Thinking 'bout: skill vs. approval
"Love me love me Say that you love me Leave me leave me Just say that you need me I can't care 'bout anything but you."
--The Cardigans from Lovefool
I have been (re)listening to Curtis Retherford's podcast Improv Beat by Beat (Improvisers: I highly recommend it, but if you're in BIG, you already know it!). In it, the topic of playing for skill rather than approval comes up. In other words, playing for some sort of status (perceived or otherwise), rather than building yourself as a person.
I remember saying to Dan Friedman, my voice over coach, that so much of my journey into voice over has been about shifting my mentality. Really, my improv journey from classes to conservatory to weekend team was, too.
I came to improv and voice over towards the end of a six year run as a high school Theatre teacher. I was burned out and felt like my own creativity was stagnant. I felt that hunger to perform like I did in high school, but was still terrified by all of the unknowns of actually pursuing work as an artist.
My self esteem was probably the lowest it's ever been. So yeah, when I came to improv and VO, I had something to prove to myself, through the approval of others. If I could just make money doing voice overs, then the people in my life who were concerned acting wouldn't pay the bills would approve of me. If I could just get on a weekend team, then people would see that I am a capable performer and that I can do this. Better yet, they'd see I'm good at it, and like me.
I booked some VO gigs. I did get on a weekend team. Not much changed.
In Improv Beat by Beat, Curtis says that we tend to climb the ladders that are in front of us, but often don't stop to reflect on why we're climbing them. When I got on a weekend team, it felt like there wasn't any more ladder to climb...and things weren't all that different. Sure, I got a weekly performance slot, and I met a lot of wonderful people. I've gotten much better working with them, but overall, my life is not fundamentally different. Same thing with VO: I've worked, I've sent off that work, some clients come back and others don't...I'm still me, and sadly, there has been no confetti or fanfare.
Recently, I've let go of that approval business. I'm aiming to get better, not to get laughs or money. It was switch I had to flick in my head, but once I did...
More people are approaching me for voice over work.
I'm improvising more confidently than I ever have.
You can't control weekend teams. You can't control clients. You can control you and what you do to be better at you.
So, I've been thinking 'bout approval and skill...
And I'm thinking I'll be more choosey about which ladders I climb.