Performance Anxiety

I have to be honest with you.  There’s a tie between the #2 challenge and the #1 challenge so I had to make a choice.  Because performance anxiety feeds self-doubt, I decided to place it in the number two position.

Performance anxiety feeds self-doubt and increases your stress and frustration.  Therefore I think it’s important to 1) acknowledge it and 2) name it.  It does happen to everyone.  And even when you think you’ve got it nailed down and things are great…  One flub, one criticize can derail your good mood and toss you back into the fires of performance anxiety.

So what can we do?

Step away.  Breathe.  Drink a cup of tea and try to look at the problem itself.  The real problem.  Have you ever done root cause analysis?  I did this a lot in my corporate life when I was doing business continuity and disaster recovery.  It’s not enough to think you know what the problem is – you really need to know what THE problem (root cause) is so you can truly address it.  Here’s some root cause statements that emerged from my survey:

Do I need to change my performance by the genre I am narrating in?

I’m going to say, “Yes, but…”  Here’s the yes.  In general children’s books (not young adult) can be voiced in a more upbeat tone and pace.  But not always.  In general inspirational books can be voiced in a more smooth, soft tone (closer to the mic) and flowing pace.  But not always. 

Are you getting the idea?  Your performance must always be guided by the material itself.  This is why reading the entire manuscript is important.  And why having a collaborative dialogue with the author is… well, priceless.

I don’t always know the right way to voice what was written, so what can I do?

Have you ever played the 7-word sentence game?  It’s one sentence with 7 different meanings depending on which word you stress in the sentence. 

“I never said he/she stole my money.”

Try it!  Say it 7 times putting stress on a different word each time.

The same thing applies to your reading.  My advice is to put different emphasis or stress on different words.  Think about what happened right before this character came on scene?  What is their base personality?  What is their mood right now?  Try softening a word you want to emphasize by speaking it more quietly.  Record all of these.  Try them out and see what feels right.  If you get it narrowed down and can’t decide, ask the author.

How can I manage breath, clicks and mouth noises?

Oh boy.  Can I be honest?  Sometimes you can’t.  There are lots of tips and tricks to try and I’ll tell you about them.  But I’m going to be honest and tell you that sometime, you just need to walk away and come back to it later.  My routine is to record in the morning, editing in the afternoon.  But sometimes I wake up with monkey mouth.  I don’t know what happened during the night but no amount of brushing my teeth, getting hydrated, etc., will get rid of the gasping breath, clicks or mouth noise.  That’s when I give up (temporarily) and go outside and dig in the dirt.  Gardening (or more accurately weeding) is my go to for getting out of my head.  Then I come back to it fresh.  Here are some tips to try:

Breath Control, Clicks, and Mouth Noise

How do I slow down?  I tend to speed up or talk too fast.

Ditto.  Here we have a tell tale trait of a new Narrator.  I’ll admit.  Been there.  Done that.  I’m so sorry.  We all do it at some time or another.  In our excitement we rush. I’ve found two things help me avoid this.  Maybe they’ll help you too.

How can I differentiate between the characters?

“Gramps was a grouch.  He never said anything without a snarl that twisted his southern drawl into something reminiscent of a snake about to bite.”

In this one line you can build a voice character for Gramps that is:

Gender –  male
Type – snarls
Accent – southern
Delivery – drawl, sharp
Motivation – predatory, defensive, poised to pounce

If you are an author who is considering having your work published as an audiobook, please check out the Audiobook Production Tour video on the homepage of my website.  And checkout my portfolio to see if I’m the right voice for your story.

And, if you’ve got your heart set on recording your own audiobook but would like a guiding hand, check out The Writers Audiobook Clinic.

I’ll be back next week with the #1 Challenge in Learning Audiobook Narration.

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