Shut Up and Drive
I know many people who enjoy driving for driving’s sake. It’s an activity that relaxes them, helps them clear their minds and re-center themselves, especially in times of trials or challenges. I am not one of those people. For me, driving is almost always a means to an end, simply a way to get from point A to whatever is going on at point B. I can enjoy a fun road trip with friends or family as much as the next guy, as long as I’m not the one actively driving.
You see, when I get behind the wheel of a car, my resting stress level immediately rises a little bit. I’m acutely aware of the responsibility that sits upon my shoulders as an operator of a motor vehicle (read: potential high-velocity two-ton metal deathtrap), particularly when there are other passengers in the car, particularly particularly when those passengers are not related to me, particularly particularly particularly when those unrelated passengers are someone else’s children and/or insanely valuable harps (true story—I transported a harp cross-country one time).
In Lesotho, where I’ve had the distinct pleasure of driving (please note the sarcasm) for the better part of the past decade, my driver’s anxiety tends to be compounded to the Oth degree (that’s one more than the Nth degree, in case you’re wondering). Streets are narrower, the “rules” of the road are mere suggestions at best, potholes that drop to the depths of the earth’s core are abundant, and taxis (here called 4 + 1’s), piloted by individuals who more often than not possess a license of questionable legality, zip through traffic without a care in the world for anything but persevering every precious tenth of a second possible. They say life is a highway, but I most certainly do not want to drive it all night long.
On a recent drive to the non-profit organization I work with here in Lesotho—a two-hour trip one way (I generally work remotely)—it occurred to me that life as an entrepreneur, at least in my limited experience, can often feel similar to my struggles with driving.
Stay the Course
How many of you have ever developed a headache from driving directly into the sunlight for a prolonged period of time? I know I have. It’s kind of the worst. Honestly, I’d rather drive in pouring rain with the windshield wipers going like an old school acquaintance who thought we were best friends waving at me from across a busy street, only to find out he was desperately trying to warn me I am about to be mauled by a radioactive praying mantis the size of a crane. I know, crazy. Sometimes, this uncomfortable sunny experience is unavoidable. Maybe you forgot your sunglasses, or perhaps those beams of light are so powerful your sunglasses are just there to make you look cool. Either way, the road you’re on is the one you need to take, and you’ve got to squint and focus so you stay safely in your lane and don’t cause an accident. Slowly but surely, that strain turns into a steady throbbing behind your tired eyes.
As a voiceover artist, I’ve discovered there are certain tasks that aren’t exactly fun, but they are important and necessary, specifically on the business side of things. Whether it be learning the best way to organize your client database and financials or determining how to market yourself effectively, these objectives can feel like sunshine piercing your vision, making it difficult to see the path ahead clearly. Of course, I’d rather be performing voiceover and recording audio for a project, but that cannot happen if I don’t take the time to cultivate these other areas of my business that don’t capture my interest quite as much. Turning the car around to avoid the sun only results in my getting further away from where I want to be. To reach your destination, you’ve got to endure the sunlight and the occasional headache, too.
I’ve mentioned potholes already, but they’re worth bringing up again. Seriously, if you ever find yourself driving in southern Africa, just prepare yourself and always have a spare tire. Some of those suckers are massive! Not only can they delay your progress, but if you’re not careful, they can also do serious damage to your vehicle. When I drive here, I have to channel my inner Mad-Eye Moody and practice CONSTANT VIGILANCE! There are few things worse than that sudden jolt and accompanying bang when I fail to dodge one of those pesky gaping maws in the asphalt. Will I be lucky and get to keep on cruising, or am I going to have to pull over and assess the damage?
Similarly, in voiceover, I’ve learned (and continue learning) that there are all sorts of things you must be on the lookout for and avoid at all costs. Lowball gigs, scammers ready to take advantage of you, tricky wordsmithing in a contract—all of these things only scratch the surface of the variety of pitfalls that can quickly derail an eager, new voice talent. These traps can be so easy to fall into. We can convince ourselves it’s worth it to take on low-paying jobs in order to gain experience. We can be duped by confusing or misleading project specs simply because we’re new and are ignorant to what the industry’s standards actually look like. It takes time to learn how to navigate these roads riddled with holes. It can be exhausting. But if we don’t learn, if we don’t stay alert and avoid these hazards, our entrepreneurial endeavors will never truly have the opportunity to become something great.
“License and Registration!”
And then there are the police stops. In Lesotho and parts of South Africa, groups of police officers will set up shop on seemingly random stretches of road, arbitrarily pulling people over, checking to make sure registration discs aren’t expired, and of course, slyly asking for a bribe now and then. Unlike driving in the US, where one typically interacts with the police after supposedly committing some kind of offense, here being pulled over seems more like an attempt at a preventative measure. It’s kind of like the dueling ideologies of justice between Khonshu and Ammit in Marvel’s Moon Knight. Sorry, I got distracted there for a moment, but that actually makes my point. Police stops are like distractions, pulling you off course and delaying your journey.
It probably goes without saying that distractions not only exist but run rampant in the world of running a freelance voiceover business. Especially as a newbie, there is so much information to learn and absorb, some of it great, some of it less so. It’s so easy to jump online to check the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word in a script, only to find myself 20 minutes later comparing specs between different headphone models. And be honest, how often do you go to follow-up with a prospective client on LinkedIn and end up scrolling and “loving” or “celebrating” other people’s posts far longer than you should? It happens to the best of us. Distractions are everywhere. Generally, they do little more than suck up some of our time, but time is one of, if not the, most valuable commodities we have. One police stop doesn’t throw my schedule off too much, but when I get pulled over 3 or 4…or 5 times on a single trip, that starts to eat into my productivity.
Nothing To It But To Do It
I’ll be the first to admit that I probably overthink and overreact when I drive. Just ask my wife how fun it is to be trapped in a car with me when I’m going somewhere new and the directions are unclear. Regardless of how I feel about it, though, driving is a necessary part of my life. It’s something I must do on a regular basis in order for our lives to function smoothly. That said, in spite of the major challenges and minor inconveniences that come with driving, there comes a point when I simply have to shut up and drive.
In a similar vein, I have to do the same thing as I strive to establish myself as a professional in the voiceover business. Really, all of us have to do this to some extent no matter what path we find ourselves on at any given time. All of life is full of both the awesome and the mundane. There will always be times when we need to do things we don’t particularly enjoy doing, and sometimes we’ll be better at doing those things than others. Complaining about and avoiding them will never yield progress. It’s our job to persevere through the mundane so we can thoroughly enjoy the awesome.
What are some of life’s necessary evils that you struggle with? How do you buckle down and get through them? No matter where you find yourself right now, I believe in you. Now, go ahead. Shut up and drive!
Until next time, friends, keep telling stories!
Voiceover Artist | Storyteller
Like what you read here? Looking for more ways to sate that hunger for VO-related content? Try checking out some of these other awesome blogs from within the VO community!