Sunday, September 30, 2018

Freelance Life: :Beginning a New Chapter

It's been some time since I've written. The truth behind this is twofold, actually. First, I really just have to own up to it: I'm terrible at keeping a regimented schedule. Now that I work for myself, my day is generally tied up in Deadline Triage, making sure the day's work is done and clients are happy. Posting on this blog becomes something less than secondary. I'm working on it.

Second, to be honest, there really hasn't been much to report. I've been in something of a Limbo of starting my business, making contacts, getting some podcasts and other projects going. Sure, I could have made mention of some of this, but it just didn't seem like to right outlet for it.

But, it's been nearly two years since I lost my job and began this new adventure, so I suppose it's time for something of a State-of-the-Union. A progress report, if you will.

A little background, in case you haven't been keeping track. I re-started my radio career back in 2007 or so, working for a small country station in Northern New York. It was a career move, but not a career maker. It was a stepping stone--and I knew it at the time. I had a plan in place, and that little station was my Way Back In. After a couple years there, I made the next major move in my career: I took over hosting the morning show at the biggest country station in the county--and, simply put, number One station in the area. It was a big jump, and a good one. But it was still a stepping stone. It was close to where I wanted to be, but I wasn't there yet.

I realized, at some point in my journey, that what I wanted, what I felt called to, was to be back in Christian Radio. I had some experience there, and loved it. I loved the ministry, the people... just about everything, and I wanted it again. The Family, a Christian Radio network in NE and Central Wisconsin and I found one another seven years ago. After much prayer and consideration, my wife and I decided it was the right move, the right time, and suddenly, I was exactly where I wanted to be. The Family was my career choice. It was where I wanted to stay, and when I said goodbye to radio forever, I wanted to retire from The Family.

I say this so you'll understand: When I lost my job, it wasn't simply losing a job. It was losing what I had literally spent years of my life working toward. It turned out, I was half-right about The Family being the ultimate place from which I would end my career in radio. It was indeed the end of my radio career as I had known it. It has taken me some time to come to terms with this fact. After over a decade in the industry I loved, after seven years as a morning radio host and five years working in a ministry I felt passionately called to, my career was over. Yes, I made an attempt here and there to kick it back into gear... but nothing was right. Nothing was that foot back I so desperately wanted. I had begun a new chapter in my life--and I knew I had done so--but that chapter wasn't even close to what I thought it was. The reality was, and is, I am done with radio as I know it. Or, perhaps more to the point, it is finished with me.

It occurs to me, I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was. Like all good stories, there was indeed some foreshadowing. Burgeoning interests in the creative aspects of voice work and writing that my career simply couldn't support. I had begun taking on side gigs, looking for something else to fill what was a slowly-growing void in my plans. If I should have been surprised by anything, it should have been this: that this position I had worked so hard to attain was not, could not be, enough.

I had studied film production. Was and am a writer. A creator. I have always been in love with storytelling. There was a time that the standard radio format had a place for storytellers. This is no longer the case. As I was coming into my own on a path I couldn't understand was slowly being overgrown with the underbrush of expediency, Radio as a format was leaving people like me behind. My last conversation with my General Manager and HR Director was merely the final nail in a coffin that was being built around my without my noticing it.

And so, a new chapter began. If you've been keeping up, you know something about that new chapter. The decision to go into business for myself as a freelance Voice Actor. The support of my amazing and ever-loving wife. What you couldn't know--because I didn't--was that even this hasn't been a destination itself, but a wandering in the wilderness. More steps to a future that is still uncertain.

But it--neither this chapter nor the last--hasn't been without its signposts. That growing desire to become the storyteller I wanted to be. A budding interest in telling these stories through audio. A fascination with, and love of, audio drama. Of writing. Even of acting. Of using my words and my voice to tell weave stories.

And so, just over two years after losing what I had thought of as my life's work, I see the end of yet another chapter--or rather, the beginning of another. Yes, I am still a freelance Voice Actor, and will remain so for the forseeable future. But is this my career? I don't know. I've recently begun branching out into podcasting and, even more recently, into podcast editing and consultation.

Thanks to my agent, I have even begun branching out into onscreen work. Acting, after a fashion, and have been advised to grow my skills in this area as well. Yet another signpost that nearly went by unnoticed.

Since losing my job in radio, I have acted in a short film, as well as multiple audio dramas (indeed, I had worked in several while still hosting my morning show). I have done voice work for multiple clients, including everything from commercial announcing to video narration, to voice acting animated characters.

All of which is a foreshadowing of this next chapter.

This Tuesday, I am driving out to Chicago to record my first paid, professional audio drama. A story written and produced by a man who has amazing credits in this field (co-writer of the Left Behind: The Kids audio series, a writer on the G.A. Henty audio drama adaptations, and others), it is called The Jake Muller Adventures. Not only am I blessed to work with someone with so much experience in this field, but my fellow actors and other crew on this project are amazing in their own right. I've been geeking out a bit for the last month with the knowledge that, among the actors in this new series is Adventures In Odyssey co-creator Phil Lollar(!). And there are others, too, who are amazingly credentialed, and among whom I am a neophyte in a room of masters. It is our hope that these episodes we're recording next week will be just the start of a phenomenal series, and I am overjoyed to be a part of it now, in its early stages.

Then, in early December, I am taking a supporting role in an upcoming independent feature film. I'll be detailing more about this as we move forward, but suffice to say, I am equally excited about this new venture.

The point is, I have made a discovery, and have rediscovered some old truths. First, a lesson relearned over and over again: God is good. I don't always know where I'm going or, as a favorite song says, what He's doing. But I know who He is. Sometimes I just need a reminder that I'm walking blind with a Guide who already knows the destination.

Second, a discovery: It's never too late to dream something new. The death of an old dream isn't the end if you're willing to keep dreaming. It's the end of the year, over two years after my dream died. I am forty years old. Yet, with my wife and children standing with me, with a God who loves me, I am starting over. I'm doing something new. I am beginning a new chapter. I don't know what it's about yet, but I can't wait to find out.