For Paul (and also for me)

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I haven’t been able to write very much in the last several months.  So much has happened that getting meta about talking about it actually isn’t as interesting to me right now (which should be quite startling to anyone who knows me).

I keep meaning to write and then I don’t and so all kinds of things fly by me, experiences and realizations, losses, wins, connection and destruction have all been going on, all suitable for blog entries.  But for whatever reason, things are actually happening at the same time that I don’t feel up to raising my voice about them.

I’ll tell you one thing and maybe ramble on from there.  Today I went to a memorial for Paul Backer, one of my college professors.  Paul passed away very suddenly less than a week ago.  It was deeply shocking to me and to the rest of his students and of course to the USC School of Dramatic Arts faculty.

Today I listened for a few hours as a stream of students recounted how Paul touched their lives as one of the warmest, most supportive and generous teachers anyone could ever hope to have.  I got up and talked, well, rambled and forced my voice to stay on despite the deep sorrow that made it shake terribly, mentioning how seeing Paul could improve my day in an environment (college) that could be, by turns, bewildering and frustrating.  How he knew so much about seemingly everything and when he couldn’t solve something with words and wisdom, his hugs were the perfect cure-all.

And I had to tell everyone there, which included his mother, that when I was looking into voice over Paul was one of the people I got in contact with, asking for advice.  This was only some five-ish years ago, well over a decade since I’d last seen him at my graduation.  I wasn’t even sure he’d remember me.  He remembered.  He not only took the time to write back to someone who only bothered to write because she needed something, he answered my questions, pointed to professionals he knew and wished me well.

I had to tell them because I had to tell Paul, his vacant body in a casket, his mother in her chair, that I have a career because of him.

Right now I am spending my days creating Spanish narration files for online videos.  I’m still in the earliest of early days as a professional voice actor.  I am constantly fretting that I’m going to ruin this job, that this is a one-off and I can’t expect to ever find work like it again, that this work is meaningless when it comes to what I ought to be doing with my life…

The one person who could always convince me that I could take on the challenges ahead was Paul Backer.  I am such an idiot for never considering contacting him earlier or for staying in touch.  I didn’t even ‘friend’ him on Facebook.  I can’t believe that I squandered that connection.  And now I can’t ask him for one of his hugs that made everything okay.

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From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much, Paul.  Fare you well, wherever you may fare.

Anger is a Symptom

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I don’t know if I’ve ever read how angry depression can make a person.  I know when I was younger, maybe a dozen years ago, and working full time I could feel my rage build up inside me until I was utterly useless at my desk.  All of my energy was spent hiding how much I wanted to set everything on fire and/or throw it out the window.  I wasn’t violent by any means but I had to excuse myself from conversations lest I would whip around and start screaming in people’s faces about how stupid they were, how the things they talked about were so insanely petty, how everything was bullshit….  Let’s just say it’s good that I don’t work there any more and most of that vague, pointless fury has quieted down to ennui.  I may not be able to hide how boring I find most the world, but it’s better than breathing fire on unsuspecting coworkers.

A lot of that anger was really something that I inspired against myself.  I hated my life and everything I was doing with it.  And today I still prickle with vexation at myself and what I’ve done so far, but I aim a lot of the anger squarely at my depression.  Because in recent history nothing has made me lose so much ground and so much time from my life as the lethargy and misery of depression.

I get angry at every day I feel myself lose motivation, every hour I spend napping when I wasn’t really tired, every minute I hang in indecision because I can’t get up any drive to just pick a direction.

And I get angry at the time spent too angry to move.

Maybe vague but potent anger feels better than vague, sucking grief.  I don’t know.  It blots out suicidal thoughts and gives me energy… for a time. It takes more energy though. When it’s burned out I’m back to miserable.

No one talks about this.  I don’t know why.  Maybe people judge anger even worse than being sad all the time.

Un-thinking

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I’m feeling some stage fright.

Well sort of. It doesn’t seem to be as petrifying as I remember the stone cold grip on my lungs was when I stood in the wings waiting for my cue.  But I’m still nervous.

