I survived recording the audiobook for my book, and I’m back home in Austin! Or, at least I think I survived. I’m still in a half-delirious state where I half suspect I may have died somewhere around chapter 26, and this is the afterlife.
…In which case, Purgatory is a lot noisier than I thought it would be.
We recorded the book with a brand new setup, and while the experts were figuring out how to get it done, I jumped in to offer my own expertise (cue Jaws soundtrack). I did some experiments with a digital recorder at home, and based on those results sent them a confident estimate of how long it should take to record the book. I would soon find out the hard way that my estimate was off…by 50%.
We recorded for a few hours on Monday, and only got 25% of the way through the book. On Tuesday I gave an hour-long talk to the staff in the morning, and then I absolutely had to finish the book by the end of the day, since my flight left the next day.
(By “absolutely had to” I mean: I didn’t absolutely have to, since the folks at Ignatius and Lighthouse are so understanding and gracious that they would have happily found another solution if I had said that I was too worn out to finish it on this trip, but I got into this mode where I said to myself, “BY GRABTHAR’S HAMMER, WE SHALL HAVE A COMPLETED AUDIOBOOK BEFORE I STEP ONTO THAT PLANE BACK TO AUSTIN,” and I decided that I was going to get it done or die trying.)
Long story short: I read for the audiobook from 11:00 AM until 11:45 PM on Tuesday, after giving the talk to the staff in the morning. So I spoke for about 14 hours straight, with only two short breaks to eat.
Like I said. I’m still not sure that I did survive.
One of the biggest sources of delays was looking up pronunciation. Some of the words we had to stop and look up:
Ahaziah, abiogenesis, Bacharach, cumulonimbus, imbroglio, Manichaean, prothrombin, Tolkien, ulnar
…And a bunch more. If you had asked me last week if I know how to pronounce these things, I would have shrugged and said sure. But when this was going to be recorded for all posterity, in a format that allows people to jump back and listen to a stupid and wrong pronunciation over and over again, I suddenly had a whole lot less confidence in my verbal skills.
There is this one passage where I talk about my initial impressions of the Bible. It’s a passage I wrote straight from the heart about how charmed I was by Paul’s letters. It brought tears to my eyes all the other times I read it, as it drew me back into fond memories of my first encounters with the Scriptures. And then I came across it again at 10:00 at night, after eleven straight hours of reading.
This time my reaction was utter despair as I scanned the paragraph, which says:
I smiled as I read Paul’s warm greetings from prison to his friends Philemon and Apphia…I loved all the shoutouts throughout his letters, to men and women like Aquila and Prisca, Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, with the occasional interjection about how fondly he regarded their friendships.
ALL THE NAMES. Each one having to be pronounced EXACTLY RIGHT. I briefly wondered if it would freak out the sweet audio engineer if I started banging my head on my desk and screaming, “I HATE WORDS!!!!”
If I ever write another book and I think there’s even a slight possibility there will be an audiobook, the entire thing will only have about 25 different words in it.
I read the book verbatim…except for one word. At around 11:00 PM, I came to a line in Chapter 33 where I wrote that I did something “listlessly.” Have you ever tried to say listlessly when you’re extremely tired? It’s the perfect exhaustion / sobriety test, because you cannot say the word listlessly unless you can bring your A-game.
And at that point in the evening, I could not. I tried over and over again, the engineer and I stifling laughs every time something like “LITH-liss-lee” came out, and finally we admitted defeat.
So the audiobook is an exact match of the printed book…minus one word. You will not hear “listlessly” in the audiobook.
It was so great to meet everyone at Lighthouse, the company that did the recording. The staff was as friendly and welcoming as they could be, and it was inspiring to see a company that does great work and is centered on prayer.
I’ve given them a plug before, but I just have to say again: If you have questions about any tough theological subject — why would a loving God allow suffering? what proof is there for God’s existence? — Lighthouse has a CD that addresses it, and they’re all inexpensive. Take a look at the list of subjects their CDs cover. I highly recommend picking up a couple for Lenten listening.
One of the things I gave up for Lent is skipping songs on my iPod. I can choose the playlist, but I can’t move to another song if I’m not in the mood for one that’s playing.
When I told Joe, he was like, “Don’t wear yourself out there, St. John of the Cross!” But I defend this as a good Lenten sacrifice. I was inspired by a post Betty Duffy wrote way back in 2009 that has stuck with me ever since. She said:
Now I go for walks and listen to the ipod which is filled with a lot of classical music, a lot of folk, a lot of rock, and a bit of country. I set it on “shuffle” and skip song after song that appears on the screen. “No. Not that. Can’t tolerate this one right now. Does not match my mood.” Music must serve me by sustaining desired feelings or changing undesirable ones. And it had better not challenge me, because my life is challenging enough.
It’s sad because it is yet another sign of my insistence on making everything I touch, see, hear, taste, or smell reflect my emotions and my experience. And it is another sign of how almost all technological gadgetry has the ability to foster narcissism.
I think of those last two sentences almost every time I skip through song after song on my iPod, not giving them a chance because they aren’t a perfect reflection of my current state of mind. I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong…but I do think that it’ll be a surprisingly good exercise to force myself to seek inspiration in what I am given, rather than trying to force it on my own.
I’m speaking at Ignited by Truth in Raleigh, NC in a few weeks! Anyone want to take bets on whether my suitcase from this trip will be unpacked before then?