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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Things I need to do...

It's late.  Ha!  It's always late when I'm writing these entries.  Shut up Tim and tell them about what's going on.  Anyway, I was just reminiscing and reading an entry from last year on this exact date (well, yesterday's date now).  For some reason I had a hunch there'd be some insight there.  I do this sometimes. I don't just re-read to reminisce but to gain perspective.  And sure enough, I was talking about making lists and my approach to starting tasks and allowing them to remain fluid so that I can alter my course once I get a clearer picture of what it will take to complete said tasks.  This also hearkens back to a more recent blog in the past few weeks where I was talking about the science of procrastination. 

When I wrote the more recent blog, I hadn't yet gone back and read the first one I linked and now I realize that, seriously, I was right in the second more recent blog....a lot of this stuff is innate.

That said, I know January is over a month away but regrouping at year's end and making to-do lists for the new year is on my mind again.  And starting projects, actually getting my ass moving again on a lot of things, is also on my mind.  So glad I re-read my blog about just getting started and being flexible with my approach to various tasks.

The things I need to do:

I've been thinking a lot about the licensing agency and how, since about a year has passed since they received my first batch of tracks and I haven't heard anything, I might need to increase my output to them.  I've also been thinking a lot about how these voice over practice sessions my coach has been organizing are really bringing out some great reads and I'm feeling much more confident (especially around other VO actors...I'd truly be interested in studying the psychology behind why a person seems to feel more confident in groups versus with individuals or even more confident with some individuals versus others...but that's another blog entry).  Indeed, some of these reads I'm producing at the practice sessions are worthy of going on the commercial demo which needs constant attention, of course.  But what else do they need?  You guessed it: Music.  But wait, I need to write some new music for the licensing agency anyway!

About a week ago, I took a look at all the products of my riffing over the course of the last year and selected which ones I could turn something into.  I was going to just systematically produce one after the other to completion but now, I realize it might be a fun project to just listen to the best reads that I've put out from those practice sessions and focus on writing music specifically for them.

Every previous run I've taken at improving my demos always felt rushed.  I would just go through my library of unused tracks and grab the closest thing.  But now, I can see how both avenues would benefit from me taking the time to essentially produce these ads from the ground up.  Writing music specifically for them would both give me the experience of composing for an ad again and would leave me with a finished product I could use on the voice over demos and that I could send to the licensing agency.

So there's the goal and I now have a starting point.  It's time to organize my thoughts on that one and project how long it would take me to get this done.  The idea is that it'll get me started with two, maybe 3, 30 second music bumps that I could also extend to 60 second versions that would both go on the VO demo and go to the licensing agency (remember it's a non-exclusive contract).  And then I would have the momentum, in theory to compose a few more and by early next year I could be sending a few more off to the agency and would already have a new commercial demo in hand.

Sound good?  I hope so.  That's all the eureka I can muster right now. I'm about a day away from being off for four days and I'm mentally checked out of about every other endeavor that isn't music or voice over right now.  And off for four days during which I do not have to travel anywhere.  All I have to do is bake another gluten free pumpkin pie and truck my ass out to Bushwick without the use of the M train.  The adventure continues...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

NLP.org...

I feel good.  I've been working for the past 13 days and still have five more to go before I'm off for Thanksgiving weekend.  The whole weekend. Something that hasn't happened in years.  But despite the long stretch with no real rest, things are going exceptionally well.  And not just that, but I actually feel really good.  Sometimes in the middle of it all you can get a little, not overwhelmed, but just so busy that you forget to stop and look at the fact that "hey you live in the most amazing city in the world and you're still alive and kickin' it after five years!"  So, it can be nice to acknowledge it and really let it sink in.  Pausing to admire the view, as it were.

It probably helps that, even though I'm getting up to work at my freelance job tomorrow, I'm sitting here having the last gluten free beer in my fridge and chowing on homemade popcorn (midnight snack guilty pleasure routine, you know how it is).  Overall, I have to say though, that this has been an exceptionally good year.  And while I have been driving myself pretty hard and trying to take as many opportunities as come across my path and trying to make as many more happen as I can, I had a momentary realization on the train tonight.  That, perhaps I should be thinking more about just being prepared for the next opportunity instead of frantically trying to make things happen.

