Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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

Archive for the tag “career”

My Life as a Lazy Bum (or, How I Went a Week Without Working and Still Survived)

Tork beach 1

York Beach, Maine…our cottage was a 30-second walk from here.

As you may know, I went on vacation with my wife and two youngest kids last week. I was looking forward to it, as I’d never gone anywhere for an entire week of vacation before, and I knew I’d be leaving work behind. I knew I would not even LOOK at a computer, much less perform work-related duties o one. I brought my cellphone, but with limited internet access, that was only good for keeping in touch with family if necessary.

We weren’t going to be online, I wouldn’t be submitting any auditions for voiceover gigs, I wouldn’t be keeping up with my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts…everything was on auto-pilot.

Surprisingly, I didn’t even get around to doing the kind of “work” I thought I would be doing…writing!

York

Low tide at Longsands…so called because all the sand is wet and hard-packed – and easy to walk on!

Everything took a back seat to FAMILY

We drove about an hour and a half over to York, Maine to stay in a cute little summer cottage owned by some friends of ours. With a 30-second walk to the beach, you can imagine where we spent much of our time.

I love the ocean, so the fact that we were on the shore and in the water each day was a joy unto itself. That my 4-year-old son was thrilled to be there made it that much more enjoyable. Whether he was digging in the sand, splashing in the water, searching the shoreline for seashells after high tide, or simply running around like a lunatic, he was having the time of his life.

His 10-month-old sister, meanwhile, was content eating the sand, which we were constantly having to shovel out of her mouth. It may have been disgusting, but she seemed to enjoy it.

Then there were the walks downtown. It only took about 20 minutes to get to the center of town, so we walked there nearly every day, as well. One day we stopped by the playground area then had some ice cream. Another day we walked over to York’s Wild Animal Kingdom. Next day we went shopping and I tried a dark-chocolate-covered frozen key lime pie slice on a stick (That was almost the highlight of the week).

York - house 1

Our little home-away-from-home.

We ate breakfast on the deck each morning and I cooked dinner on the grill almost every night.

And between the walking and the swimming and the playing and the grilling and the eating…I never had time to write.

But I didn’t mind. I was too happy!

Plenty of inspiration

I had brought my moleskin notebook – the one my wife gave me several years ago – to jot down notes and lines and other ideas…but it didn’t even make it into my hand.

We were having so much fun, I realized that any effort to break away from what the family was doing was a detriment. Now, some writer friends may say that spending a week along the ocean without putting pen to paper just once is a sacrilege…but I think differently.

Although I had planned on writing, had wanted to write, and even could have found the time if I really tried…the experience allowed me to soak up more than enough inspiration – possibly inspiration I might have missed if I had been writing.

Ideas, ideas, ideas

York - Nubble lighthouse 1

The Nubble Lighthouse (aka, the Cape Neddick Lightstation)

At some point, I’ll get writing about the trip. Perhaps I’ll craft a poem about my little dude’s kite that he loved watching soar high, high in the air. I might also write about his experience watching a butterfly hatch from a cocoon at York’s Wild Kingdom.

Maybe I’ll write about seashells we found, or the dogs we saw running along the shoreline early in the morning and late in the evening.

I already have some ideas I’ve been fleshing out in my head about lighthouses, crashing waves, and s’mores.

So just because I didn’t submit any auditions doesn’t mean I’ll never get another voiceover gig again. And just because I didn’t do any writing doesn’t mean I don’t have plenty to write about. I’m looking forward to seeing what I come up with in the weeks ahead!

I just might even write a poem about the seagull that pooped on my wife’s head while we were walking downtown. Memories like that can last a lifetime.

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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!

 

 

 

 

No time like the present. Seriously!

It’s been a beautiful weekend, and today is just as nice as yesterday. As I am writing this, the sun is shining and a light breeze is helping to keep the 83-degree temperature from feeling too sweltering.

DaffodilsHere in the northeast, it’s not uncommon to have an overnight frost as late as Memorial Day, so the fact that this summery weather exists at all is a true blessing.  And for someone like me, who spent most of the long, sun-deficient winter indoors due to my ACL injury, this early summer is more than a welcome sight; it’s therapy!

So why am I here in the studio, writing a blog post?

