Where do I start with my One Voice experience, the first time I have managed to make it to the conference and the first time I have been nominated for an award?
Do I start with my nervous application for an Audiobook Award? Do I start with my realisation that I had been nominated? Do I start with the preparations this led to – hair, nails, hiring a dress, replacing my pre-pandemic dried up make up?
Or do I start with the people?
Oh yes, that is where I start because without them, without the supportive community of voice actors I have been lucky enough to meet and now call family, I’m not sure I would have made it through.
It’s a weird job, being a voice actor. Actors are naturally curious about people and enjoy the rehearsal room, a chance to explore and create collaboratively. And yet, many of us choose to sit in a solitary box talking to ourselves for work.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my work. I adore my padded box which feels like a TARDIS taking me across time, space and multiple imaginations. I am rarely lonely at work, my tiny box full of a myriad of characters, all on their own adventures.
Over the pandemic particularly a loneliness crept in.
We don’t have a water cooler.
We don’t have work conference calls on the whole, except for a few directed sessions, where the focus is all on the work.
Some of us did band together and have Zoom meet-ups but they are an oddly unsatisfying experience, admittedly better than nothing, though the silence as you leave the Zoom room is palpable.
With all the other losses of social life and contact I’m not sure I recognised how deep and wide the whole left by this tremendous community of creative beings. It was bone-deep and soul wide.
And now it is filled.
I wondered how I would be at an awards dinner. Would I be able to be gracious in defeat, as most of the room has to be, statistically?
I wondered what value I would find in the talks now that I am no longer scrabbling around trying to build a business but an established professional. Would I learn anything?
I wondered if it was worth the investment of precious time, money and energy when they have all been at a premium over the past few years, as a full-time working Mum of two, with grand ambitions and more ideas than time to execute them.
Yes, Yes and YES is the answer.
I learned that the point of awards is not all about the ego. It is about taking some time to recognise the work you have done you are proud of, as you put in your application. It is about celebrating the industry you work in, the role you play in brightening the days of others, as you gather together in your finery. It is about congratulating those that win and being part of the community that raises them up when things are good and keeps them going when times are difficult.
I learned that I have earned my place in this industry. As someone who works alone at the bottom of my garden, mainly interacting with others on social media, it is difficult to recognise how you are viewed by others. There are no appraisals, no 360 degree forms to fill in (for which I am very grateful by the way…). And yet, we all have a yearning to know we are on the right track, that we are happy with the options we have chosen and that there are others available should we choose to pursue them.
I learned that the time I have spent over the past 7 years as part of the VO tribe has been some of the best time I have ever spent. And the investment I made was nothing compared to the return I received in conversations, tacit understanding, reconnection, heartfelt hugs and recognition.
I love my work and I love being with the other people who love to work as I do. I missed them so much during the pandemic and I missed the smile they inevitably brought to my face every time I was enveloped into the community.
We all have diverse voices, speaking alone to an unseen audience. Together, the harmony we create in our work, our selves and our connection makes us one luminous voice singing in the darkness.