My last post here was in July. In keeping with the theme, you could say I was hibernating, but that’s not really true. Life, work, projects, recording: all these things fought for my time and unfortunately what suffered was the amount I had left for a volunteer position I loved as a contributing editor here at designingsound.org. Unlike our wild mammalian sisters and brothers, sometimes hibernation is an involuntary action.
Seeing as how this is our final month, I couldn’t just let another month slip by, thinking, “crap I don’t have time, I’ll get something together for next month.” Whether it’s a job or a volunteer position, there is no way to know if there will be a next month.
And what do we do as creative professionals if suddenly the work dries up, or we’re still chasing that first gig? Do we go into hibernation and think, “I’ll try again later.” To do so can be career suicide, not to mention a defeatist mindset that is best confronted with some honest self-reflection. So while this site may be entering an indeterminate hibernation period I want to rant, beg or plead that no one follow suit.
Fortunately, as mentioned in Jack’s introduction this month, while the site may be in stasis, it’s not going anywhere, so all the great content that lives here will still be accessible for inspiration, research, and passing the time trying to decide who made the best use of a royalty-free photo. I wanted to leave the site with a final rumination on some of the key aspects that have kept me inspired and employed for the past couple decades. Most of these issues have been topics I’ve written about here previously and I hope they serve as a fitting send off for designingsound.org and may serve to inspire the wonderful audio community.
Never Stop Learning
Perhaps the most critical mantra we must all remember daily is to never, ever get complacent and rest on what you know or what you’ve done in the past. We are in a fascinating duality of both creative and technical industries and this forces us to be continually evolving our practice, learning new tools, and forever honing our craft. If we are not challenging ourselves daily, we’re failing ourselves and inevitably falling behind the ever shifting times. If someone were to tell you 10 years ago that an old technology like ambisonics would suddenly become relevant, would you have believed them? And who knows what new invention or discovery is around the corner which will push us even further or open up an idea for someone to explore something entirely new. Whether you’re deciding to finally learn a scripting language, or research panning laws, attempting to construct a never-before-realized DSP, or doing a deep dive into the regional fauna of your next project, every single dose of information we consume affects our work, consciously or not. Knowledge and experience are both cumulative, the more you gain, the stronger your foundation to try something new.
March to Your Own Beat
One of many things I’ve loved about designingsound.org is the various editor’s interpretations of each monthly topic. There was never a box drawn around what we were supposed to write about. We were each given carte blanche to interpret the topic however we saw fit: write an article, interview a person, whatever you feel, just weave it into the topic.
This is an outstanding thing to take away and apply professionally. While it’s a critical part of any creative job, one of our core strengths which is often the first thing to jettison when deadlines loom, is to experiment; and more importantly to not be afraid to fail in doing so. So many great creative moments have stemmed from experimentation or just trying something a little different. It’s so easy to fall into a routine when performing tasks over and over (and even when the sounds are new, we often follow similar patterns when designing). Taking a step back, thinking outside your own personal box, trying to disrupt your normal workflow can often have the benefit of opening new doors, teaching you new techniques and creating new and exciting sounds and workflows.
Do what you love
I’ve previously touched on just how lucky those of us doing sound work professionally are to be doing something we are passionate about as our careers. Even those not yet doing sound professionally are following their passion and finding happiness in this creative outlet. But another aspect that’s critical to keeping you fresh and finding new perspective is not just to enjoy your professional work, but do what you love outside of work as well. There’s some great perspectives on this in a post from September of 2017 where myriad sound people reflected on the things they do outside of work to keep them inspired, refreshed and relaxed. From cooking to running to gardening, working out to photography, and yes, maybe even some field recording on the side, keeping your brain active and learning on fronts beyond audio will also fold back into the inspiration and passion you pour into your sound work.
When I speak to colleagues in other disciplines, they often lament that outside of work there isn’t a lot of external camaraderie and communication for their respective fields. As audio people we are exceptionally fortunate to have an amazing, strong, inclusive community that serves many purposes for many people. As I mentioned earlier, learning is critical to our jobs, and what better way to learn than through colleagues and people who have already faced some of the challenges confronting you. There may be a conference or two a year where people get together and share tips and technology, but only in the audio community does that seem to be a continual practice throughout the year. With the pervasiveness of social media, people from all over the world are connected and sharing their passion and techniques. There are facebook pages devoted to audio, twitter feeds, a seemlingly endless number of Slack channels devoted to everything from sound design to field recording to programming to being a woman in audio. Our community is strong and is something we can each rely on, which is a comfort we must cherish and protect. The key to cultivating community is to give back to it. Every person that wrote for designingsound.org, that volunteered time for an interview or posted a comment about an article all helped foster this community– both DS.org and the greater audio community. And you can too! Whether it’s giving a talk at a conference, writing a blog about something cool you’ve done, sharing something on social media, or engaging the community in a wholly new way, what we have as audio professionals is special, and it’s up to us to keep it that way.
So let me end with a call to action. This website, this community, and the greater audio community have all existed and thrived because of people like you and me opening up to their friends and colleagues sharing stories, techniques, ideas, and support. Whether or not designingsound.org comes back some day, other avenues will open up and thrive, providing us all with this critical component of our daily personal and professional lives. It is on all of us to continue this spirit of giving and sharing for the greater good. We all want to be better at what we do, and the best course of action to succeed is to share your wealth of knowledge and pay it forward.