First things first

First of all, I feel I have a responsibility to myself as well as my readers to be consistent with my posts. That’s not to say I’m going to write something quickly and haphazardly just to post something, but maintaining a habit of writing with regularity is good not only for my own purposes – keeping my writing skills honed, marketing my services, etc. – but for the good folks who have decided to follow my blog because they feel I have something worthwhile to offer.

Believe me, no one appreciates the fact that you’re taking time out of your day to read a blog post more than me.

Second, I’m writing this post because I genuinely want to share my thoughts on why I’m writing this post. Yes, that sounds like circular logic, but honestly, I wanted you to know what the weather was like and how beautiful the day is, to understand why I’m foregoing all of it right now to write this.

It’s because this sort of thing pops up all the time in our lives: you want to do one thing, but you feel compelled to do something else.

Time is not on your side. Or mine…

Mick Jagger’s declaration about time being on his side notwithstanding, the fact is, it’s not on anyone’s side. You may feel like you’ve got all the time in the world, but believe me, it goes by quicker than you think.

It feels like yesterday that I was struggling to find work after college, or helping my daughters with their homework, or moving into our first house. But I’ve been doing radio voice work and production for 25 years now, my daughters have graduated high school, and I’ve remarried and am living with my current wife and two young kids of our own.

If anyone can tell me where all the years went, please let me know!

Now I’m in the process of trying to become a published children’s writer…and I wonder how much time I’m going to have to accomplish that. When I was trying to rehabilitate my right knee following my accident, I was unable to walk very well or take care of the kids easily, so much of my writing (and my voice work) took a backseat. People would tell me not to worry, because I’d have plenty of time to resume my work once I was feeling better – even if it wasn’t until the knee was fully healed, which will be early next year.

But how do I know if I’ll have that much time?

“Hold on, Matt, this is getting depressing”

OK, sorry – that’s not my intention, really. I’m actually trying to be positive. I can’t assume I have another 10, 20, 30 or more years left to develop my writing and keeping sending out manuscripts in the hopes that someone decides to buy one and publish it. I don’t know if I’ll have one more day – none of us do. Being young and healthy doesn’t mean anything – a serious accident or unexpected health issue could put a quick stop to all of your plans.

Nothing screws up plans more than something you didn’t plan on.

So take advantage of any and all opportunities that come your way! Have a chance to go hiking for the first time in your life? Do it. Thinking of taking classes abroad? Go for it. Never eaten a raw oyster? I can’t say you’ll enjoy it – I’ve done it once in my life and would rather go bungee-jumping without the bungee – but do it anyway, so you can say you’ve done it!

Debating over whether you should clean the house or go outside and play with the kids? Face it, once you clean the house, it’ll be dirty again in a few days. (If you have young kids, that timeframe is drastically reduced) But playing with the kids…that’s something you can never know how much time you’ll have to do. I’m not saying to completely neglect your duties or shirk responsibilities; just take a moment to prioritize.

Or perhaps “re-prioritize” what you thought you had prioritized.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a blue sky calling my name.

chair

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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!

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!

 

 

 

Careers, hobbies, and knowing the difference

My baby!I know several people who record voiceovers from home. They don’t consider themselves professional voice actors and don’t have professional soundproof studios. They’re not bad at what they do, but will doubtful end up voicing the trailer for the next Transformers movie. They record local radio commercials here and there, perhaps a phone greeting now and then, and that’s it.

And they’re happy with that. To them, it’s not a career; it’s a hobby, a past-time, a side gig.

That’s fine.

Others I know love writing children’s stories. They write and write and write, but don’t spend much time revising, editing, or learning how to write.  They might send a manuscript out to a publisher once or twice; when the rejection note comes back, they don’t send anything else out for the rest of the year.

And they’re happy with that. To them, it’s a hobby, a diversion, a creative outlet.

That’s ok, too!

But what happens when you start treating your voice acting, writing, or other career as if it’s a leisurely pursuit?

Chances are, it won’t stay a career.

A lesson in health & beauty products

arbonne-logoMy wife recently became an independent consultant for Arbonne Skin and Body Care. As a health care professional, she tries to eat well, live sustainably, and be as healthy as possible. Since Arbonne products are all-natural, botanically-based, vegan, and gluten-free, she fell in love with them. In addition to skin care, hair care, bath & body, and cosmetic products, they also offer nutritional supplements and protein shakes (which I have to admit, are surprisingly good).

