The Art of Not Doing Anything

Today I said goodbye to still more Portland friends. (I’ve had more coffee dates, lunch dates, and dinner dates in the last month than in the last two years, as I’ve been getting ready to leave full-tine life in Maine.) My conversations have been interesting and heart-felt, and two of the talks I had with friends were particularly resonant.

The first, over coffee at CBD, was with my friend Smyth (from whose Etsy store you should immediately buy a painting or a sketch). She’s lived in Portland a lot longer than I have, but we agree that Maine has a particular, peculiar energy. Portland is a place one either loves or hates to live. Likely everyone could agree that Maine is a lovely place to visit, but to move here permanently is to invite Maine to exert its unique forces upon you. Maine will either pull you into its embrace, imbue you with some new magic, and fling you out into the universe, where you will blossom and flourish, or it will clutch at you and drag you down and in and try as you might, you will never quite feel right here; you will be so eager — desperate, almost, to get away. I’m fortunate, so fortunate, to have flowered in this place.

The second conversation, with my friend Paul over lunch in Monument Square, was about voiceover. Paul asserted that his voice is generic, and I laughed. Paul’s voice is nothing close to generic. He has a charming, wry, witty, very particular, idiosyncratic vocal tone and delivery, which is present both in person and on the page (or screen, as it were). But he said that when he gets into the booth to record a voiceover, his voice becomes generic, and we agreed it’s because he’s stripped away his idiosyncratic self in an attempt to “do voiceover right.” In truth, the only way to do voiceover right is the only way to do anything right, which is to be completely and utterly yourself. We spend so much time trying to learn the skills of acting, when what we’re actually learning is to relax, to embody ourselves, to remove any and all the filters we create in an effort to be and do what we imagine others require of us.

In voiceover training, my teacher, Nancy Wolfson, tried so hard to get me to see that I was enough, and I didn’t really understand it completely until today, when I argued with Paul, who is talented and very capable, and told him that he was perfect just as he was. He didn’t have to TRY to do anything; in fact, he wouldn’t be as successful as he could be until he stopped trying.

This is a wonderful reminder as I move forward toward New York. I’m enough just as I am. I don’t have to try to BE anything. I AM. If I’m being myself, that’s all I need to do. That’s my job. What a weird and wonderful job it is.

Tomorrow I say a few final goodbyes, keep packing, keep recording page after page, and move closer to Sunday, when I get on the road to New York.

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