I know it’s because I’m caught up thinking about how I’m going to impress people who have deeply impressed me.  And I’m likewise caught up in being convinced that I’ll never impress them, only disappoint them.  I won’t disappoint myself, I already know I’m a loser.

I’ll just irritate myself and that’ll set off despair at myself and then I’ll lie around wondering what point there is in getting up and attempting anything.

Do I get ahead of myself?  Yeah, of course, that’s overthinking things in a nutshell.  Not only am I already thinking ahead, past my inevitable failure, but I’m skipping over the part where I am present to the work that I am doing while I’m doing it.

Performing has little do with thinking. I’ve already written about that. Thinking helps set things up but does not do the performing.  My thinking muscle is very strong.  I’ve worked it out every single day since I was wee thing.  But my performing muscle is flabby.  Sometimes I pay careful, persistent attention to it, sometimes I ignore it. Every day problems come up that need attention from the thinking muscle and they eclipse the opportunity to workout the performing muscle.  And then along comes a problem, or really the chance to show off, that only the performing muscle can handle.

But sort of like instinctively lifting with your back instead of your legs (and subsequently hurting yourself), the thinking muscle wants to jump in and plan out All the Things, including failing at what it is no good at.

Performance is play. It’s in the body and the soul.  Thought keeps it all together, so I don’t just flop around and scream incoherently, but the impact of performance is created by physical effort and inspiration.  There is no anticipation there, no planning ahead, just doing.  Just right now.

And it’s frightening.  I’m used to relying on thought to help me through everything.  Performing feels like heading out on a tightrope – if I start to tip over how will I keep from falling??  But again, that’s only a concern because thought won’t help.  Performing will.  It sounds weird to say performing saves performing, but… well, what else is there?  If I stay centered in what I’m doing – performing – I won’t lose my balance.

Shhh, thought. I’m doing something.

Social Networking in the Time of Politics

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Oh Facebook, I wish I could quit you.

I have to write this over here, trying to do anything on Facebook is destroying my calm faster and faster every day.  I’ll try to keep it short because I’m just reacting, I don’t have anything real to say for myself – or rather, I don’t really have the time.  This is just a few thoughts I need to purge myself of.

I’ve gotten enough benefit from using Facebook that I find it worth the bother.  It is a lot of bother though.  I hate most of its infrastructure and if I could redesign it I would probably tear it all apart and start from the ground up.  It’s honestly a terrible tool, but the only one with a critical mass of users, and as far as modern agoras go, that’s all that matters.

So it has let me keep in touch with a few people and it has connected me with people connected to career and creative interests.  So all that is very valuable and I’d be loathe to give it up.  I have to balance that good against the crap design whenever I get so frustrated I think of quitting Facebook.

The thing pushing me to walk away from Facebook now is politics.  It doesn’t have to do with how Facebook is designed, and everything to do with how people are acting and what they’re writing on FB that’s trying every last bit of my patience.

I hate scrolling past awful, attack-oriented macros while I’m barely getting to work on my first cup of coffee.  I hate reading what otherwise lovely and delightful friends and family are saying about people who disagree with them politically.  I hate the joy people are taking at watching the opposition tear itself apart (NB, the opposition of *both* parties).  I hate seeing the sincere comments people leave about wishing for actual violence and real bloodshed among Americans.

And I HATE that people aren’t taking ownership of their words and implications. When liberals take specific glee at the violence at Trump rallies and openly hope the Right’s love the 2nd Amendment comes to violent riots and EXPLICITLY wish for murder to “thin the herd,” I am sick to my stomach.  When I listen to conservatives offering apologia for Donald Trump’s blustering misogyny and racism because “whatever it takes to beat Hillary” I am beyond disgusted.

Politics is all compromise.  It requires working with the other side, that’s the whole damn point.  Trust me, as a dedicated Green-party member and someone who very resentfully lives a capitalist lifestyle, I can tell you with certainty pure idealism leaves no room to actually do anything.  I don’t care if you have to “hold your nose” to get somewhere with someone, the point is you’re getting somewhere, not digging deeper the same shithole we’ve been festering in for years.  Compromise is necessary to civilization.  How am I the only person who caught that in Government class?

