your customers – or, in some cases, your constituents – tomorrow.

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

From torn tendons to tenderloin: a week’s worth of life lessons

This past week has been another crazy-busy one. I know everyone has more and more responsibilities weighing them down these days, but for me, sometimes it’s hard just keeping those responsibilities straight – much less actually accomplishing them.

As a stay-at-home dad to my 3-year-old son and 10-week-old daughter, it’s a constant struggle trying to take care of them while running my voiceover business, writing my children’s poetry and picture book manuscripts, being a supportive hubby to my lovely bride, and trying to find a few spare minutes for myself to be able to recharge.

Grey - baking 4

My sous chef, working on the pizza dough

Oh, but first, I need to get a load of laundry in.  Hang on…

Ok, now as I was saying, I — oh, dang, wait a sec – I forgot to load the dishwasher…

Anyway, my point is – ugh, I just realized I was supposed to vacuum the house today! Oh, well, it’ll have to wait…

Before I try to write anything else, let me just put the dogs outside in their kennel and give the baby some milk so she can nap. I’ll have to pay these bills later today.

Let’s stick with bullet points

Indeed, that may be the best way to put this post together, all things considered. You see, although it’s been a stressful and challenging week, there are always rays of sunshine peeking through here and there – little glimmers of inspiration or encouragement that you might miss if you’re too busy trying to just get through the day. Here’s what my past week has been like:

- My Men’s Over-30 Indoor Soccer team’s first game of the season was last Tuesday night, and although we lost, it was to a team that has been playing far longer than we have. We held our own and did an admirable job. Of course, I would have preferred not to have torn a tendon in my left middle finger, but it happens. My finger will be in a brace for the next 6 weeks, but I’m not letting the injury stop me. I won’t be goal-keeping for half the season, but I don’t need fingers to play defense, halfback, or forward!
Lesson learned: Don’t let adversity stop you!

finger

Like I would let THAT stop me!

- A good client of mine asked me to produce a new series of radio commercials for her. We met at a recording studio and, as we have in the past, talked about her business and the various points she wanted to focus on.  I then had the audio (about an hour, total) sent to me, and I’m in the process of cutting up all her good parts into testimonial- style commercials. It’s a major project, and I anticipate being able to produce about 14 or 15 commercials, which she’ll be able to use throughout the rest of this year and next. Why so many? Because there many angles to her business, and I don’t just ask her questions when we’re recording; I listen to her answers. We converse. And that sense of comfort comes through.
Lesson learned: Talk less, listen more!

- One day last week, the baby started crying and wouldn’t stop. She had been changed, fed, held, rocked, changed again, held again, and nothing I was doing was altering her decibel level. Knowing that babies cry because – well, that’s just what they do - I tried not to let it get to me. Eventually, after holding her for what seemed like 182 hours (I’m pretty sure it was less than that, but my arm felt like it had been 182 hours), I decided to try putting her in her baby swing. She immediately stopped crying, closed her eyes, and fell asleep for 2 hours, allowing daddy to finally get some work done. At that point, all I really wanted was a really quiet massage – but since that was out of the question, I decided to work on those commercials.
Lesson learned: Patience, patience, patience!

Best Green Bean Casserole

I could buy 2 pounds for $50, or make twice that for $6. Let me think about that…

- I received a mail-order food catalogue over the weekend from a company I’d never heard of, but which tried tempting me with photos of succulent tenderloin beef, sirloin steaks, and filet mignon. I really wasn’t interested in anything that cost $48 per pound – I kid you not! – but I figured I’d continue to peruse the catalogue and see what else they offered. Then I came across the Green Bean Casserole. Yes, that’s right…the dish your grandmother used to make for Thanksgiving was available by mail-order, for only $25 a pound! Green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and cheap fried onion-things on top, and I could have a 2-pound package sent directly to my door for only FIFTY DOLLARS.
Lesson learned: If I ever have so much money that a $50 Green Bean Casserole sounds like a deal…slap me.

Pay attention to Life!

We don’t always have to be hit with disaster or suffer a major traumatic experience to recognize when Life (or God) is trying to teach us something. Really, there’s something we can learn in everything we experience, if we’re willing to look.