Let's face it, I have a lot of things on my plate right now. I'm working three jobs to pay off my debt and do fun things like go to Nicaragua on a yoga retreat, and also eat healthy and do yoga all the time.  I'm also trying to make the voice over thing a more consistent source of revenue and trying, of course, to advance the ever important music career, taking advantage of a diverse array of projects this year and trying to court several other potential clients to hire me to score their work.  Occasionally I breathe.  Like I'm doing now. As I type. 

So, it's not like I'm neglecting any one part of my career all that much.  Climbing a mountain takes time and while you can make significant strides and look down and see how far you've come to put things in perspective, sometimes you gotta move ahead one ridge at a time and stay focused on where the next foothold is.  (Climbing metaphor...nailed it!)

And I'm really not, when I think about it, neglecting anything.  I got that into my head somehow the other week.  "I'm not pushing far enough ahead in my voice over career."  Yes, I do need to audition more.  But today, I went to another VO practice session with my coach and about five other VO talents.  What fun that was, too!  And I was nailing all the reads for the scripts she gave me.  I actually can't wait to hear the finished mp3 she's going to send me. This stuff was sounding so good and she was liking it so much (my coach) that I think I'm going to use it to buff up my demos a little bit.

And then, who knows.  I'm definitely doing better at the auditioning but I'm really being reminded why I got frustrated before and started to look for agents.  The online auditioning world is unpredictable.  I literally had nothing earlier in the week, just a few weird religious things that I couldn't pull off if I tried.  And just yesterday, when I usually work from 10am to 1130pm, I shit you not, I had no fewer than 7 auditions come through my inbox that were for jobs with budgets up in the $500 range.  What?!

Seriously, guys, it's frustrating.  I may be able to do one or two of them this weekend but I don't have high hopes.  It's like I have to take this freelance work while I can because that's money I know I can make, while the VO stuff is a huge maybe.  Maybe I can pull of an awesome read and send it in time, and maybe they'll like it.  But in all likelihood, I won't hit the mark and they'll be looking for a totally different style of read or voice type than me.

That's the trick and that's why an agent is important.  They can get to know your voice, and already knowing something about the industry can help you find the jobs you're most suited for.

But I digress.  This blog is about savoring the moment.  I may not be at the summit but at least I can pause and look down at how far I've come and center myself, refocus my approach and just look for the next foothold.

On a side note, the reason I titled this blog NLP.org is because I realized while I was typing this that The News Literacy Project has started to post videos with my bumper on them.  Go here to listen.  There's a milestone for you. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

50 Days 'til Nicaragua and a goal...

I bought a plane ticket yesterday to a country I've never been to before.  My passport still hasn't been renewed and I have yet to put down the deposit on this Nicaragua trip because my money has not cleared my paypal account yet.  But somehow, it's starting to feel real.   I'm actually doing this.  About f***** time.

That's the best part about having worked 50-60 hours a week for the better part of this year.  I can do things like put money away, save for a trip, buy an HD TV (one that I barely get to watch) and start thinking about financing a new guitar.  And the yoga retreat is sort of the pinnacle even though I'm committed to waiting until I've fully paid for said trip to start thinking about the new guitar.  Traveling in general is something that I've missed and now I get to do it like I've never done before, in ways I never thought possible.  Completely out of pocket and solo.  An adventure like none other I've experienced.

I sort of wish I hadn't bought the plane ticket already, though, because now I've restricted myself to staying only for the duration of the retreat.  Meanwhile, a co worker of mine, who's been to Nicaragua, gave me some tips to go check out this island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua composed of two volcanoes, one dormant and one active.  Something that would take far longer to accomplish than the allotted time we have on the trip for excursions.   Perhaps for another visit.   But then, who knows.  Maybe I could work it out.  We'll be staying south of San Juan del Sur on a private beach and the ferry to the island, Ometepe, is in San Jorge, a half hour drive from San Juan del Sur by the looks of it.  I guess it's a matter of having enough time to adequately explore the island.