Consequently, when the woman she was buying them from suggested she sell them, too, my wife decided to take the plunge and go into business for herself.

The reason I mention all of this is because of the training the Arbonne folks give their consultants. They have conference calls, Skype sessions, and all kinds of one-on-one discussions. And in one of the very first training conference calls my wife participated in, the speaker shared this little nugget of wisdom:

“Don’t expect to make money if you treat this as a hobby.”

Now, she wasn’t trying to turn anyone away from selling the products. If someone wanted to simply sell some products on the side, maybe try some samples, and get a percentage off their orders, that was fine. She just didn’t want them to be disillusioned.

They wouldn’t be making the money that a career offers.

Rather, the speaker suggested, treat your position as an Arbonne representative seriously: get your business cards made up and pass them out proudly, talk to local businesses and other groups who might be interested in the product, and approach your conversations about Arbonne with the same attitude you would if you were working for someone who wasn’t you!

Because when you are your own boss, as many of us have learned, it’s easy to cut yourself slack and not work as hard as you should. You can make up excuses for why you didn’t have time to do this or that. You can find all sorts of reasons why it was OK to do something you shouldn’t have – or not do something you needed to.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

photo courtesy Roman Milert, Dreamstime

Businesses grow; hobbies don’t

Last year, I shared a post about things worth doing, worth trying, and not worth your effort - in other words, knowing what you like, what you’re good at, and what you’d rather not do, and embracing that knowledge. Likewise, if you’re going to take up a hobby, do it for the enjoyment of it! Learn it, practice it, and have fun.

If you’re going to begin a career, then learning, practicing, and having fun are also important steps…but so is taking it seriously.

For example, I’m a voiceover professional; I audition every chance I get, I provide clients with quality service, and market myself to the best of my ability. I also write children’s literature, and although I have yet to get that elusive book deal, I do have a poem being included in an upcoming children’s anthology. I am constantly sending manuscripts and cover letters out, going to workshops and conferences, and trying to improve my writing.

I have a lot of fun, but I take what I do seriously.

A business grows; as you develop skills, contacts, and clients, you strive to get better, meet more people, and work with more clients. A hobby, on the other hand, exists for your enjoyment and nothing else. Sure, you hear about people who had a hobby that they built into a business – but the only reason that happened is because they started treating the hobby like a business.

They got serious.

Are you serious?

Are you auditioning for everything you’re qualified for? Are you making an effort to learn how to write better? No matter what your pursuit, are you putting everything into it?

If not, then what you’re doing is a hobby…and if that’s all you want it to be, that’s fine. We all need hobbies, and to each his own.

But if it’s not supposed to be a hobby, then ask yourself what you can do differently. What you can do more efficiently. What you can do better.

After all, if you don’t take your career seriously, you shouldn’t expect anyone else to.

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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 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.

The Importance of Doing

While sitting in church this past Sunday, something occurred to me:  “how” we do something is not nearly as important as actually doing it.

Let me explain…

No matter where you go in the world, one of the most – if not the most – important parts of a Christian mass is what is termed the ‘Celebration of the Eucharist,” or, as most people refer to it, receiving Communion. As part of this ceremony, each member of the congregation takes a piece of bread (or, as Catholics call it, a ‘host’) as a symbol of the bread that Jesus Christ shared with his Apostles on the night before he was arrested, and eats it in remembrance of that Last Supper.

But it’s not so simple, you see.

Breaking bread can get complicated

Some Christian religions, like the Catholic faith, perform this ritual during every mass – whether it’s a regular Sunday morning, a wedding, a funeral, a Holy Day of Obligation…you name it. While some Protestant faiths do the same, many only do it on Sunday, or even just one Sunday each month.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, in fact, only do it once a year, during what they call The Memorial, which is their version of an Easter mass.  Yet, although all congregation members are offered the ceremonial bread, only a very select few actually partake of it.

There are other differences, too. Some churchs serve traditional unleavened bread; others prefer leavened.  Some churches only allow the priest to serve it; others allow ordinary folks designated as ‘lay ministers’ to serve it. While one church may require you to stand, another may have you kneel, while another has you sit.

Some churches are quiet during the ceremony; some play music.

No matter how Christians do it, though, the important thing is…they do it.

What’s keeping you from doing?

