I Can’t Say “Lake Titicaca”


Why don’t people notice when their speech is goofed up?  Does that guy with a lisp just not realize that everyone around him is able to pronounce sibilants that he always misses?  Does that girl who makes all her Ms into Bs and her Ns into Ds because she’s restricting exhalations from her nose not hear that other folks aren’t doing this?

I think that we get used to the little handicaps we introduce into our speech for one subconscious reason or another.  They become a part of our habit and are effectively invisible.  Or inaudible, rather.

Nothing brings those errors into crisp contrast than recording yourself speaking, and then listening back.  Most folks dislike hearing their own recorded voice, due to the fact that it is a different experience than hearing it as you speak.  When you speak, you experience both internal and external stimuli, so when the sound is separated from your body and played back, it sounds foreign.  You don’t like it because it isn’t you, isn’t a sound you would want coming from you.  And it’s embarrassing, because you realize it’s how everyone else hears you.

I use that example to help guitarists understand why they hate the sound of their rigs miked up and recorded.  When you are playing with an amplifier in the room, all that low-end boom from the cabinet and the reflections of the room make up part of your sensory experience.  As does the feeling of playing it, of having that resonating instrument in your hands.  Separating and playing back the sonic response from a point right in front of a speaker (where the mic is) takes away much of the original experience and thus, much of the enjoyment.

For the last couple months I have been recording my own voice, reading Shame the Devil, a novel I published a few years ago.  Recording an audiobook.

It’s been hell.

I sit there and read a sentence, hear myself missing syllables, slurring consonants, having weird vocal breaks in the middle of passages that you can only understand by using context . . . and then I do it again, and again, and again.  Trying to stop that behavior.  Failing.

And it gets worse.  There are a lot of parts of speech I simply cannot pronounce.  Normal things that when I try to mouth them, cannot be uttered by the equipment in my head.  Like the word grasp.  I can pronounce it all the way out to the P, but put it in a sentence and I cannot do so without taking so much time it breaks the sentence in two and ruins the rhythm.  “Trying to understand more than he could grasp put him in a difficult situation” becomes “Trying to understand more than he could grass, puh, put him in a difficult situation”.  I hear it, I know I’m doing it and I know what I’m doing wrong, yet I cannot change it.

I should have taken speech class in elementary school.

My Ss are too soft.  My Ts are often missed or only implied.  My CHs are inconstant.  I can’t seem to get out of an M fast enough to keep rhythm, so I either sit on it too long or avoid it altogether, making “mountains” into “mmmountains” and making “permanent” into “peranent”.  I cannot say “Lake Titicaca” more than once unless I am allowed to take four seconds to do it.  I cannot say “Lake Tiki Titicaca” at all.  Not even once.  Maybe if I have eight seconds.  It should only take about one second.

My advice to you, is never to record your own voice.  It’s like going into a bathroom somewhere, and looking at yourself in a mirror under that weirdly penetrative fluorescent light that exposes every bit of skin damage you’ve had since you were eight years old, and makes you look like you haven’t slept this month.  It’s reflective of a part of you your brain has willfully trained itself to ignore.  Sometimes, ignorance is best.

However, if you’d like to hear me masticate an entire novel with my nasal, error-laden, lisping, always-sounds-like-he-has-a-cold voice, you should absolutely listen to me read my novel.

You can get the audiobook for cheap or free, or just check out a three-minute sample of it, at the Amazon page for Shame the Devil.  Just click on the mic:



How Do You Write Therapeutically?


Greetings and welcome back. Last week’s entry unveiled a new top-level page here at The Octopode, all about Salamander City, the forest acreage and log cabin I work on every week. If you missed it, head on over and check it out. It will be an ongoing subject of future blogs here.

Today I’m unveiling something else for you, unrelated: a new Misfortune 500! Let me ask you, what does the picture above make you think of?  If you had to spin a very short horror tale around what is in that picture, what would be about?  Take 120 seconds to read 500 words of horror having to do with that image, I fucking dare you.

Now, for a little bit of content specific to today’s title.

On March 10, my dearest friend and closest companion finished his sixteen years of life as a canine on planet Earth. Blake was, simply put, the best. I adore him. His passing and his absence have been extremely difficult.

Friends, and the vet who helped me let him go, have given advice and a shoulder to cry on. Donations were made in his name to animal welfare organizations. Cards were sent. Gifts. It’s been really nice to have people looking out for me as I travel through this grief.

One of the things that was recommended to me by the vet is to write a memoir of Blake’s life. Upon receiving this suggestion I immediately thought of two important lessons I’d already learned the hard way: first, writing has always been a balm for me. I’ve set down volume upon volume in efforts to grapple with pain in the past. Second, I know that when I am in a state of grief, I must take all advice that is given, on faith.

And that is a bit of wisdom I’d pass on to you if I can: when you are in pain, you can only gain from following advice given to you.

Even if it’s not good advice, you will gain the experience and the knowledge, and you will be actively working toward your own betterment, which is significant regardless of what it entails. Plus, when you’re in a hard emotional place it is difficult to think critically about advice given to you. You can’t trust your own valuation of such things. So, just take the advice that is given by people who care about you. Do the thing. You won’t regret it.

Now for my question to you. I decided to abstain from reading about memoirs. I have read autobiographies but never memoirs, and I am completely unfamiliar with the style. I don’t even know the form. The voice. The intent. I felt that just diving into it and trying to find what felt best to write would be the most therapeutic way to handle it. And it’s working. As memories occur, I relish my next writing session when I can set them down in the memoir.

What is your impression of writing therapeutically, and do you choose to freewrite or use an established form for this? Do you share the work? Do you even revise it?

How do you use writing as therapy?

Comment below.