By Lewis King, Resident Compere of WordSpace
I did a dumb thing the other day.
I was in a bad mood and pretty low on energy. Running, jumping, climbing mountains and battling flying warlocks was off the schedule*. So I listened to a podcast instead.
I realise that this doesn’t sound like a dumb thing to do. Especially because I love podcasts**. I fantasise about playing them off a gramophone in my dusty study as I swirl whisky in a glass.
The problem is this podcast had my own voice in it. Which meant I had foolishly let the darkness without form possess my voice. I clutched my throat as crashed to the floor, spilling whisky. Demented laughter crawled into my ears and becoming the final sound I would ever hear.
Or if you’re boring (some people use the word rational) you could choose to believe that I had recorded the podcast a couple of months ago with the gang from WordSpace Radio (which you can listen to on The SoundCloud).
It’s horrible. It’s like a demonic chipmunk mimicking you.
So why did I do it then?
I obviously knew it wasn’t a ‘good’ idea. And we’re well acquainted with the irrationality of humanity enough to realise we don’t always act because we think something is a ‘good’ idea.
When you’re in one of those phases you don’t always think clearly. I had been putting off promoting the podcast because I wanted to have listen to them myself. I like to know what I’m talking about before I post a thing online***. I guess I listened because the thought of ticking something off my to do list would help how I was feeling.
But I had already set myself up for disaster. And that acidic feeling of anxiety was bubbling up as I pressed play.
My ears weren’t stuff with my fingers. And I wasn’t shouting at myself like a drunk shouting at traffic. In fact it seemed ok. The readings of my stories, to be honest, were not bad.
It appears I have actually built up a tolerance to my own voice. Life has not always been like that. It was a much different story when I was younger.
What was reassuring was that I wasn’t alone was that. Everyone came from the curtain equally horrified. Some even apologised ‘Oh my god is that my voice! I’m so sorry you have to hear that!’
Now you might be thinking “Why do it if it causes so much bother? Well there’s a simple solution to this: don’t put yourself through it!” You can practice performing your work without having to hear it yourself. The only counter-argument I have so far is: What about when you get asked someday to do the audiobook for your awesome best seller?
Why do I listen to myself?
I record my performances if I reword something and, if it’s stand up or a comic story, to hear how it’s received. It’s almost part of my drafting process. And to see if there are better ways of delivering the tale.
And I guess there’s a similar attention when it comes to learning french. You should listen back to hear if you’ve pronounced words correctly.
I’m not going to profess it is essential for every writer. I have no evidence that it ‘works’. In fact I can’t even remember why I started doing it. But it’s a habit now.
I still find it uncomfortable and I do constantly procrastinate listening back to things. And I don’t intensely listen and take notes. I may listen once or twice. And get a few ideas from it.
I’m writing a mini-series of blogs on this topic so I’d love to hear what other writers, performers, podcasters etc think. Do you endure your voice? Do you like it? Why should we listen to recordings?
Thanks for reading. And I implore you to take your lovely ears to the WordSpace Radio Podcast. It’s a delight.
You saw some asterisks. Here’s what they lead to:
*I’m always fighting dastardly warlocks. If I miss an event or birthday party it’s probably because a warlock is drawing out a fight for longer than necessary. It’s the most common evil that warlocks commit: inconveniencing others. Second to peeling band stickers off teenagers’ school planners.
** If you’re interested here’s a few I’m binging on at the moment: HarmonTown (by Rick & Morty co-creator Dan Harmon), My Dad Wrote a Porno (new series has just come out) and just as I write this I’ve started listening to Welcome to Night Vale, which is perfect for anyone into Twin Peaks or The League Of Gentlemen or anything about small towns being weird and creepy. It’s my new obsession.
*** I believe I normally do this when I share an article on The Facebook. It’s a good habit to keep to avoid getting trapped into spouting shit I don’t actually know about. I guess as a way to avoid contributing to the mass of fake news. But I also know that I suffer from bouts of techno-laziness. I’m sure a lot of us do.