If you’ve read my articles about Barry Manilow (here and here), you probably suspect that music is an important part of my life. Did you know that I also play music? I ask your indulgence while I write about music for a few minutes. I promise that I do have a point that relates not only to audiobook narration, but to living the life of your dreams.
Introduction and Exposition
I started piano lessons when I was in second grade. My brother was taking them, and I thought I should do that, too. (By the way, I feel blessed that my parents gave me the gift of a musical education so early in my life.)
In fifth grade, I took up clarinet as part of the school band. I don’t remember deciding I wanted to play the clarinet. I wanted to be in the band, and I think perhaps the band teacher suggested it for me.
While I was in sixth grade, I decided to learn guitar because someone I sort of competed with was playing guitar. Admittedly, competition probably is not a good reason to start anything. I didn’t know then that I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. When the school orchestra needed a string bass player during my seventh grade year, I accepted the challenge and learned to play string bass.
Eighth grade saw me add 2 more instruments to my list: oboe and flute. The band director asked me if I would like to switch from clarinet to oboe. Yes, please! Playing oboe gave me to a chance to stand out. Why be one of 10 or 15 clarinetists when I could be the only oboist?
The flute was different. Rather than playing an instrument because someone else thought I should play it, I wanted to play the flute because it was lovely both in sound and appearance.
One day, a neighbor was selling a flute for $30 at their garage sale. It was nickel-plated, had a couple of small dings in the mouthpiece, and was covered with what I guess were oxidation spots. In other words, it wasn’t the prettiest flute ever made.
I didn’t care. I raced home, got $30 out of my bank (I’ve always been a saver), went back to the garage sale, and bought that flute! In hindsight, I should’ve asked Daddy to negotiate a better price!
I learned to play it on my own, without the benefit of lessons. I started playing piccolo in marching band instead of clarinet. Once I started to work part-time, I paid for half the cost of a new oboe. In addition to paying for half of the oboe, my parents also bought me a sterling silver flute that became my pride and joy. I ended up playing oboe in the symphonic band (more advanced players) and flute in the concert band throughout high school.
Like a lot of people, though, I got ultra busy in college and left my instruments in their cases. I can’t remember when I sold the flute, piccolo, and oboe.
In 1995, I fell in love with the harp and spent the next 21 years in a relationship with at least one harp in my house. I wrote about the resonance between harp and voice-over and discussed 5 things every aspiring voiceover talent should know. The things on that list apply equally to audiobook narrators, so I encourage you to read that article if you haven’t already done so.
As I progressed more in both my demanding day job in IT and my voiceover/audiobook career, I found myself making less time to play my harp. I loved my harp. I loved identifying myself as a harpist. I felt guilty that I didn’t spend quality time with it.
After significant reflection over a period of months, I finally made the very emotional decision to find a new, loving home for my beautiful harp. The woman who bought it aspires to play professionally and studies with my former teacher, so I felt good to leave it in her hands.
Months after the harp’s sale, I found great comfort in this passage from Marie Kondo’s bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing:
…without exception, all the things you own share the desire to be of use to you. I can say this with certainty because I have examined very carefully hundreds of thousands of possessions in my career as a tidying consultant. When examined carefully, the fate that links us to the things we own is quite amazing. Take just one shirt, for example. Even if it was mass-produced in a factory, that particular shirt that you bought and brought home on that particular day is unique to you. The destiny that led us to each one of our possessions is just as precious and sacred as the destiny that connected us with the people in our lives. There is a reason why each one of your belongings came to you.
When I share this perspective, some people say, “I neglected this outfit so long it’s all wrinkled. It must be pretty indignant with me,” or “If I don’t use it, it will curse me.” But from my own experience, I have never encountered any possession that reproached its owner. These thoughts stem from the owner’s sense of guilt, not from the person’s belongings.
Then what do the things in our homes that don’t spark joy actually feel? I think they simply want to leave. Lying forgotten in your closet, they know better than anyone else that they are not bringing joy to you now. Everything you own wants to be of use to you. Even if you throw it away or burn it, it will only leave behind the energy of wanting to be of service. Freed from its physical form, it will move about your world as energy, letting other things know that you are a special person and come back to you as the thing that will be of most use to who you are now, the thing that will bring you the most happiness. A piece of clothing might come back as a new and beautiful outfit, or it may reappear as information or a new connection.
I promise you: whatever you let go will come back in exactly the same amount, but only when it feels the desire to return to you. For this reason, when you part with something, don’t sigh and say, “Oh, I never used this,” or “Sorry I never got around to using you.” Instead, send it off joyfully with words like, “Thank you for finding me,” or “Have a good journey. See you again soon!” Get rid of those things that no longer spark joy. Make your parting a ceremony to launch them on a new journey. Celebrate this occasion with them. I truly believe that our possessions are even happier and more vibrant when we let them go than when we first get them.