So as I sat there in the pew, I began thinking about all the variables we encounter
in our lives, and all the roadblocks we put in front of ourselves. When we fall in love, we wonder if we should tell the other person our feelings. After a date, we wonder whether we should call or text the other person back too soon, or not soon enough. We see a job position available that we’d really like to apply for…but we doubt we’re qualified.

Parents worry they don’t spend enough time with their kids. Actors and voice artists question whether we should audition for a gig. Poets agonize over which adjective is best to describe a mountain.

It feels like we all spend so much time debating with ourselves over whether we should do something, or how we should do something…that we end up never doing.

In fact, as I write this post, it’s 10:16pm EST on Monday night, and the reason it’s so late is because I spent the last two days wondering if I should use this idea as a blog post!

“Worry is a misuse of the imagination.” – author Dan Zadra

I’m not sure why so many of us, myself included, come up with so many reasons to not do something we want to do. Perhaps it’s because of fear of failure. Perhaps it’s the fear of the unknown.

Perhaps it’s because maintaining the status quo is also the path of least resistance.

Whatever the reason, it seems to me that there’s a lot more worrying in this world than there is doing. Granted, if you want to skydive, you can’t just go jump out of a plane. If you want to quit your job to spend more time with family, you need to assess your finances. If you want to be an author, you need to learn how to write.  (Although these days, it seems that requirement is sadly becoming less and less necessary)

But if you’re not doing anything to achieve these goals – why worry or complain about your lack of ever reaching them?

“If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying?”  -Śāntideva, Buddhist monk

Bottom line: worrying, debating, and stressing are not doing. The Christian churches don’t worry about whether they should sit during Communion or stand, whether they use unleavened bread like Jesus did or a loaf of regular whole wheat, or whether they should do it daily, weekly, or monthly.

They just do it.

Why don’t you? If you want to have a particular career, don’t just talk about it – do something to get yourself there. Parents, leave the dirty bathroom for another day and go outside and play with your kid. Poets, write the damn line about the stupid mountain and then go back and revise.

If you love someone, tell them! It’s time for all of us to get things done!

I, for one, am going to stop worrying, debating, and analyzing every decision I make. And that’s something I know I can do.

The No-Resolution New Year

(The original title for this post was, “The No-Resolution New Year, or How the Portable People Meter Can Help You Not to Stress Over Your Resolutions.”  But that was a bit wordy.  Read along and it’ll all start to make sense.  Perhaps.)

For two weeks now, I’ve been reading and hearing about everyone’s new year’s resolutions.  Most folks want to lose weight.  Exercise more.  Eat healthy.

Some have very ambitious, specific resolutions, such as resolving to publish a book or to make a specific more amount of money each month.  Others are a bit more ambiguous, like trying to be a better person – which is nice, but what does that mean?  Are you only moderately tolerable now?

Believe me, I appreciate why folks make new year’s resolutions…but if you ask me for mine, I’ll tell you I have none.  And it’s not because I don’t think I can’t make improvements in my life, or don’t see the value in setting goals.

I simply don’t see the point in setting a date to start on those goals.

Why wait?

A few years ago, I was talking to some friends about wanting to leave my place of employment and strike out on my own to work for myself as a voiceover artist.  It was autumn, and I recall explaining to them that there were a number of things I would need to do in order to make that change possible.  I would need to build up contacts and clients.  I would need to make sure my finances would be able to handle the initial reduction in pay.  Most importantly, I would need to have the physical tools available to work from home, such as a new computer and editing software, a better quality microphone, and sound dampening equipment to prevent ambient noise and echo in my recordings.

One of my friends suggested it would be a good new year’s resolution to work toward that goal.  I agreed – although I saw no need to wait until the new year to begin setting the plan in motion.  So I began auditioning more, prospecting for clients, and connecting with more people through social media.  I also started buying some new equipment.

I knew my finances were not going to allow me to leave work that following year, but at least I had begun moving forward.

Eventually, I got more gigs, built up a clientele, and this past summer was finally financially able to leave my position as production director for a 5-station radio group and work for myself.  A month later, I began this blog – another item on my to-do list.

