I've seen it said that it takes 10,000 repetitions of a skill to master it. I've also read that it takes 10,000 hours of time to master a skill. Either way, that's a LOT of work to really become a master at anything.
By those standards, I don't think I'm a master of many things - like, at all. Even as far as nursing goes, I haven't spent 10,000 hours placing IVs, giving CPR, placing catheters, etc.
What I CAN confidently say is that I've incorrectly done a multitude of things incorrectly probably tens of thousands of times, perhaps making me a master at that. My wife will attest to that. I suspect that she stores the EXIF data pertaining to all of my incorrect actions in some kind of database in her brain. While I might, in the swirling ether of vague ideas and thoughts of my head, have some kind of recollection or idea of something she may have done incorrectly in the past...she is completely able to recount the exact time of day, weather, my clothing, GPS coordinates, and other various details of any mistake or transgression I may have accidentally caused. I am unable to pull the same kind of witchery, usually resulting in the judge calling a mistrial whenever I bring anything to the table.
And such is life.
I kid, I kid. She's fantastically supportive and has my back - which is so important in a wonderful partner.
But getting back to mastery! We seem to live in an age where everybody claims to be an expert at everything (I know you have a friend or two who may have acquired a Masters Degree from Facebook University perhaps over the past few years). If you've spent any time on the internet where people have a platform for their opinions and voice, it turns out that everybody knows everything. Even my patients regularly tell me that they know better than me...which sometimes, is completely true because I sure as hell don't live in their bodies. Other times, it's completely false because those abscesses DO need to be drained and they're septic - but hey, what do I know.
I often wonder if this seemingly golden age of access to information has become the golden age of misinformation.
There is no knowledge that is not power. And that sword, it seems, can cut both ways. Misinformation, we have learned, can be weaponized for rather insidious and divisive purposes. As written about previously, I had a coworker who believed that Bill Gates murdered something to the tune of a half million little girls in India during a vaccine trial of sorts. Another colleague I spoke with some time recently felt the need to inform me that the COVID-19 vaccine actually gave people COVID infections and those people were filling up the ICUs. I found that claim in particular ironic to hear in a hospital setting.
(Just for the record, my dear readers - the numbers show that if you are vaccinated against COVID-19 and have the misfortune of being exposed to COVID, you still might end up in the hospital. The general/non ICU COVID units do contain a minority of patients who are vaccinated. ICU COVID patients are overwhelmingly unvaccinated. The vaccine appears to help your body fight off #COVID-19 and generally prevents severe cases. Honestly, that's all I could hope for in a vaccine myself).
What I'm getting at here is that it's very easy to do things the wrong way. Knowingly or unknowingly. And it's very easy to get good at that, or to reinforce a bad habit. We may do that so much so, that we forget to stop, self-reflect, and see just how poorly we're doing with whatever it is that we're practicing. Can you imagine how hard it would be to un-master a mastered bad habit or belief? That sounds like almost just as much work as it took to get there in the first place!
I love the world of voiceover and voice acting. I've spent the last couple of years learning as much as I can about it, and I'm only really starting to get confident to be eager about putting myself out there. I look at where I was a year ago, two years ago, THREE years ago, and the difference is so palpable. And still in the big picture, I am still just getting started. I wouldn't be comfortable with calling myself anything CLOSE to a master. But I can say that I've come a long way and I'm still eager to do more.
A great example of one thing that's improved immensely since I started learning about voiceovers and voice acting is my audition process, technique, and editing.
When I first started, I simply started with whatever free software was out there. For me, that was Audacity. My audition time would be spent reading through the script, then listening carefully to it. I had a routine for editing and cleaning my audio:
Highlight a "quiet space" in the recording to use for Audacity's noise reduction function.
A little compression to mellow out any peaks in the recording
Some normalization to bring the recording to -3db.
And then if there were any blaring mouth clicks I could hear, I'd zoom way, WAY in on the recording and try to surgically remove it without hurting the rest of what was recorded.
At first, this process...was painfully slow. An audition could take up to 45 minutes to an hour before it was ready to be sent off. Here were some of my big areas of growth:
If one section of the audition was botched, I'd re-record the entire thing. THE ENTIRE THING. I don't think the notion that you could re-record only a small section and edit that in would dawn on me for a while.
I would re-record a LOT of takes that all sounded very, VERY similar. I would get picky about how I wanted something to sound - like a case of audio tunnel-vision, if you would. And yet If I took the time to step back and listen to one take vs. another, in all honesty, they sounded terribly similar.
I'd change my voice for the mic. Don't know why - I don't think it was deliberate or conscious. But when I knew that the mic was on, suddenly I wasn't talking quite like myself. I mean it's one thing to enunciate and speak clearly, but it was like I'd unintentionally add a slight nasal tone to what I was saying. Remember - behind the mic, you're generally selling YOU or a distinct persona. Be comfortable!
I don't want to say these were ways that I was sabotaging myself, because I learned from all of it and got better at this. Just as important as knowing what to do is knowing what not to do. I try to consider any "wasted" time valuable, so long as there is a lesson learned from it.
When you're able to recognize that something you're doing can be done better or differently, you start recognizing previous mistakes that lead you down less efficient paths and you start becoming more proficient overall at what you do. You're able to catch yourself fussing over things that don't matter, before they do matter in a way that's not productive.
I also started getting better at visually recognizing things on the recording that looked funky or off - like mouth clicks. With time and repetition, I was developing the muscle memory to my "usual" set of light tweaks to add to my audio.
Eventually, I would upgrade to Reaper - which allows you to create your own "bundle" of edits and tweaks you want automatically applied to your recording. That was incredibly helpful in speeding up the auditioning process as well. Now, instead of manually adding each effect I wanted to the recording I had just made, it was all automatically applied the moment I stopped recording. If I had what I thought to be a perfect read or take, there would be no additional editing needed.
Audition times have gone from 45 minutes to maybe just a couple. Does any of this make me a master in voiceover? Haha, no.
But for what it's worth, it also likely means there are very, very few masters out there.
What it means to me is that I've learned. And I continue to learn. And that I've become proficient to a degree that I'm able to see the importance of how far I've come and I value the time that's gone into getting me to where I am. I wish there was a quick fix to that eagerness we all have to be amazing at the things we do, but the simple fact of life is if we want to be really great at the things we care about being great at, we have to pour our time into those vessels. That's the only thing that will get us there. And try not to spill too much, either - that's easy to do.