You Gotta Turn It Off To Turn It On
May 26, 2015
Enjoying what you do for a living or career is important on many levels. If the work doesn't provide a dose of adrenalin on a daily basis, then it's a job. Whenever we do something we love, it's not work.
The air personalities in traditional radio and all forms of audio presentation for entertaining or informing are creative types. Once a jock always a jock; I still get a high from remembering the thrill I would get from being on the air. The ultimate glow would come from meeting listeners and having them tell me how much they enjoyed something I did or said. It gave me the inspiration to work at my craft and to hone my skills as much as I could. Even better was to have a fellow air personality from another station tell me they liked my work.
The creative thing we do, which spills out over the air and the Internet, can be a constant high. The question all of us face from time to time is how to keep things fresh. The learning process for air personalities never stops. The ability to communicate concisely and connect with listeners is an acquired skill. However, the formula for performing to the max does not necessarily come from anything jock-related; it comes from the ability to balance between creative focus and escapism.
I know it sounds crazy since we are the escape for a lot of listeners, but to maximize the creative flow, you need to step away and just be. Nope, I'm not talking about daydreaming, but finding something that puts your mind in a relaxed state and allows you to replenish the creative within. I know this sounds a bit philosophical, but it is truly about learning the rest stops so we can continue to have fun and put smiles on the faces of the listeners.
For me being on the air was like a drug, I could never get enough and on a daily basis I could not wait to get back behind the mic. To get lost in the juggling of liners, music and bursts of planned adlibs to reinforce artists and songs; it was a passion. Do it all over a 10-second intro, or in less than 20 seconds, going into a commercial break.
I was exchanging e-mails with a jock who wanted me to critique his work and I shared with him what I thought was just as important as his on-air skills.
Jock: How do you know when you have said enough? I am also having problems with coming up with ways to express myself on the air.
Coach: Think about those times you have been in a meeting and you thought to yourself, "Okay I've got it, when are they going to go on to something else or shut up?"
Jock: OMG, all the time, especially with my mom.
Coach: There you go, relate that back to being on the air, get to the point and don't drag anything out. Listeners have a short attention span. Unless it is a programming directive, never more than one thought per talk-set. Now creatively, a personality can literally tie things together with a few connecting words and vocal inflection. It's easy to teach.
Jock: Cool, hey I am having a hard time with stuff to talk about around the liners and back-sells, what is the trick?
Coach: The trick is, stop trying so hard and live outside the moment as often as possible when you are not on the air.
Jock: Now you lost me ... explain.
Coach: Do you always think about your air act?
Jock: Yes, I'm always trying to get better.
Coach: If you stay in the moment, you are going to miss some moments. Mental clarity is important. By staying in the radio thing, you do not allow your brain to maximize itself for the purposes of creativity and function. Staying focused has its place, but sometimes not focusing can help us focus.
In the last episode of Mad Men, Don Draper was again off on one of his dropout-of-life moments. He traveled across country to try and put his job of advertising on hold. He seemed to be searching for the meaning of life and himself. But the last scene put him and his creative process in focus. As he was sitting in the Lotus position and chanting, his creative kicked in and he saw his vision for an ad campaign for Coke. It was great and also got me to rethink all those naps he took over the years in his office. Even his boozing and womanizing made more sense. Don Draper was always looking for a break to allow his brain some downtime.
Jock: You're saying I should just not think sometimes?
Coach: More or less, yes. But a better way to put it, every day you should do something for yourself that has nothing to do with radio. Something you enjoy. Maybe it's a hobby; something with the kids if you have a family; go to the gym ... reading, or anything which allows mental downtime from the realities of your air work.
Jock: Should I try and veg out on the weekend?
Coach: Nope, it is an everyday approach. Only escaping during the weekend is like cramming for a test. Living for the weekend will not give you enough downtime to deal with an entire week of creativity. It means you might have a great Monday, but the possibilities of sustainability are not there. It has to be a daily thing and a long lunch won't do it. Lunch is a food thing, not an escape. No a planned daily thing that you can enjoy. When you're ready to zone back to radio, your creative juices will be fresh.
Jock: So I need to learn how to relax each day for a certain amount of time.
Coach: Yes ... and the amount of time will depend on you. I can work with you on how to get better on the air. But you have to work at keeping your mind fresh enough to take advantage of all the things we work on together.
Certain activities don't require the same amount of energy and time. It is self-defeating if you approach mental downtime like work.