Like you, I get busy, I get stressed, I get uplifted, I get shot down. But in each circumstance, there’s wisdom to be gleaned. I’ve lost out on voiceover gigs; perhaps that’s Life teaching me tenacity. I’ve had numerous children’s writers tell me how much they love some of my poetry; perhaps that’s Life encouraging me to keep writing.

I have four projects I need to work on right now; perhaps that’s Life’s way of teaching me time management.

Or, maybe Life is just telling me everything’s going to be OK.

Either way, I’m listening.

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest,

When soccer, voice-acting, and poetry collide

Well, maybe not “collide” – but perhaps “rub elbows”…

ID-10056952 (soccer ball)My Men’s Over-30 Indoor Soccer league plays its first game tonight, and as I’ve been getting ready the last few weeks, it has occurred to me how important preparation is – for anything you do.

Practicing things like ball control, passing, and, in my case, goal-keeping, helps one to not only become better at those particular skills, but to more easily focus on other things important to the game. If you don’t have to think about how to move the ball from one place to the next, you have more time to survey the field to determine your next move. If you’re not worrying about touching the ball with your hands, as many new players do, you’ll have more confidence when the ball comes your way.

Likewise, prepping for the other things you do in life can be helpful, as well. As a voice actor, preparation takes many forms for me. I prep scripts by reading them over first, correcting for spelling, punctuation, or syntax, and noting where to pause, where to add emphasis, and where to change inflection. I prep my voice by drinking lots of water all the time and making sure not to drink caffeinated beverages or eat salty foods or dairy if I know I’m going to be recording in a little while.

And of course, I constantly prep my abilities by auditioning, auditioning, auditioning.

Every gig I don’t get was practice for the gig I will get

Some folks complain about auditioning for gigs and not getting them.  The way I look at it, auditioning is the main part of my job (marketing is a close second) and actually recording the gigs – doing the “fun stuff,” so to speak – is a much smaller piece of my career pie. Yes, it’s the part that makes me money, but I still spend more time auditioning and marketing.

Do I like being passed over for gigs? Of course not.

However, I do try to find the good in everything. And believe me…for some high-profile, well-paying auditions I lose out on, it’s really hard to find the good.  But if I don’t, where does that leave me? Grumpy and disagreeable is no way to live your life.

We all know what practicing means and we all understand that “practice makes perfect” - but how often are we practicing something and not even realizing it?

ID-10068993 (sound mixer)

Poetic practice, practice, practice…

As you probably know, I do a lot of writing. For the past several years, I’ve been trying to become a published children’s writer, and it hasn’t been easy. Getting a book published these days through conventional means (agents, editors, contracts, etc.) is hard to do. Getting a children’s book published is even harder.

And getting a children’s book of poetry, which Is what I primarily write, is about the hardest thing there is.

Publishers and agents claim the market isn’t very big, even though every kid in school from kindergarten to 12th grade can recite nursery rhymes, favourite songs, and hip-hop lyrics. My 3-year-old already knows many of the poems in David Elliott’s book, In the Wild, fer cryin’ out loud. But “poetry doesn’t sell” is the mantra we’re repeatedly given.

That’s a whole other blog post, my friend.

My point in mentioning this is, I write and write and write…with no guarantees of success.  Some of my poems are pretty good (I think) and some not so good. The ones I like I either post here or submit to independent anthologies and the ones I don’t like never see the light of day. At least, that is, until I get them to the point where I do like them – through revising and rewriting.

Here again, every poem is practice for the next. If I want to learn to write a poem in a particular form, I’ll work at it and work at it until I get to the point where the form feels comfortable. At that point, I can focus on other elements of the poem like internal rhyme and such. If I’m not focused on the rules of the form because they come more naturally to me, my mind is free to create. (Remember what I was saying about soccer practice?)

If only we could practice life

How cool would that be? You get to go through puberty once, you figure it all out and learn what to do and what not to do and what to say and not to say…then once you’re ready, you get a do-over! That time when you talked back to your dad a little too much? You’d now know when to shut up. That girl you wanted to ask out in high school, but didn’t know if you could? You’d get to actually ask her out.

