Whenever I think of myself as a writer it’s easy to fall back to a love of stories and storytelling as the reason why I have always dreamed of venturing down this path. But that reason, while true in some respect, doesn’t quite manage to hit the mark. My love of writing began when I was fourteen, and quite possibly before that, and that wish to become a writer was born out of one simple desire: to find my voice.
The truth is that ever since the age of five my voice hasn’t been the most reliable tool I have. I have a stutter. And it was from those early difficulties with speech that I felt a pull towards finding something, anything, that could help me find the voice I didn’t have. My difficulties with speech, as you can imagine, carried with them the typical response from kids my own age. I was teased and picked on, as is true of anyone that appears somewhat different from everyone else. The truth is that I might well have been just as much of a shy kid were it not for that little obstacle in life, but in the end that question didn’t really matter. I couldn’t talk, not the way that all other kids could, and that was really the only thing that mattered to me. If my voice didn’t want to work, I had to find something else that would.
So, I started writing.
As a teenager I had a notebook that I carried with me when I went to school, and in that notebook I began to weave together stories that were inspired by anything and everything that I could think of. In 1993 I became enamored with a little TV show that debuted in September of that year, The X-Files, and from that experience I had an idea. I imagined a story about a secretive group of men and women who kept the existence and presence of extraterrestrial life from the public. It became a tale rife with murder and intrigue and a main character desperately seeking redemption, and I did it all by hand. I wish I could tell you that I still have that story, even after all these years, but sadly it was lost somewhere along the way. It was my first attempt at writing something that wasn’t a class assignment, and I often regard it as the moment when I realized that telling stories was something that I loved to do. Perhaps someday I might reimagine that tale again, but for now it will have to suffice as a memory of the spark that first set me on this journey.
There were other moments too. In an English class in high school I chose, as part of an assignment on Macbeth, to a write modern adaptation of the First Act of that famous play. It was a challenge that I relished, an opportunity to continue what was a fledgling attempt at defining the kind of writer that I longed to be. While other students bemoaned the moment when a teacher would hand down an essay assignment, I delighted at the opportunity to write. Any chance to play with, shape and mold the words that often eluded me in vocal speech was a chance that I was ecstatic to embrace. So… I wrote. I experimented. I flitted between short stories that were dark, humorous and full of intrigue. And all the while I became more and more convinced that this was what I was meant to do.
Of course, life often guides you down another path. And over the long years since High School I continued to write, whenever I found the time or motivation, but I failed at every turn to pursue this dream in the way that I once believed I would. But it’s never too late to chance a dream.
So here I am.
I still stutter, of course, and I always will. I have good days and bad days, and I often wonder what life might be like if I could speak as easily as others do. I suppose that’s an unavoidable consequence of carrying that little obstacle around with me for all these years. But, in truth, I don’t regret the challenges of my impediment, because for all the difficulty that it brought me, it led me to the place I am. I’m a writer now, and the days of holding back and waiting for the perfect moment have come and gone. By the end of this year my debut novel, “The Girl in the Storm”, will be available in e-book and paperback… and I couldn’t be more thrilled. There will be many other books to come, two in the series that chronicles the journey of Genevieve Reidell (the girl of “The Girl in the Storm”), and a few short stories along the way.
In the end, I found my voice. And for a while I didn’t think I would. I’m glad that I was wrong. If you want to know more about stuttering, or have someone in your life who struggles with it, please visit https://www.stutteringhelp.org/ or https://www.westutter.org/.
Somewhere out there is someone like me, struggling to find their voice. Help them find it.