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CAREER
Dry Spell Got You Down? Stop Wallowing
In Misfortune - Focus On Bouncing Back

February 11, 2014

By Paul Strikwerda

Voice Actor

We’ve all had them. Days, weeks … months perhaps, during which very little seems to go our way.

Clients stop calling. Agents have gone AWOL. Lots of auditions and hardly any bookings. You’re busy but unproductive. You try to stay positive but it feels fake. Something’s not right.

Meanwhile, colleagues are telling the world how well they’re doing:
"Just booked another spot for a national brand!”
"Signed a long-term narration deal with a successful author!”
"I’m recording my first big video game!”
Rub it in, folks. Rub it in! I’m happy you’re happy, but can you please shut up about it?

SO - WHAT'S WRONG?

One part of you is hopeful, though. You tell yourself: "If these guys are still getting work it means that there’s money to be made.”

But another part of you wonders why those people were picked and why your career is going nowhere. What do they have that you don’t? They’re certainly not more experienced or more talented.

It all boils down to this question: "What’s wrong with you?”
  • Are you too old?
  • Are you charging too much?
  • Should you have bought better equipment?
  • Does your website need an overhaul?
  • Perhaps it’s time to call that famous coach and get a second opinion. But who’s going to pay for that? It was hard enough to come up with the money for this month’s rent.
BEEN THERE MYSELF

The only reason I can describe this state so well is because I’ve been there. Several times. I felt like I was pushing and pushing to get my career moving and very little happened.

Mind you, I wasn’t counting on an overnight miracle. I just wanted my business to grow steadily. I wanted to be one of the few that would beat the odds.

Instead, the odds were beating me and it showed. Gradually, I became depressed, distracted and disenchanted with what I was doing. Worse even, I began to resent the success others were having.

HEARD A FRIEND'S VOICE

One day, I heard the voice of a friend in a commercial I had auditioned for. He had done a good job, but he did not blow me away. The script was kind-of dumb too.

Before I knew it, my internal dialogue took me on a dark path. My inner voice became rather sarcastic and whispered:
"Sure, it would have been nice to have booked that commercial, but when you think of it, the pay may be good but the job is trivial. That’s the thing with commercials. I mean, do we really need to sing the praises of yet another car or computer? Does mankind evolve when we’re all drinking more diabetes in a bottle and sell it as soda? How beautiful is America really, when a majority of the population is obese - something my voice could help promote? Why should I encourage shallow consumerism whilst our planet is dying? Is that the most meaningful thing I could do with my life right now? Does this world need more voice overs, or do we need more doctors, teachers, scientists and aid workers? I might as well give up and do something useful with my life.”
OUR SEARCH FOR MEANING

The point is this: I wasn’t feeling good about myself and my work, and as a result I didn’t feel good about others and their work.

But those are two very different things. In times of crisis, I was looking for something we’re all longing for: a way to find meaning in who we are and what we do.

Because if you don’t find enough meaning, it’s hard to bounce back and carry on.

HOW TO BOUNCE BACK

In this process I was reminded of three things that are as simple as they are profound.

1. It’s hard to find positive reasons for pursuing a certain path if you’re in an unresourceful state.

Knowingly and unknowingly, I had talked myself into a state of gloom and doom.

One way of doing that was by asking myself a loaded question: "What’s wrong with me?” It’s a question that can only lead to a distorted view of reality.

First of all, it puts the blame of what’s happening entirely on me, which is unfair. There’s only so much in life we can influence, and there’s very little we can control. The fact that a casting director prefers another voice doesn’t mean that you’re a miserable failure, does it?

Secondly, if we ask ourselves "What’s wrong with me,” our mind starts searching for answers, and I can guarantee you that you’ll get a laundry list of shitty reasons which will make you feel even worse. You can never find what’s right by looking for what’s wrong.

To turn things around, you need to do two at least two things.
  • One: you have to get out of your "Woe is Me” state. Take a break. Literally. Go to a different place, physically and mentally. Go for a walk. Hit the gym. Do something healthy that makes you feel good. Take a time-out to change your state of mind.
  • Two: once you’re in a more resourceful mood, ask yourself a different, more positive question, such as: "How can I turn this situation around? What’s a small, concrete thing I can do today that will help me and my business?” Keep it simple and manageable.
Massive success is often the result of a series of small steps in the right direction over a long period of time.