Alas, we only get one life. That doesn’t mean we still can’t keep practicing to improve ourselves - or at least recognize our failures as practice for success.  Personally speaking, I used to be the biggest introvert on the planet. But I wanted to be more gregarious, so I began acting as if I was. Seriously! I pretended to be outgoing, and although it was extremely difficult at first, over the years it became much easier.

ID-10016199 (soccer mic)I didn’t realize I was practicing gregariousness (is that a word?) – but that’s exactly what I was doing. And I’m a much happier, more sociable fellow these days than I was 25 years ago. Which probably explains my mindset when it comes to failure. As former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis said, “Nothing succeeds like failure.”

Each gig I don’t win or manuscript that is rejected gets me that much closer to a gig I will get or a book I will sell.  Maybe it’s determination. Maybe it’s delusion.

I’m good at both, you know.

I practice.

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!

The stand-up comedy rule that can make you be a better writer

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photo courtesy of Linda Baie

At the “Highlights” workshop I told you about last week, we discussed a variety of things, from how to write better poetry to how to better perform our poetry. One of the topics that came up was how to find a unique angle to write about. After all, every topic in the world has already been written about – so how does a children’s poet (or ANY writer, for that matter) figure out how to create something new and different, with a fresh perspective?

One of my ‘tricks’ which I shared is this. It’s a way to discard the worn out phrases, the clichés, the ‘also-rans’…and find something special, whether you’re writing poetry, novels, or even commercials.  This was only the fourth post I ever published on my blog (Aug. 13, 2012), long before my followers numbered in double-digits!  So I thought this might be a good time to resurrect it in case you, too, have struggled with finding your own personal spin on a subject. And please let me know your thoughts, below – I’d love to read your comments on this!

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See if you can come up with a humourous joke or ending to this line:  “Rutgers University fired their head coach for verbally abusing players…”

It’s ok, I’ll wait…

So, how long did it take you to come up with your response?  Fairly quickly?  Or did you take some time thinking about it?  If you answered with the first thing that popped into your head – congratulations!  You’re just like most people.

If, on the other hand, you took some time to think about your answer so that it would be unique, unusual, unexpected…you just discovered a stand-up comedy rule that can help you write better stories, poems, commercials, even Facebook comments and Tweets!

Before we go any further, take a look at this. Go ahead and skip to 1:09 and see what happens:

Example #1:

Now, whether or not you like Jay Leno, he and his staff know how to write comedy.  The thing is, you don’t need to be a comedy writer to follow this rule:

Never go with your first impulse!

That’s the rule, plain & simple.  Don’t go with the first thing that pops into your head!  If you’re taking the SAT, well, sure – your first impulse is probably the right answer.  But when writing creatively, your first thought is most likely the same first thought as everyone else, and for someone who’s trying to appear original…that’s not good.

ID-10048131 (basketball)In the video clip, Jay makes reference to the embattled coach and shows video footage of what happened to draw you into a certain premise – that this is all real.  However, the surprise at the end of the news clips is funny because the audience never anticipated it.  He could have said something simple, like, “It’s so bad, Rutgers is considering hiring Bobby Knight!” (For those who don’t know, he’s another controversial head coach)  Now, that line isn’t extremely funny, but I can certainly see someone posting that on a Facebook or Twitter page.

But Jay takes the idea of the coach throwing basketballs to an extreme (exagerration is another trick to writing stand-up), and gets laughs because a) the image of the ball coming from out of nowhere during a news report is funny in and of itself, and b) it was unexpected.

Look at it this way:  how many times have you come across an interesting Facebook post or news article and was going to leave a witty comment but noticed someone else had already written it first?  Or how many times have you seen a comment that you just knew someone was going to write?

Example #2:

The following is a radio commercial I wrote, voiced, and produced for a Mexican restaurant called El Jimador that had just opened in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region.  I think it’s a good example of how not to go the route everyone else might, and create a commercial that will stand out from the multitude of other restaurant commercials out there.

