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Learning or gut instinct?

British Voice Actor. Craig Williams

Have you ever been in a situation where you second guess yourself, but you know deep down, your initial inclination was correct? That unexplained feeling deep inside you that seems to know best. Yeah, it happens to us all and reminds me of a recent discussion I had with a group of my creative colleagues.

We were talking about coaching and training. Within my industry (Voiceover), it is considered best practice to study with a renowned coach/mentor that can help develop your talent further. Hey, I have to admit that I work with one of the best in LA. But the conversation we had took an interesting turn and not one that gets discussed very much. Can too much coaching or learning dilute your creativity to a point where you are not “you” anymore?

Boy oh boy, did that lead us down a path we weren’t expecting! The dialogue was fascinating, fluid and full of passion. Everyone agreed on one thing: that working with a coach or mentor has improved how they perceive themselves as a creative professional. The interesting thing we found was that there was always a caveat. Every single person said there were numerous times where they wanted to follow that primal feeling deep within themselves. The one that they thought would lead them in the right direction. And then the voice of their training would guide them elsewhere.

Now this affects nearly all aspects of our creative industry. A cinematographer may be taught during his training the best way to shoot in certain situations based on industry norms. A sound designer may find that best way mix sound is actually handed down from an older generation. A director may learn some fantastic techniques from a mentor. A motion designer may be taught to build his models in a certain way. Break this down and everything we are told is simply passed down knowledge from other creatives who are more experienced than ourselves. Break it down further and it is just one human passing his or her knowledge to another human.

And there lies the conundrum. We obviously need the training to get better at our respective crafts and it is only natural that we would rely on successful, knowledgeable and respected individuals. Who wouldn’t want to learn from the best like Spielberg, Gary Rydstrom, Edwin Catmull or Don LaFontaine? But what if some of the things that they taught prevented that spark inside us? What if they had an opinion on a certain process that was so ingrained in them that they thought it should apply to all of their students? What if they subdued a part of us that was meant to be a game changer?

So, the million-dollar question is which is the correct path to take? Well, I wish it was that simple or should I say I wish I had the knowledge and experience to give you an answer. I don’t. In truth, I don’t think there is a perfect answer. My best guess is that you should keep all of your learned information in your “art box”. Every new project is an opportunity to go out and play. It is up to you to choose which parts of your “art box” are used each time you play. And the best part is that you have complete creative control of what you use and how you use it. That is where your primal extinct comes in. Where that feeling deep down inside has the chance to get out and show itself to the world. If you don’t trust in yourself and your creative ability, then the world could miss out on a moment that could be truly amazing. That can’t be taught!

For more information about my voice over services, please visit British Voice Over, Craig Williams.

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