So that's several goals of mine in sight, traveling to Central America, traveling solo again, and finally experiencing a yoga retreat.  I want to talk about a smaller scale goal, though, partially in reference to my last blog entry about carving out time.  I thought about how I was complaining about not having the time to advance my voice over career the way I'd like to and how there's a small space between saying I wish I could do something to just f***** doing it.  So I thought, "why not set a goal?"  It wouldn't have to be a large goal but any amount would be a move toward something quite substantial in the long run.  How about just saying every Monday, I will do voice over auditions, or I will do at least two a day, Monday, Wednesday and Fridays?  Or I will just be consistent and do a certain number every week, no matter when I do them?  I think it's going to go something like that.

That's how it starts anyway.  Maybe I can say at least every other week I will submit voice over auditions between now and the end of the year.  And slowly ramp up the rate at which I submit them until I can't let a week go by without submitting something.  The idea is that I'm being consistent with my practice whether or not I'm getting jobs every week.  And it's not wholly unfeasible to think I could accomplish this.  Heck, I did it with yoga.

Anyway, I got a lot of insight from this video:



While some of the things in this video are a bit intuitive to the point that I found myself saying, "hey, I already kinda do that!" I did find a lot of things that are relevant to my situation and that could be helpful.  I'm thinking mainly of the bits about just getting started on a task.  This part in particular resonated with me:

"Your willpower is simply not enough...in fact, some studies suggest that willpower is an exhaustible source that can be entirely used up...instead of convincing yourself to simply try harder, a more methodical approach is suggested.  The first step?  Get started...it may seem obvious but studies have shown, starting a project may be the biggest barrier to productivity.  Before starting, our brain visualizes the hardest parts to come and instead tries to simulate real work by focusing on small mindless tasks..."

He goes on to talk about the Zeigarnik effect which shows that if we don't finish something we experience discomfort until we do finish it.  In a way, that's the thing that propels us to complete something, having started it and left it unfinished.  I've certainly felt this in the past once I've started a project.  It begins to consume me and I start to want to devote time to it.   But starting is the biggest hurdle.   Also, it tells us that one of the reasons we procrastinate is because we tend to visualize the worst part of something when starting a task and thus get overwhelmed and perhaps abandon it.  Later on in the video he talks about breaking things up into small, manageable tasks to avoid this and that's, again, what I've instinctively done at times before as well.

Ultimately, I'd like to get my voice over practice back up to a level of prominence in my life on par with what I currently devote to yoga.  With yoga, the situation was slightly different.  I basically got a good deal on a membership to a studio and felt like I had to take advantage of it.  Then I started to really like doing it and consciously made it a priority.  Now I can't live without it.  It's certainly reasonable to think I could do the same with making voice over a priority.  It's just a matter of figuring out how to start.  So, I'm taking those steps this week.  And, in a way, I've already started.  In the past few weeks I've auditioned to more than I have in months.  Just the act of getting back into doing it on a regular basis has shown me that I can squeeze them in and that it is definitely doable.  I even discovered that Sound Forge, the software I use at home on the PC is now available for Mac.  Having that on my laptop will definitely up the quality of my auditions when I'm on the go which will afford me so much more time to do them.

Anyhow, for now, I structure and I plan.  Another tidbit from that video that I realized I already do is making lists of things to do instead of trying to multi-task.  :)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Time carving...

Carving out time has been on my mind lately.  Not just the fact that I'd like to carve out time for this electronic music project of mine and for voice over work but carving out time in general.  How I've gone about it in the past and how I might do it now given that my schedule is so much fuller than it ever has been.   I work 50 hours a week on average, I write music for film and I do voice overs, I have a yoga habit and occasionally, I like to go out to shows and meet people or go on dates. 

