How is it that each incremental improvement in my performance skills causes me to see just how much farther I have to go?
Innate talent will only take you to the starting line.
My work as an audiobook narrator took off like a bullet because Fortune smiled on me in the form of a pleasant speaking voice. Couple that gift with a fair amount of natural story-telling ability and you have the rudiments of effective engagement with a typical audiobook listener.
Unlike most “civilians” – who cringe at the sound of their own recorded voice – I really do enjoy hearing myself talk. Narrating someone else’s work gives me a great deal of pleasure.
With each book, I get to act as a tour guide through the author’s thoughts, translating them into images within the theater of the listener’s mind.
In two years, I’ve seen significant improvement in my performance level. Since the first of my (now) 20 audiobooks, my breath control has improved, as have my diction, phrasing, interpretation, rhythm, and awareness of subtext and nuance. Working with accomplished coaches like Sean Pratt, Carol Monda, John Clemo, and others has helped, immensely. As has an abundance of intentionality in my practice.
Yet, with each tidbit of improvement comes a ration of pain, because every step forward reveals how much farther there is to go. To paraphrase Paul the Apostle, “when I was a beginner [child], I had no idea how much I didn’t know.”
Today, I listen to passages of my latest narration that, just a year ago, I would have judged as beyond reproach and I pound my fist on the table with the realization that I could have said it better. I hear things that an average Audiobook consumer wouldn’t notice. But I have absolutely no desire to be average.
My struggle for improvement is entirely selfish.
I want to experience the joy of a great read.
There’s good news: Not only do I continue to improve, I actually want to improve. I look forward to practicing. I enjoy coaching sessions where Sean or Carol or John give me feedback that inches me another step (or two) down the path. I love finding other narrators whose exemplary work provides ideas for sharpening my own edge.
The momentary pain of self-awareness is always replaced with the joy of knowing that tomorrow I’ll be better.