And you know what?  The 2010 new year, 2011 new  year, and 2012 new year had nothing to do with any of it.  It was done through sheer determination, and determination is available 365 days a year.

ppm

Image courtesy of Music Row

The Portable People Meter

The Portable People Meter (or PPM) is a small device developed by the company Arbitron to measure how often a person listens to different radio stations.  You may have heard of Nielsen ratings for TV?  Well, Arbitron is the radio equivalent of Nielsen, and ratings are very important , because they show how many people are listening to different stations, how often they listen, what times they listen, etc.  Radio and television stations then use this info to sell advertising and set rates.

The way it works is, a random person is equipped with a PPM and it automatically keeps track of which stations he/she listens to throughout each day over several weeks.  (Back in the day, people were asked to keep written diaries, which can obviously be fallible – although some still do use them – so the PPM was a huge breakthrough in radio station monitoring)

Ratings are broken down into ‘Average Quarter-Hours,’ which simply means a minimum of 5 minutes for every 15-minute block, if you divide your clock at :00, :15, :30, and :45 minute increments.  For example, if a listener tuned in at 6:00am and tuned out at 6:07am, that would count as one quarter-hour, because he/she had listened for at least 5 minutes.  If that listener tuned in at 6:10am and tuned out at 6:20am, it would count for TWO quarter-hours (5 minutes in each quarter-hour block).  However, if he/she tuned in at 6:11am and tuned out at 6:19am, that radio station would receive NO quarter-hours, because the 5-minute minimum per quarter-hour had not been met.

“Your point, Matt??  Get to the point!”

Ok, ok.  You see, the PPM blew away a rock-solid radio programming axiom that nearly everyone in radio obeyed.

Before the PPM, radio stations believed that each hour’s first quarter-hour (from :00 – :15) was the most-listened to of all the quarter-hours.  This is because the hand-written radio diaries often had the first quarter-hour listed.  So if that’s what people are writing down, it must be the way it is, right?

Wrong.

With the advent of the PPM, the number-crunchers at Arbitron realized that each quarter-hour was more or less equally listened-to.  People were tuning in to radio stations not at the top of each hour…but whenever they darned well felt like it.

Shocker, I know.

Thing is, it was a shocker to a lot of radio stations, who for decades had deliberately played their hottest songs, or some other type of important, exciting must-tune-in elements, at the top of each hour.  Turned out that that people were writing down the top of the hour on their hand-written diaries not because they were tuning in at the top of the hour, but because it was easier to say “11am” if they happened to tune in at 10:55am (which, you’ll notice, is an all-important quarter-hour!).

No time like the present

I’m explaining all of this to show that it’s irrelevant when to begin improving your life.  The important thing is that you have a vision for that improvement.  And if you don’t have the determination, that’s ok – take some time to find it!  It doesn’t matter if it’s the top of the hour or the beginning of the year – a radio station needs to have good programming every minute of the hour, and you make changes to your life every day of the year.

My wife and I met in September 2007, were engaged that following Christmas, and were married in August 2008, one month before we’d known each other for a year.  While some might say we rushed into things, I say we seized an opportunity.  We knew how we felt about each other, we knew our feelings would not change…so we figured, why wait?  One never knows what might happen tomorrow.  Carpe diem, and all of that!

Whether it’s the top of the hour or the beginning of the year…it’s just a spot on a clock or calendar.  You can make those resolutions whenever you feel like it:  losing weight, making more money, being more tolerable.

And if you do make a resolution that fails or for some reason doesn’t come to fruition…

Today is as good a day as any to start again.

The right way, the wrong way…and the fun way

(And if you’ve served in the Army, you know there’s an ‘Army way,’ as well – but we’ll leave that alone for this post.)

I was taking a walk along a dirt road the other day with my Little Dude – my almost-3-year-old son, who is at the age where he simply HAS to do everything himself.  I had been pushing him in his stroller, but after awhile he wanted to get out and walk.  I took him out, and he immediately wanted to push the stroller.

“My do,” he shouted.  “my do, my do!!!”

“All right, all right, you can do,” I chuckled, and I let him get behind the stroller and start pushing.  He may only be two, but he’s a tall little dude , so pushing the full-size stroller was actually not that difficult a task for him.

Within a few minutes, however, he was in a rut.

He wasn’t mad or anything, I mean he was literally in the rut on the edge of the road, shoving and maneuvering and doing his best to move the stroller forward.  I tried to help him out of the rut and onto the level part of the road, but he kept steering the stroller back into the muddy, stony rut.  I finally took over and pushed the stroller back onto the level part of the road, but he resisted my assistance.