While it may sound like a bunch of woo-woo, I’ve discovered the truth in Kondo’s words that your things “come back to you as the thing that will be of most use to who you are now, the thing that will bring you the most happiness.” The sale of the harp has moved my narration business forward in some very specific, but private, ways.
I thought I’d never play music again, so I included my custom-made stand, the music cabinet, and all of my books with the harp. I redecorated from a music room to a library. The harp’s departure was the finale for me as a music maker.
Or was it?
Every so often, a harmless little thought would pop in my brain at the oddest times.
“Maybe you’d like to get another flute.”
I never said anything about it to Drew; I didn’t even write about it in my journal. I truly didn’t give buying a flute a serious thought. After all, if my grand and glorious harp and the magnificent room it was sitting in couldn’t encourage me to play, why on earth would I even think about getting a different instrument, especially since I don’t even have any music?
A couple of weeks ago, I started listening to Marcia Butler’s narration of her riveting memoir The Skin Above My Knee. Marcia is a professional freelance oboist, and I was surprised to learn that her first instrument was a flute. She jumped at the opportunity to play oboe for the same reason that I left the clarinet.
I told Drew about this section in the audiobook and added the offhand comment that I’ve had a recurring thought about getting another flute. Can you guess his reaction? Was it:
- “That’s the craziest idea I ever heard.”
- “You had a harp and didn’t play it. What makes you think you’ll play a flute?”
- “A flute is expensive, and you’d have to re-buy music. Maybe you should wait.”
- “I think that’s a fantastic and exciting idea! In fact, I’d like to try to play it, too!”
4 — Drew’s instant enthusiasm for this idea is yet one of the many reasons I love him. 🙂
As I said to Drew, I’ll always cherish my time with the harp, but a flute is much more practical for me these days. It’s easy to store, easier to play (especially sporadically), and can be played without spending a lot of time in set-up or tuning. As an added bonus, re-learning to play flute may even help me improve my breath support needed for audiobook narration. In fact, that point propelled me into ACTION!
I went on eBay and found a well-maintained flute in the same model from the same manufacturer as my prized possession in high school. I negotiated the price with the seller (I am my father’s daughter, after all) and BOUGHT it!
Let me tell you, I have been as excited by this flute as I was when my parents presented the other silver one to me in high school! Even though I hadn’t played a flute in over 35 years, I was thrilled to be able to play some recognizable songs the day it arrived! I’ve also been delighted to find some terrific flute music books on eBay at almost give-away prices.
I promised that this musical interlude had a point for audiobook narrators, and here it is:
Listen to and trust the still, small voice.
Each of us has our own internal guidance system that expresses our soul’s desires. This voice is always positive, helpful, and kind because it knows what would make you the happiest. You may dismiss it as a silly, random thought and not even a voice at all.
One of my earliest articles on this blog was You can trust your gut instinct. In the 11 years since I wrote that article, I’ve had countless conversations, both personally and on-line, with people who have heard the whisperings of an idea they’d like to pursue. All too frequently, the voice of the internal critic, one of the ego’s minions, will pipe up with fearful comments that stop people in mid-sentence:
- fear of what “they” will think
- fear of making a fool of themselves
- fear of wasting money
- fear of losing friends
- fear of not being good enough
My answer to all of those concerns is that following your soul’s guidance will fill you with joy that will overflow into every other aspect of your life.
I can’t say I always recognize that voice. However, I’ve noticed that ideas that repeat themselves and don’t go away usually are from the still, small voice.
I’ve also found that I’m more likely to hear that voice when I’m relaxed and not concentrating on a task. For instance, it doesn’t check in with me when I’m in the booth narrating an audiobook. I hear it often while I’m in the shower or pool. It also speaks up sometimes when I’m writing in my journal or working on needlepoint.
Sometimes you’ll be guided to do something that seems irrational to others, as in the case of buying my flute. Other times, you might get a sudden thought to call or email someone to move your business forward.
Drew asked me if I have any goals for my new flute. I just want to have some fun with it as a low-key hobby (pun intended) and may not ever take the first lesson for it. After all, every passion does not lead to a career choice.
As a bit of encouragement to listening for and following your small, still voice, I’d like to leave you with my favorite quote from Barry Manilow:
I believe that we are who we choose to be.
Nobody is going to come and save you. You’ve got to save yourself.
Nobody is going to give you anything. You’ve got to go out and fight for it.
Nobody knows what you want except you, and nobody will be as sorry as you if you don’t get it.
So don’t give up your dreams.