What the hell are people thinking? Is that supposed to fix something?  Is letting people know your disdain for them really going to set you up better after the election?  Is venting your thoughts really going to make you a better person?  Is it going to encourage anyone to “shape up?”

Or is it going to ingrain the meme of “liberals are X, and conservatives are Y?”  Is it going to encourage more repugnant rhetoric that doesn’t always stay verbal?  Is venting really about something you have on your mind or is it going along with what friends are already chanting?  Is it going to inspire and give solace to people with short fuses and ready armaments?

I’m fucking frustrated.  Americans, I know you’re better than that, I’ve seen it for myself.  Generous and funny, creative and decent…  I can’t believe that you’re going along with it.  Is forgetting all about “by the people for the people” in favor of “us vs them” really what we need right now?  You know that “they” are really us, right?

What the fuck are you people doing??

 

2015, the Godot Year

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A lot of stopping and starting, but way more stopping.  Altogether waiting for something to give me a reason to move. I had to break things down even if that cost me time and effort.  It was an…

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Object Lesson

What came out of it was a lot of planning and finding the amount of items I could reasonably expect to get done in a day.  I didn’t get it all done, but I learned more about my work patterns.  They need to improve, but now I know what and how instead of giving myself a big general panic attack about needing to do everything with no idea where to start.

So I could get minimums met.  Okay, but one step beyond was tough, especially in any career capacity.

Got a mixed bag in the health area, as far as doctors are concerned. Shockingly low bad cholesterol and high good cholesterol.  But blood sugar is not so great. Pre-diabetic.  Must stick to my diet.  Started serious work on mental health.  I expect this is going to do/go forward a lot more in 2016.  Or *something* is going to happen.

I think I would chalk up a lot of the spots where I fell apart to effects of depression.  My inconsistency, my being so easily distracted, my lack of flexibility.  I did a lot of what I always do, sit around and stare at space (or get caught up in meaningless exchanges online), but now I have a record.  I know roughly which days I thought to myself, “get to work!” and just sat there.  I may as well have been saying “quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack” to myself.

Creative fell apart in a lot of areas – obviously I didn’t blog very much.  But so much of what I want to do requires reaching out to other people, something I’m not very good at.  Any work that lets me keep my head down, nose in a book or poking at my laptop is perfect.  But if I need to email someone cold or introduce myself at an event… yikes.  So my dream of workshopping some immersive stuff didn’t come true.  But I still want to build on that immersive night I managed to have with a couple people.  It’s always a great conversation when I talk with people about it… now I want to play with it!

Paying work was rare, as usual, and it came from the oddest places.  I helped a friend organize her late father’s receipts ahead of tax time, I cat sat and dog sat and I helped mom with her school busy work.  Not particularly lucrative in any way, but it kept my head above water and gave me stuff to do.

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RIP Franny, who permitted me to care for her for a few weeks over the summer.  Cranky old lady.  }:>

I did land a fun VO project for a five minute animated piece.  The pay was small, but the reason to do it was getting the piece itself done.  It was very cute and hope I can share the completed project soon.  Obviously I want to do more VO work – for pay – but that’s all business hustle. Which I kinda fell down on this year.

What I’m also not very good at is working on multiple projects at once.  I gave a shot to shifting priorities on a week to week basis.  The “must get done on a daily basis” list was getting out of control.  Which is a major reason for needing to get disciplined about what I wanted to do on a daily basis, and even hourly.  I do and don’t want to count my scheduling system as something I did that worked.  I don’t because I’ve always been great at writing lists for myself.  Big deal.  The goal is to get stuff done.  But the scheduling system lets me know where I am every day, every week, and even a little bit every month.  I can see in detail what day was good and how two good days were almost inevitably followed by bad.

Also, April.  O.O  There is no info for April at all.  Barely any notes in my planner and NO tallies in my ledger.  At all.  I had to check Facebook to make sure I didn’t spend the month in a coma.  It didn’t sound like it was too rough – I went to WonderCon and it exhausted me, and then I was caught up in talking about and thinking about the Baltimore riots.  Also my niece’s softball team won their championship.  I suppose that’s all I did.  Weird.

