Criticism

Monday, December 15, 2014

Last week marked the end of a voiceover class that I was taking at The Little Theatre of Alexandria with Mike Baker, a well known, Emmy winning actor and voice artist. There's one more class we'll have in NYC with a master of animation voiceover in January, but our last formal class was this week.

We spent several weeks learning tricks sounding good, how to read a copy and such. Having acting experience definitely helps you get into a character if you're reading character copy. Part of the class fee involved a professional recording of our own demo reel. We got a minute to do whatever we wanted, but Mike gave us recommendations on what he thought we were best suited to. I did two character spots, one bit of narration, and one 10 second promo spot. Mike and his professional recording friend cut it all together, added music and made copies for us.

Mike warned us that 40% of people tend to hate the sound of their voice once they hear it, and that he hated his own first demo reel. I'm glad he warned us, because I'll admit to not liking it. I think I sound horrible. But since I tend to be my harshest critic, I'll put it on this website anyway if you want to listen to it. You're probably not going to tell me anything worse than what I've already told myself.

I'm trying to be braver about opening myself up to criticism. Deciding to try Kindle Scout and even the idea of self-e-publishing was a frightening prospect. My book is good, it's not great, so I was not surprised that I was turned down. I think I come up with compelling story lines, but find my prose to be lacking. I won't be winning any Hugo awards, but I think it'll sell fairly well.

The first time I got any real criticism in an acting class, I went home and cried. Then I thought about quitting the class. Then I went back, and took to heart what I had heard, and I was better. I got a lot more criticism in the next few years, but I came out of it a much stronger actor. And at the end, when I received praise, it was the first time I genuinely believed I might be good at it. I've never trusted family or friends to be completely honest. But random strangers who have no emotional attachment to me? Them, I'll believe. Which is why putting my stuff out there for the general public to comment on is both frightening and exciting.

It's probably unfair to my friends and family. They don't want to hurt my feelings, I'm sure, but they probably want to see me succeed and improve. When my sister Heather Jones (published author of teen paranormal romances on Amazon) gave me the first copy of her first book to take a look at, I thought it was pretty bad. The story was neat, she had a good idea, but the writing was so obviously amateur it was hard to take seriously. It took me a while to figure out what it was, but I compared her writing to some similar stuff, and gave her advice based on how to make it sound better. I don't know how hard it was for her to hear, I tried to be nice, but the second version of her book was so much better, partly, I think, because of what I told her to change. And I am very proud of how far she's come in the past few years. Every book gets better.

So be mean to your friends and family. It's for their own good.