Backstory:  I was told the restaurant featured truly traditional Mexican food, not the Americanized fare with which most of us are familiar.  They offered all the items one would expect (tacos, burritos, etc.) but many items that might not be so familiar.  And they were just opening, so they wanted to get people’s attention, quick.  Yes, I could have started off by saying, hey, here’s a new Mexican restaurant, featuring all your favourites, blah, blah, and blah…but we’ve all heard those commercials and it really wouldn’t tell the whole story.  The story was about not just what they were, but why they were.

I grabbed a menu.

The cover featured the restaurant’s namesake, el jimador (an agave farmer), and explained who he was and why they named their establishment after him.  I loved it!  I took that information, condensed it, and used it as the basis of the commercial:

El Jimador_Image 6-7-11 (REV)

Notice I don’t even mention the name of the place until halfway through the spot.  Some advertising gurus will tell you that the client name should be mentioned in the first 5 seconds and at least 5 or 6 times throughout the commercial; that’s hogwash.  I eschew the ‘early and often’ rule of copy writing in favour of the ‘make it compelling and they’ll keep listening’ rule.  I could go on about that, but I’ll save it for a future blog post.

Also note that I didn’t spend a lot of time reading a laundry list of items; I did need to include some of the traditional items offered (at the client’s request), but overall, I’d say you probably have not heard many restaurant commercials like this one.  Most talk at the listener; I prefer speaking TO the listener.

I took a route that was unusual; I didn’t settle for the first thing I came up with.  For someone in the business of writing…

Steer clear of the trap of being predictable!

Trust your gut; it usually knows what it’s doing.  The next time you’re going to write something – anything – ask your gut if it thinks someone else would have thought of it, also.  Say, ‘Hey gut, old friend, what do you think?”   If your gut tells you it’s the same thing it would’ve said…scrap it and come up with something better.

As I said earlier, this rule applies for any kind of writing.  Whether it’s a novel, tweet, children’s literature, or blog post – use a critical eye.  Step back and look at what you’ve written objectively, and think before you hit ‘submit.’

You may be surprised at how creative you can be, when you force yourself to think just a little bit harder!

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!

The difference between high rates and low rates: it’s not money

My baby!Well, sure, a $500 commercial and a $50 commercial may have a difference of $450…but that’s only a small part of the story.

If you are a business that seeks professional creative talent (voiceovers, graphic art, anything) on a regular or even semi-regular basis, you should remember there is much more to a quoted rate than just dollars. In fact, dollars are merely a sign of underlying value – or lack thereof.

That’s not to say that the more expensive a service is, the better it is; we can certainly all point to circumstances that prove otherwise. There is something to be said, though, about what makes up a rate, what goes into it, and what needs to be removed in order to make that rate lower.

Behind the scenes of voiceovers

I’ve heard many folks claim – falsely – that voice work is easy because you just ‘speak into a mic.’ How hard can it be, they say, you’re just reading!  These people don’t understand the importance of tone, timing, inflection, energy, and dozens of other factors that go into voicing a script in order to make the most of that script.

They don’t realize the necessity of reading a script before recording and correcting typos, misspellings, and punctuation and grammar errors.  They don’t understand why a line might need to be recorded two or three times and then edited together to make it sound like one line. They certainly have no idea what ambience, mouth noise, plosives, sibilance, proximity effect, or a noise floor are.

And they probably don’t care.

But you know what? If you hire someone to voice a corporate video, on-hold messaging, or some other project, you don’t need to know these things, so you really don’t need to care.

That’s why professionals like me exist – because we DO know these things and we DO care!  More on this in just a minute…

Voiceovers and photography – the easiest jobs in the world

ID-100111925 (photographer)Last weekend, I was speaking to a professional photographer who has been working in the business for a couple years and is still trying to build up her portfolio. She told me what she normally charges for certain projects, which is slightly less than average, and then followed it up – almost sheepishly – with why she felt justified charging those rates.

“People just don’t know all the work that goes into it!” she said, exasperated.  Just one on-location event, she explained, requires time spent prepping the schedule, knowing who to take pictures of and when, who they want the pictures taken with, what activities during the course of this event need to be captured, and any other bits of pertinent information.

