Happy Wednesday all!
I’m in serious churn work mode this week, wrapping up some projects before I head to Reno NV on Monday for the Romantic Times Booklovers convention. (look for more info on that to come, and if you are going to be there, look me up! I’d love to say hey)
I was musing over breakfast this morning about the things I have learned over the years, the people I’ve studied with and more importantly the people I’ve learned from. I’ve had the honor to study directly with a number of really talented people as instructors and coaches, and I cannot express how valuable that time is. But. Sometimes the greater benefits come from passive mentoring instead of active coaching.
Let me explain.
In the classic sense, a Mentor takes on a direct interested role in your life, career, relationships, faith, what have you. That person reflects on what you do, models habits and activities they think are of benefit, etc. It’s amazing and if you find the person you click with it can be one of the most meaningful relationships you will ever have in your life. If, however, one does not have an established one-on-one mentor relationship with another person, how do you go about learning in that way? You make yourself actively receptive, open your eyes, and really watch/listen/reflect on how someone you respect in your field does things. Not just their craft, but their comportment and demeanor and communication style.
The acting world, and the voiceover world is no exception, is awash with coaches. Some of them are excellent, many of them are passable, a few are charlatan. All however are available to reflect immediately on some specific thing you bring to the table and work with them on. That’s awesome, and I’ve used that in the past… but if you are seeking a coach to work with: how do you decide what to bring?
If you HAVE that specific thing you want to work on, then a coach is a perfect venue to work on it. A tough accent as a voice actor. Struggling with using second person as a narrative device for authors. How to make your brazed sculptures fuse right when working with tricky metals, keep your souffle from falling, nail that REALLY weird arpeggio.
But how do you work with a coach on just… EVERYTHING? You cannot show up to a coaching session once a week or a month for an hour and simply “improve” without a pathway in mind. Ideally your coach would guide you into a place to focus your efforts, but they just don’t see you that often. A mentor in the truest sense of the word would be perfect, because they know you and your life in a more constant intimate manner and can reflect with you on things in detail. SO, how many of you have THAT kind of mentor?
…. yeah. Me neither.
It’s almost unheard of these days, especially if you are trying to work on your craft (whatever that may be) around things like kids, second jobs, pets, hobbies, relationships, sleep and .. uh… oh! Life. You’d practically need to live with your mentor, or in a retreat most of the time. That ain’t happening my friends.
So what IS the solution? Simple: take reflection and guidance from someone by observing them and being honest about yourself and using those two points to move forward. The benefit is that this relationship is active ANY TIME YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT IT. The other person is always there, you are always you, and YOU are the one taking all the action in this method.
I have several mentors whom I look to for their acting, comportment and general behavior. I consume their work and observe their choices, and compare them to my own so that I have a counterpoint to my own decisions. I may not always act the same way, or craft the same way, but I have made that choice consciously and have an alternate example. Sometimes, especially with regard to craft, my mentors have subtly different methods of accomplishing equally excellent results, and I may model my choice on one of them, or on my own instincts instead. I watch how they behave on social media, I watch what the dedicate their time to. I ponder how I see them behave in person at conventions (I’m lucky enough to get to do that with most of them) and how they interact with newer members of their field and with the luminaries. (ok, the OTHER luminaries)
So the next time you feel the need for some inspiration, reflection, direction or the like – look at your field and ask yourself “who do I admire, and how do they do what they do?” Pick a mentor, or two, or three. It’s fine if they aren’t even involved because they are always there … and you are always you.
Have a great week everyone! Keep reading, keep writing, keep listening – keep sharing your stories.