How to Quiet a Critical Mind in VO (and in life!)

Depending on where you are on your Such A Voice journey, (and this will vary depending on if you are doing 30- or 60-minute sessions, but let’s go with 30-minutes for the sake of example), you may recognize this familiar voice in your head…

Starting the program: “Yes! I did it! I’ve always wanted to do this and I didn’t let fear, doubt, money, work, responsibilities etc. stand in my way. I’m doing this for me, it’s meant to be, I’m so excited!!!”

Around sessions #3, #4 or #5: “I’m terrible at this! This is so much harder than I thought it was going to be! I figured you pick up a script, read it into a microphone and voila! How hard could that be? How does my coach make it sound so easy? Why can’t I just do it like that? It sounded so much better last night when I practiced. (defeated) Ugh, what was I thinking, I never should have signed up for this course…”

Sound familiar?

I often joke with my coaching students that if you’re starting to panic around sessions 3, 4, or 5, you’re right on schedule.  Around sessions 9,10, or 11 is when the “Ohhhhhhhhh, now I’m getting it!!” a-ha moment usually happens.  

Here’s the thing – and we all know this and yet, we forget it time and time again: people who are great at what they do make it look easy. Whether that’s Tom Brady throwing a football or Serena Williams serving a tennis ball (my students also know I like sports references), Oprah Winfrey doing an interview, Meryl Streep doing, well, just about anything, or that college professor who somehow made your two-hour Political Science class in college so interesting even at 8 am. It takes work, perseverance, skill, confidence, resilience, and practice. We just don’t see all of that. We see (or hear) the end result.

One of the best antidotes to this ‘voice’ I have discovered in recent years is meditation and mindfulness (they are actually different things), and I’m not talking about monks on a mountaintop in a flowing garment meditation. As lovely and “Eat, Pray, Love” as that sounds, for most people in the western world, that’s not realistic. As my meditation teacher – a former Broadway actress and dancer, now a major thought leader in the science and study of meditation and its long term benefits – Emily Fletcher of Ziva Meditation would say,

 “We don’t meditate to get good at meditating, we meditate to get good at life.”

I took her course about three years ago and it’s been a complete game-changer for me in my work as an actress in voice-over, stage, and screen; as a director, a coach, a teacher and in both personal and professional relationships in general. 

The other resource I highly recommend in terms of mindfulness has been the free app, Shine.  (There’s a paid subscription version too if you’re feeling fancy. I start every morning with it.)

Right about now, you may be thinking, “Ok Lisa, well great, but what does that have to do with voice-over, really?”

Everything.

When you hold yourself back because of that ‘voice’ and try to ‘get it right’ with a script, or start picking apart your performance as you’re reading, you’re already not in the present moment, and listeners can hear it.  People listening may not know WHY they’re not connecting with your voice, they just know they aren’t. Connecting with your listener, whether that’s the potential client or their target audience, is the single most important thing you must do in voice-over.

The first lesson in the SAV curriculum is called Script Analysis: The Foundation of Every Good Read? Why? Script analysis truly is the foundation of every good read.

You can’t be thinking about the deadline you have coming up, what you need to get at the grocery store for the dinner party you’re hosting this weekend, or if you signed your child’s permission slip before they left for the school bus this morning AND know:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Who am I talking to?
  3. What are my given circumstances? (Are we trying to have a confidential conversation over the noise in a Starbucks or are we two old friends chatting in my living room?)
  4. What is the meaning of what I’m really saying? (Am I telling you about my great new credit card because you’re my best friend and I know you’ve been struggling with your finances lately or am I your co-worker rolling my eyes because I keep telling you to stop taking packages to the post office and use Federal Express instead, but you didn’t listen, again.

In order to be great at voice-overs, you must be present, in this moment, right now. Period.

Think of it like going to the gym to get in shape.  You don’t go for 3-6 months and then think, “Yes! Nailed it. I’m good now. Back to the couch I go…”

Script analysis is a foundational skill you must continue to hone and use throughout your VO career which is why having tools in your tool box to quiet the critical mind is so crucial in voice-over (and in life!) – and we ALL have one. It never entirely goes away. But, you can turn the volume way down or place it up on a high shelf for safe keeping and pick it back up the next time you try taking that golf lesson or dance class you’ve been putting off.

A few other great resources I’ve discovered along the way:Wendy Braun – https://actorinspiration.com/ 

Marie Forleo – https://www.marieforleo.com/ 

Risa Bramon Garcia & Steve Braun – https://bramongarciabraun.com/the-acting-podcast/ 

Gabrielle Bernstein – https://gabbybernstein.com/ 

And the ones I mentioned above which I use daily:

Emily Fletcher – https://zivameditation.com/ (and her book, Stress Less, Accomplish More)

Shine App‎Shine: Calm Anxiety & Stress on the App Store

Wishing you great success, joy, resilience, and fun on your continuing voice-over journey.

 

Cheers!

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