In the end the tallies show a year that was slightly below C average.  (I developed a basis for grading how I met my expectations.)  June was excellent, and so was October, but August was abysmal.  I’m trying to keep my chin up about getting a handle on what _in specific_ I am and am not getting done.  But for this former A student, this is rough.

It’s better than I used to be but no where near where I really could be.  I’ve spent too much time waiting for my moment.

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Adventures in Voice Acting workout: I got to scream my head off playing Satsuki Kiriyuuin from KILL LA KILL.

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Workshop with Richard Horvitz

Question Meme: An Exchange

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 If the watchword/phrase for the 1960s was “Question authority” maybe the watch phrase for 2010s & social media ought to be “Question meme.” Because every single one of us – yes, YOU too – really, really should.

I wrote the above at the beginning of September and after it came a really fascinating conversation with my high school English & Theory of Knowledge teacher, Mr Ted Kopacki. I soon realized I wanted to put the conversation up here…so that it took me until now to get to it tells you something about how quickly I move on my ideas. Anyhow, it was a really interesting exchange for me, hopefully someone out there finds it intriguing too.

(I’m always up for more education and interesting conversations, so feel free to leave any thoughts in the comments. If I did make any mistakes, please keep it civil.)

So, then the comments below my original post:

Me: Question 1. What is a meme?

Me: Hint: it’s not a pic with with clever text over it. That’s an image macro.

Kopacki: I read it and I still don’t have a clear idea of what it is.

[Mr Kopacki meant the Wikipedia article, presumably on image macros.]

Me: I’m not sure if you read the article on meme. I describe it as a cultural virus, bits of ideas that are transferred among people in the same social sphere that carry a linguistic currency on their own. For example, “mainstream media” or the idea that President Obama is a secret Muslim or (I know this goes back a few decades) the impression that Asian cars were worthless. It’s not exactly the idea in and of itself, but the context behind the idea that is spread.

Me: It’s a structure that lets ideas get used like a linguistic mechanism, but the meaning is only mutually understood when we have the same social insights. IE kids today who are used to the Honda Prius and other very fine cars might not know that in 1970s and 80s Hondas were considered lemons or just low value vehicles. In fact “Honda” was often invoked as a joke for something that was low class…

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The thing about suicidal ideation and buying eggs

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When suicidal thoughts first popped into my head they were more like fantasies the way you might fantasize about pretty much anything as a teenager. Getting that boy/girl of your preference to notice you, winning a competition or just dreaming up the proper comeback to an insult from the day before. I don’t remember when it first popped into my head, and as someone who wrote bits of fiction for fun starting from a very young age I didn’t think anything about it, taking pills to never wake up was just another idea like the one about meeting the goddess Athena or time traveling to New York’s Gilded Age. I wrote little stories of people who just up and took their own lives for no particular reason. I saw the scene in my head and I wrote it down.

Suffering suicidal ideation and suffering from it are two different things. When you suffer something, you go through it but you’re not necessarily in agony. (I swear the phrase “suffer fools gladly” has been much abused.) You suffer traffic to get to work on time, you suffer your boss’s small talk before the metting starts, etc. But when you get sick the misery is expressed as “suffering FROM headache and fever.”

Suicidal ideation is probably the least miserable indication of depression I suffer. I’m so used to the thoughts playing like a montage of videos looping on the walls at the back of my mind I forget they’re A Thing. Everyone fantasizes, right? About sex, about winning the lottery, about beating a rival…I do that and have my death mixed in. I can lean into the fantasy like it’s anything else and really flesh out the details, or just leave it running in the back and give it as much attention as I give the hum of my laptop. What I can’t do is turn it off. I must suffer it to get to my conscious thoughts.

Well, you could always hang yourself!

Yeah, we found this rope! –Bad Idea Bears, Avenue Q

What I can’t stress enough to people who don’t suffer ideation is that I really don’t want to kill myself. I’m not fantasizing because that’s what I want to do – which, I realize, is the stark difference between dreaming of taking my life and dreaming of getting some action.