Then there’s culling the hundreds of photos taken to pull the best ones, editing and touching up those pictures, and making sure every photo she sends to her client looks as good as possible. And of course, the gas driving to and from events, the cost of her equipment and materials, and the fact that she actually needs to make a bit of a profit to keep doing it.

She said when she quotes a few hundred dollars per hour, some people will scoff at the cost.  Others who do hire her will often be calling her up the next day, wondering where their photos are.

“They think I’m just there, taking pictures – they don’t realize everything else that’s involved!”

I told her I knew exactly what she meant.

Lower rate = less services?

Getting back to why professionals like my photographer friend and me exist…it’s because we worry about the details that others don’t.  As I thought about all the things I provide under the umbrella of my rates, it occurred to me that if I was going to lower my rates considerably, I would need to forego some of the services I provide. Otherwise, I would be working, working, working non-stop for less and less money.

Personally, I didn’t like that option.

If I charge $300 for a 15-minute corporate video narration, I’m going to provide script prep (checking for errors, stressed lines, etc.); I’ll record the audio on professional equipment at the sample and bit rates requested; I’ll edit mistakes, clicks, and plosives (those annoying ‘pops’ when someone utters a word starting with “P”); I’ll sweeten the audio, if requested, with EQ, compression, or delay effects; I’ll mix it all down and send it to you in the audio file format of your choice (.wav, .mp3, .aiff, etc.); and with the exception of long-form narration, I can usually have it back to you in less than 36 hours.

All for $300.  I’d say that’s a pretty fair price.

ID-10067032 (dollar sign - broken)Due diligence and buyer’s remorse

So when I see another voice talent charging only $50 or so for the same thing, I have to wonder what it is that I’m providing that he or she is not. What part of the service is being dropped or diminished, so that the talent can make such a low rate profitable? Do they not have the time or experience to be able to prep a script? Are they not using professional equipment? Do they even know the difference between sample rates and bit rates?

Do they care??

More importantly, do you care whether or not they care?

If you do…research who you are hiring, and don’t hire on price alone. If you come across someone with a rate that seems high to you, spend some time thinking about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a rate like that, and then compare that to the super-low rate your found on one of those quick-and-easy freelance websites.

Perhaps you’ll find someone who does a great job and you’ll get a great deal. Perhaps, instead, you’ll wish someone else had done it.

Or worst of all…perhaps someone else will need to do it.

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!

Are you sabotaging your peace and happiness?

Sure, I pass along words of advice and other mental ramblings about writing, voiceovers, advertising, parenting, and what-not now and then…but I’m certainly not a professional psychiatrist, psychologist, or psychotherapist. (I can act a bit psycho sometimes, but I prefer the term, “eccentric.”)

The reason I say this, is because I wanted to take a moment and share someone else’s blog post today.  The advice they share is not only worthwhile, it is for anyone and everyone, of all walks of life.

You are what you do

That right there pretty much sums up the point of the blog post.  If you do things that encourage happiness, growth, peace, and success, you will see those things begin to flourish in your life.  If, on the other hand, you focus on negatives, you will encounter more and more of them.

Yes, this sounds like many other blog posts and self-help books you’ve read before; I know that’s what you’re thinking. “Focus on the positive, eliminate the negative, yada yada…”

So why bother clicking the following link?

Because in this day and age of social media and Google searches, of instant tweets and Facebook statuses (or is that stati?)…it’s easier than ever for all of us – Yours Truly, included – to fall into one or more of these traps.

Envy, greed, and other annoying behaviours

Do you feel like you’re a failure because your Facebook friends all seem so successful?  Do you really want to do something, but don’t feel the time is ever right?  Are you afraid, worried, or doubtful about your career, your family, your life?

Then I encourage you to check out this post:

Ten Little Habits That Steal Your Happiness

After you read it, perhaps you’ll see yourself in a slightly new light, and can begin to make whatever changes you feel you need to make, to be a happier, more peaceful person.

And really…this world needs as many of those kinds of people as we can get!

Thanks for visiting today, and feel free to share this post if you found it useful!

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Did you like this post? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? Want to keep abreast of my posts?  Then please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right! (I usually only post twice a week - on Tue. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter or Facebook.

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