When John Hendrickson and I were talking about his memoir, Life on Delay: Making Peace With A Stutter, I asked him about the advice to “find your voice” when your voice so often betrays you.*
He said this beautiful thing that I keep thinking about:
“We all have three voices: the one we think with, the one we speak with, and the one we write with. When you stutter, two of those are always at war.”
“We all have three voices: the one we think with, the one we speak with, and the one we write with. When you stutter, two of those are always at war.” — @JohnGHendy in conversation w/ @austinkleon at @BookPeople
Grab your copy of his incredible memoir ?? https://t.co/DndbfCHlSB pic.twitter.com/vljq2hSNh7
— Sarah Glen (@saraheglen) January 26, 2023
The more I think about it, the more I feel like these voices, if not warring, are always in a weird dance with each other.
Even if you’re fluent, your voice is constantly saying things that your thinking voice disagrees with and needs to correct.
If you’re someone like me, you hear yourself say things with your speaking voice that you haven’t heard your thinking voice say. (Tristan Tzara, obviously not an introvert or a person who stutters, said, “Thought is formed in the mouth.”)
If you’re a writer, your writing voice consistently says things your thinking voice hasn’t said yet, and there’s often a tension between your speaking voice and your writing voice. A writer friend, soon after meeting me in person, said she liked my blackout poems, but she didn’t think they were in the same voice I speak with.
These tensions can be painful, but they also contain energy and possibility. Joe Brainard, another writer who stuttered, said, “Writing, for me, is a way of ‘talking’ the way I wish I could talk.”
* I realize now I was stealing the subtitle of Jake Wolff’s “A Stutterer’s Guide To Writing Fiction.”