I had a plan for this summer (I know: Life is what happens while we’re making plans): I would devote myself to narrating the audiobook version of Bless the Birds, my latest memoir and my 13th book.
I’ve procrastinated narrating the audiobook for the entire two and a half years since Bless the Birds was published, partly because I wanted to do the narration myself. It’s my story. (Also, I narrated the audiobook for my first memoir, Walking Nature Home.)
My excuses were good ones: since the book came out, I’ve moved four times, to three different states, and renovated three houses. And until this condo, which has a walk-in closet in the main bedroom, I haven’t had a place I could turn into a home recording studio.
The real reason? I wasn’t ready. Bless the Birds is an intense story. I needed time and distance, and perhaps every one of those four moves, to prepare myself.
This spring, I blocked out June through late July, the weeks between my two weed-management trips to the ranch, for audiobook narration. First, I had figure out the technical end. I watched some videos about audiobook narration and ordered a new microphone and headphones. I experimented with GarageBand, the recording and editing software, which I last used in 2010. Pretty soon, I thought I had it down.
By mid-June, I had set up my studio in my closet, and begun audio work. I recorded and edited the first few files (the front matter, introduction, and chapters one and two) and after listening to them carefully, decided there was too much background noise.
So I ordered a boom to hang the mic, with a vibration-dampening mount. When they arrived, I reconfigured my “recording desk”–a bookshelf I use as a dresser.
And started recording again. I would record a chapter, listen to the audio track and edit out any flubs–word mistakes, bad pronunciation, etc–and correct pacing issues, and then record another chapter and edit it. I could do two chapters a day before my voice tired.
About two-thirds of the way through the narration, I decided to make some small changes to the read and show the shift in Richard’s physical voice through the story.
That meant re-recording some sections and splicing them in. No problem; I’m good at that. I finished the final audio-edit a few days before I was to leave for Wyoming for my second weed-management stint at the ranch.
Before I left, I talked to an engineer highly recommended for audiobook mastering. When I got home, I uploaded some sample files for him.
A few days later, he called. There was good news, and bad news. The good: “You read well, and your voice is compelling.” The bad: My recording levels were too low; when he boosted the levels, the background noise was too high. “You wouldn’t be happy with the final product,” he said. “I suggest you re-record the whole thing.”
Honestly, I said, I didn’t have the heart to start over right then. “Give it some time,” he advised.
I realized that I had just learned a life lesson I managed to avoid for more than 66 years: I can’t do everything myself. Sometimes it’s best to ask for help–before I jump in.
Growing up, I was the small, often sickly kid who struggled to keep up with her adored older brother. My first sentence, my mother said once, was “Do it myself!”
I have always believed I could. And here I am at 66, still trying to prove myself. It seems that it’s time for a change.
I called The Guy and poured out my disappointment, and added my realization about not always being able to do everything myself. As I said those words, I remembered one of the few real arguments we had. “You never ask for help!” The Guy said back then, clearly frustrated. “I need to know I bring something to the relationship!”
Now, I reminded The Guy of his words and said, “You were right.” He didn’t gloat. “Yes,” he simply said. “That’s an important realization.” He asked what I planned to do.
“I’m going to look for a recording studio nearby,” I said, “and in the meantime, the new book is taking all of my attention.” I could hear his affirmative nod over the miles between us. “Patience is good,” he said, voice dry.
“Another thing I’m not good at,” I said, and we both laughed.
Learning sometimes comes hard and takes time to digest. Still, I’m grateful to continue to grow.
What have you learned about yourself lately?