This is where the thing about buying eggs comes in. Say you have a shopping list in your mind and you’ve just been so freaking busy you haven’t had time to write it down. So you recite it to yourself over the course of the day so it doesn’t slip away that you need to go to the store. But every time you get to the line with eggs you think, “oh wait, my roommate just picked up some eggs last night so I don’t have to buy any eggs.” And you carry on with the list. But the next time you think about grocery shopping eggs are still on the list and you have to go through the whole recall that you don’t need to buy eggs all over again. This happens over and over and over until you start to get a little infuriated with yourself, but you’re already driving to the grocery store so you can’t write down the list for the pleasure of crossing off “eggs.” And then you’re shopping and you slow down at the section with eggs and all you can do is roll your eyes at yourself, maybe shake your head at your weird memory, and keep on shopping.

On the one hand it doesn’t feel like a big deal to me, particularly compared to days when I can’t get out of bed, feeling numb, feeling frozen or aimless, being unable to enjoy things everyone else loves or those really dark times when I’m not fantasizing. At those times I’m studying the fantasy, comparing it against a checklist I’ll call “Do I really want to do that? No? Why not?”

On the other hand the ideas are there ALL THE TIME. I am constantly on the verge of going shopping and constantly having to remind myself I don’t need eggs. CONSTANTLY. I think to myself, “okay what do I have to get done next?” and the answer is always something like, “go to the gym, read this book, fix the broken light, email the director, kill myself, fix a snack, check with my friend about when we’ll get lunch.”

See if you can find the item in the list that sticks out like eggs I don’t need to buy.

I’m constantly crossing it off when it pops up in my mental to-do list, but like the most persistent case of mood herpes it just won’t go away. It pops up more often when I’m feeling anxious and when I’m super stressed and frustrated the thoughts get more intense, until they crowd out other thoughts… And then when things go really pear-shaped I have very little energy left to keep crossing suicide off my to-do list.

I start to feel like I should buy the fucking eggs to get them off my list.

But I won’t.

Probably.

Out on a Limb

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I don’t do things that scare me or make me uncomfortable too very often.  I keep meaning to fix that, but I’m so busy with all the things that are inside my comfort zone I often forget to go ahead and take a chance on something Out There.

And I mean, everyone is full of the “do one thing that scares you every day” like that’s so easy.  Like there aren’t really good reasons for why it’s scary.  You’re being told to take risks, to gamble and take chances – the people who tell you that certainly aren’t the ones who are going to take the financial hit or lose the relationship or damage their health if things don’t work out.

But still.  There is no growth without losing some skin, right?  The world you have built up around you was once scary itself, and eventually became the status quo, also became the stagnation trapping you in place.  At least that’s how it tends to go for me.

I was thinking about this last night, sitting on a workout-type paid-hangout-with Grey deLisle-Griffin.  It’s really tough sometimes to tell the difference between when I’m holding back due to nerves, fears that I’ll screw up and everyone will hate me (or more likely I’ll be awkward and everyone will think I’m weird (and not worth working with)), and when the hesitation is actually practical, when I can’t squeeze out the time or I can’t afford it or (hardest of all) I’m not ready.

And DAMN the last one is the hardest, because so much of being “ready” is just nerve.  Sheer confidence often trumps actual skill, particularly in performance.  Which is not to say that skill and talent aren’t valued – quite the opposite.  The quality of talent can determine what kind of a career you have, but your boldness will be the make or break point of actually having a career.

When I went on mic in front of Grey it was hard to figure out which affected me more, performance nerves or the frosty cold booth.  (Grey commented on shaking my voice as if it were intentional…um it wasn’t an affect, it was effect but I don’t know what caused it.)  I decided to go with a character I’ve worked on before – ethereal, calm, wise – knowing that the challenge there is to get the life as big as any wacky, loud goofball.

The greater challenge was actually to put on a very slight British accent.  I wanted the character to have a polished sound, articulated and enunciating properly.  Right away Grey came back with instruction to put on a British accent.  I just wanted a “proper” sound, but I didn’t want to go full on Emma Thompson simply for fear of screwing up.