And by ‘resist,’ I mean he screamed.

He then got behind the stroller, and with a loud, “My do!” he was happily back in the rut.

It’s not wrong – it’s fun!

I was just about to try to straighten him out again when it dawned on me:  He knows exactly what he’s doing.  He knew being in the rut wasn’t the easiest way to push the stroller…but it also wasn’t necessarily the wrong way.  He wasn’t just pushing the stroller for the purpose of moving it forward; he was pushing it because it was fun trying to navigate the terrain of rocks, mud, and unlucky tire treads.

For him, he wanted the challenge – he was enjoying the challenge – and this was absolutely the correct way of doing it.

This was the fun way.

It made me wonder how often we adults take the time to do things the fun way.  We all have jobs to do, and yes, we need to do them the right way.  Doing them the wrong way can be deleterious to our careers, our marriages, or our way of life.  But sometimes there is a third way of doing things that we often can’t see because we are so focused on all the other demands of our adult lives.

Try a different way

Last week, I was raking the lawn – and we have a bunch of oak, maple, and cherry trees that drop copious amounts of leaves all over the place.  In one part of the lawn, the layers of leaves were so think you literally could not even see any grass!  But as I raked, I knew my son would love the opportunity to play in them.  So as I made my piles, I made one extra-big pile he could jump in and kick and roll around in…and he was thrilled.

As I hauled the leaves in the other piles away in my wheel-barrow, he played and laughed and had a ball.  Every now and then, I’d rake up the stray leaves to keep his pile looking good, but generally there was not much extra effort on my part.  I could have just done my thing and then gotten mad at him for jumping in the piles of leaves (which he inevitably would have done) – but I instead chose the fun way.  And it not only made his day, it kept me from getting frustrated at him jumping in all my leaf piles!

Similarly, after a visit to the doctor’s office during the summer, we were walking in the parking lot on our way to the car when I noticed a lawn sprinkler in a grassy patch to our right.  I took the little dude’s hand and we went out of our way to walk through it.  And since walking through a sprinkler only once on a hot summer day just wouldn’t do, we had to walk back through it again.  And again.

And again.

By the time we made it to the car, we were approaching ‘drench’ status.  My wife, already at the car, just looked at me and rolled her eyes, knowing that I had had as much fun as my son.

“Professional Fun”

The next time you have a creative project to undertake, think about how you want to approach it; certainly, you want to do it the right way, but examine a more ‘fun’ way, as well.  Whether or not you decide to go forward with the ‘fun’ way, it helps close some brain synapses that may have gone neglected for too long and may provide some unexpected inspiration.

If you are an audio producer with some time on your hands, think about your favourite movie or song or even commercial, and see if you can create something fun out of it – perhaps writing a parody of the song, producing a humourous fake commercial, or re-voicing and re-producing a favourite scene in a movie.

I did, a few years ago, when I had some spare time on my hands.  I re-produced a scene from a certain famous ‘pirate’ movie – with my own music and sound effects – just for kicks:

If you write novels but have always wanted to write a children’s book, sit down and start!  Or if you write children’s books but secretly yearn to write satirical historical erotica, go for it!  It doesn’t matter if it’s any good, the point is that it’s fun – and by doing, you end up learning.

Maybe you’ll learn how to better structure a project you’re already working on.

Maybe you’ll discover a talent you didn’t know you have.

Perhaps you’ll start to learn the intricacies of another craft.

Or, you just might learn that there are some projects and genres you simply aren’t cut out for.

But at least you had fun.  ;)

Finding inspiration, one pie at a time

As you probably know by now, my day job is voiceover work.  As a professional voice talent, I get paid to read radio and TV commercials, narrate videos, and do on-hold telephone messaging and voicemail.  But because I’m the type who likes to help others when I can, I also lend my voice occassionally to student projects.  Because of the nature of these things, there is usually no budget, so the only thing I receive in return is the satisfaction of having helped someone trying to break into the entertainment business and perhaps my name in the credits.

And I’m ok with that!

For most of us, at some point in our lives someone gave us a helping hand to get to where we are now, and I like to be able to ‘pay it forward,’ so to speak.  Earlier this year, I did some voicework for a group of Ringling College of Art and Design (Florida) students working on their final project – an animated short – and it was just completed about a month ago.  I thought this might be a good opportunity to follow up on an earlier post I wrote about what spurs us to do what we do, and how we begin our career journey…as well as to get a glimpse of how computer-animated films are made.