2. Realize that who we are - and what we do - are connected, but they are not the same.

This lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. It had to do with how I felt about myself.

It’s so easy to confuse those two things because when someone asks what we do for a living, we’re inclined to say: "I am a voice over, I am a teacher, a trainer et cetera.” It points to our identity.

To me, my work is something I do. I "do” voice overs. I write a blog . among many other meaningful things.

If we believe that what we do professionally defines who we are as a person, any blow to our business is personal. The truth is, what we do professionally is only a small aspect of who we are and how we contribute to the world.

There are many ways to make life worth living: first and foremost through our relationships with the ones we love and care about. If we invest in these relationships and they are strong, we have a support system that can get us to the end of the tunnel, no matter how long or how dark it may be.

Strong relationships make us resilient. How? Because we don’t need to prove anything to those who are close. No matter how well or how poorly we do professionally, the ones who are near and dear will love us no matter what.

3. Believe you will find a way out.

The third and last rediscovery is more of a personal belief. It’s a mindset that I find tremendously empowering. It goes like this:
"No matter what happens, I will always find a way out.”
Sometimes a dry spell will last for days. Sometimes it takes a few weeks or even months to get back on track. Eventually, the tide will turn.

As long as I don’t wallow in my misfortune and I take small steps to improve my situation every day, I will find a way out.

And you know what? You will too. You better believe it!
----------------
ABOUT PAUL
Paul Strikwerda is a 25-year veteran of the voice over industry whose Nethervoice service features German and Dutch voice overs, translation and evaluation services. Born in Holland, he has worked for Dutch national and international radio, the BBC and American Public Radio. Although 90% of his work is in English, Strikwerda also records in Dutch, German and French. Clients include Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, and the Discovery Channel. He also publishes an informative and entertaining blog, Double Dutch.

Web: www.nethervoice.com
Double Dutch Blog: www.nethervoice.com/nethervoice

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Comments (8)
Earl Thomas
2/13/2014 at 7:16 PM
After reading the other comments i realize i am not alone . now i better and will go take a break.
Earl Thomas
2/13/2014 at 7:14 PM
Thanks Paul,

Really needed to hear this. so discouraged. Yes it's time for a break. Glad u gave solutions. It is so good i sent it to myself. I do need a break and will rt after i do this. I must believe it will turn around. moments ago got a response back they had no$$$ so someone narrated it for them friends.

Thanks for taking the time to encourage.
Laura Branch-Mireles
2/12/2014 at 1:56 PM
Wonderful words of wisdom yet again, Paul. If you ever decide to take on another vocation, you could make a mint as a "voice artist psychologist"! But until then, we're blessed you're giving it away for free. :-)
Paul Strikwerda
2/11/2014 at 6:19 PM
Thank you for your kind comments! As freelancers, we have to deal with the fact that there is no job security. We have a lot of freedom, but with freedom comes great uncertainty.

Here's one thing all of us need to realize when bidding on or accepting a job: that fee pays for the days we have plenty of work and the days that we don't record a single word.

Lowballing does not sustain a profitable, long lasting career. It does not create a nest egg for dry spells and it devalues not only your work, but the work of all your colleagues. It jeopardizes your future and the future of every other person in the business.
BP Smyth
2/11/2014 at 3:47 PM
Paul, excellent once again. You do a lot for the voice-over community with your writings. Anyway, I'm currently blaming my "slump" on a rotten economy. We knew it was coming!!! :-)
Tracy
2/11/2014 at 2:22 PM
I feel so much better after reading this. I am going through a slump and was asking myself those questions. Now I need to get back on track.
susannah kenton
2/11/2014 at 2:14 PM
What a thoughtful and generous post, Paul - thank you. I especially like the part about asking resourceful questions.

One question I like to ask is, "How can I better serve my voice clients today?" Another one I ask myself when work is slow is: "If the Universe appears to be withholding work from me, what am I withholding from the universe?" In other words, are there any ways I am being stingy with my gifts/talents/time.

I also like to come back to a feeling of gratitude to be a voice artist - we really are all incredibly blessed to do this work. And you're right - dry spells do end.
M Lewis Sauerwein
2/11/2014 at 1:04 PM
You are a real gem, Paul. Thanks once again- I needed this today. ;-)
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