It’s continually a lesson to me when the note I’m given is to play a note I started out with for myself.  It’s like I’m waving at a place I want to go to and the direction comes back “Go to that place.”  Why didn’t I do that from the beginning?

So.  I’m never allowed to forget Grey offhandedly tossing out “the British accent is great” without a second thought and then moving on to other things.  It was fine.  I was fine.

Fear is stupid.

Saturday of Days

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I keep thinking today is Saturday.  It’s not, it’s actually a Tuesday.  But completely feels like a Saturday, the sun is shining, most of the family is home.  Some chores are being done, most are being ignored.  Meal times are whenever we get hungry.

It’s just that I’ve had work to do for the past several days (weeks) and must get back to it tomorrow.  But today I’ve had an open day with no plans.  Which means I’ve primarily been sleeping and then staring at my options, completely lost for what to pick next.  So I’ve gone back to bed a couple of times.  How is that not a Saturday?

If I were clever and/or ambitious I would take advantage of the downtime to really grab hold of my life the way otherwise made difficult by running on the treadmill of chores and work and daily nonsense.

There should be adventures and abstractions to tell you about, but I haven’t been up to writing lately, not even on Saturdays.  Maybe I’ve been busy (not so busy, I’ve watched quite a bit of TV lately), but more likely reporting on what’s in my head and around my life.  Is that good or bad?

Well, in truth no one cares.  No one really reads this thing so I could write any damned thing I wanted and it wouldn’t matter.  I wish I did have a bug to write more than on just the subject of writing.  This is the boring side of meta, I know because I like meta and this is boring.

In the end here I am not sure of how to explain myself.  It’s summer, school’s out and my mom and niece are home (a school teacher and student, respectively).  I just got back from a long cat sitting stint and will leave on another tomorrow. I’m lost and frustrated on all avenues of Things I Want to Get Done.  The house is a mess, the truck is falling apart and I have no idea what to do next in my career.  No Idea.

I guess Saturdays are for staring off into space and idly watching videos and eating a very late breakfast.  Even if it’s really a Tuesday.

Connection is Participation

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I recently started up the habit of listening to one of Rob Paulsen’s Talkin’ Toons podcast per day, going all the way back to 2011. I’m often working out while I listen, but sometimes I’m cleaning. When I have absolutely nothing to occupy my body with I play mahjong on the computer while I listen.

I’m often laughing. I’m frequently moved and I’m always, always deeply impressed.

It’s a common refrain for Rob Paulsen and many of his guests that the best part of working in voice over is getting to work with wonderful people, many of whom become friends – if not family! And that’s something that I instantly loved about voice over, that sense of good people populating its ranks. It was true from the very first time I got connected with a VO actor (Stephanie Sheh) who patiently answered my questions for a half hour and showed me more than I think she realized from her professionalism to her generosity.

My VO acquaintances and friends are largely from among my classmates in the workshops I’ve taken in the last few years, and the camaraderie is unparalleled. There are some good folks I met in the theatre, don’t get me wrong. And there were some stand up people from the office jobs I’ve worked. But in the grown up world I just don’t expect people to drop what they’re doing to answer my silly questions or correct my assumptions. I expect honesty, sure, but I figure it’s always going to be couched in polite distance, if not some dismissiveness.  Encouragement and a helping hand are something else besides.

In VO it can be really tough to find work (how hard is it compared to acting in any other medium? I’m not sure it’s really that much harder but I’ve never tried crunching the numbers), but there’s rarely a shortage of people willing to trade supportive messages, sit down for some coffee or tea, offer advice or point to authorities that helped them out or generally give assistance to whatever degree possible. Over and over again voice actors go over and above to help out – just because they can. It’s easily my favorite part of voice acting.

I’m still very much in the process of finding my way but I like being able to point newer folks in directions that I think can help. I *love* being able to recommend friends to gigs, or gigs to friends.

Obviously the talent is paramount for being a good voice actor. But I think right on its heels is a personality that is low-b.s., highly supportive and patient.❤

At Marc Cashman’s studio.

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