Keep in mind, this was not produced by professional animators; it was created entirely by three film students, Adam Campbell, Elizabeth McMahill, and Uri Lotan, looking for their first big break!

When Elizabeth sent me this final version, I couldn’t believe how professional it looked…and sounded!  She and her partners managed to rope in not only me, but also well-known voice actor D.C. Goode (you may not recognize his name, but you’ve heard his voice – trust me!), among others.

I asked Elizabeth to talk a little about the project, to get her perspective as a student filmmaker:

- What made you decide to get into animation? 
I have always loved art and creating.  I had never really animated or done any film work at all before college, just drawing.  I thought about going into Illustration or some other design field but at the time animation was more of a challenge and a mystery.  I had drawn and painted before, but I had never brought a character to life.  I was drawn to animation because it was new and exciting ground, built upon the same foundations of the other visual arts but taking it in entirely different directions.

- What, exactly, was this project?
This was our graduation thesis – the capstone of our four years at Ringling.  It is a requirement that all students in the computer animation major create a short film.  We spend the second half of our junior year in pre-production on our films and then our entire senior year in full production.  Most films are created entirely by one student but Adam, Uri, and I decided to team up for our film.

- How did you & the team come up with the concept for this project?
We came up with the idea of a western town full of pie citizens late one night for a side project.  We had a day off from school and instead of working on homework we decided to use the time to make a 24 hour film, just for fun (we didn’t even come close to finishing it).  The night we got together to plan out the film for the day ahead one of Adam’s residents had given him a pie.  Somehow that turned into us making a bunch of western themed pie puns and jokes.  Months later, when the time came to pitch ideas for our thesis film we pulled out the pie western and reworked it into a full story.

- Goes to show you never know where the next great idea might come from.  So briefly, what was the process you used to put this all together?
That night of us sitting around making jokes and silly drawings was the real birth of the film.  Later in the production of the film we’d get together every so often like before for gag sessions to brainstorm new lines, events, changes to characters, and other ways to make the film better.  In the concept stage we reworked the story, characters, and camera quite a bit through our team meetings, script, storyboards, and ultimate animatic.  Alongside story we worked on development art for the film, exploring the look of the characters and environment.

- And that was just pre-production, so that was your entire junior year.  What did you do after that?
In our senior year came the actual production of the film.  First was modelling our characters, roughing in our sets, and texturing and rigging our characters for movement.  It was during this time too that we set out to find our voice actors so we could lock down our dialogue before we hit animation.  Then came Layout where we create an edit of our film in 3D from the animatic with rough posing and timing of our characters so we can lock down our cameras.  From layout we entered a period of about eight weeks of animation.  Once animation and our edit was pretty locked down we began working with our sound designers and composer.  At this time we finished up building our sets, texturing them, and planned out our lighting.  The last few months of work on the film were spent in lighting the shots, rendering them out, fixing things, and tying up any loose ends that were still hanging around.

- Wow, what a lot of work for a senior project!  Where do you go now with the film?  Is there a future for this project?
The future of this film is to get it in front of people and seen!  That’s really all there is.  We worked on it, had a great time, and now we’re all working on other things.  We’re just trying to share it with the world right now!

- What is your personal career goal?  What would be your ultimate dream job?
I’m always the worst person to ask about explicit goals or role models, because I don’t have them!  My goal really is to make cool things with great people, to constantly be challenged, learn, grow, and make a living doing it.  I’m excited to see where that takes me.  (ED. NOTE:  Adam is now an intern at Pixar, Uri is apprenticing as an animator at Digital Domain’s new Tradition Studios on their first feature film, and Elizabeth is in LA working as an intern at Syyn Labs.)

I want to thank Elizabeth for taking the time to answer my questions; I find it interesting and inspiring to learn how different people work towards their dreams.  And even though she says she doesn’t have them, Elizabeth’s goal to make ‘cool things’ and be ‘constantly challenged’ are good enough goals for me.

Since I spoke to her, this film short has been accepted to the LA Shorts Fest and will also be shown at Siggraph Asia, a huge computer graphics and technology conference to be held in Singapore.  All I can say is good luck and best wishes to the three of them!

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