I could systematically look at my days and nights and subtract all the time when I'm not at a day job or somewhere that I need to be and then systematically rank things I do in order of importance but then something always gets left out and I start having to assure myself that I'll get around to it eventually and resign myself to the reality that some things may have to get put on the back burner for a while.   I don't really like operating this way to be honest but that's what it comes down to. 

The good thing is that I'm now at a point where my work schedule is steady enough that I could feasibly rethink all the other stuff I do and set days to do that (voice over and music on Wednesday and Friday mornings, and at some time during the day Saturday and Sunday, for example).  And I actually try to do that, yet somehow my schedule remains fluid and ever changing.  I'm always trying to squeeze in yoga here and there, and then I forget I have to find time for laundry or groceries or cooking so I don't have to eat out all the damn time.   

I've also always believed in the importance of scheduling free time into your schedule.  Without it I'd soon go insane.  Plus, having free time gives me that all important wiggle room when planning things.  Too often what can happen is that I schedule my days down to the minute and then if something comes up that I want to do or that I need to do but just forgot about, I have to give up something.  Too often it's yoga, other times it's cooking and then, in that case, I end up having to eat out. 

It's never simple either because if I want to cook to save money and also go to yoga, then I have to (like I'm doing tomorrow), go to work first with all the food I've cooked, drop if off in the fridge, then go to yoga.  And tomorrow I can't go straight home after yoga because I have a dentist appointment to get a cavity filled at 1pm and then by the time that's over I don't think I'll have time to go home so I may as well go straight to work.  But then the problem is I'd like to have my laptop with me so I can work if I need to but then I have to carry it around along with my yoga mat. 

Then, if I've done all that, I have no time to put in voice over auditions.  I may be staying fit and saving money by not eating out (also avoiding gluten) but I'm not advancing the voice over career at the pace I'd like to.  I just wish that I didn't have to sacrifice those two things that I love, yoga and digestive harmony (haha!), in order to advance my career. 

But I'm resourceful and I'll find a way.  I always do.  I was trying for a while to record voice over auditions on my laptop during my break from work but it's not always feasible.  It's only an hour after all, and any audition that I throw together in that amount of time is probably not going to be my best work. Plus, in order for it to be worthwhile for me to do auditions, I want them to be good quality, something that's unpredictable when I'm doing them away from the home studio.  Also, I often want to do multiple auditions in order to increase the odds that they will be heard and that I might get called back, but I can't really do a good job on more than two auditions in the space of an hour.

So that's out.  But I've found that, if it's a direct invite, then it most definitely is worthwhile to squeeze an audition out in such a small amount of time.  After all, my first job came from an audition I pulled together at work.  And I nailed it. But it wasn't ideal. 

Now, I've certainly cleared my schedule when I've had a music job before that needed to get completed so it's not unreasonable to think that I could do the same with voice over.   So that's the next thing.  I'm getting close to starting to score the pilot episode of "The Life" and am just about to master the recording of the song Amanda and I wrote for the show.  With the lull between those two, maybe I'll treat my voice over stuff like I do the music.  I really just want to sit down and start contacting people I've worked with again and possibly find some new clients. 

But then, I started off this blog talking about the electronic music project which I still haven't figured out how to devote time to.  The last time I devoted any time to it was when I knew I was going to be performing.  So I'm a little more concerned about that not getting its fair share of attention than I am the voice over work.  I've managed to find time for that in all this craziness and even pulled off squeezing in a few gigs in between CNN and NY1 when I was working 60 hours a week back in the summer time. 

The electronic music project is a colossal undertaking though.  One in which I will I have to devote loads of time not just writing the music but also working out the logistics of performing them with a drummer, getting time and space to rehearse with said drummer.  I guess I'm in no rush to make it happen which is part of the problem.  I can spread out my progress on it, no problem.  But it is something that I've been talking about for far too long.  It is nice that I can look at it and at least acknowledge that I've advanced to some degree. 

With that said, though, it's hard when you've basically already planned out most of the month ahead to fathom squeezing in that one added project.  That's about all I have time to think about tonight because there's that one thing in my schedule that I can't shove aside to make room for other things...and that is sleep.  Good night.