Writing What I Couldn’t NOT Write


I couldn’t resist the urge any longer. It had gained momentum during a whirlwind of change that seemed to happen all at once. There was little else that I felt more viscerally than finding the words to describe this urgency to write. 

Did anyone else experience this feeling?

I thought, “I’ve never been a good writer. There is no way I can capture what I want to say. Where and how do I begin?” 

It was overwhelming.

On a random day a few months into my final foray into speech therapy, I was sitting on a panel as a guest speaker with other people who stutter. We were vulnerably revealing the most impactful moments of our lives to soon to be minted speech-language pathologists. 

It was my first time speaking publicly about stuttering. 

In that moment, I tripped over my words but not because I was stuttering. Why could I share the stories that haunted and made me who I had become with complete strangers but I couldn’t pass the same words to my pen? 

I couldn’t not write about the lived experience of stuttering.

I almost talked myself out of it, but all that mattered was that I began. When I wasn’t fully ready. When I didn’t know where it would go, or where I wanted it to go. When I didn’t have a daily writing practice, or time to write at all—I was training to become an Ironman triathlete, going to speech therapy, working full time, and growing a new relationship. 

I wrote out the same stories I recounted to the class, about how stuttering influenced every thought, choice, and action, or inaction. In paragraph-less pages, I captured the feelings and emotions that fueled the urgency. The sentences ran on, and on, and on, without order or structure, and with meaning that only made sense to me. 

What I hadn’t learned, however, was that this was the process

The first story was a 653-word moment by moment replay describing the meet up in a snow filled parking lot when my ex-wife told me she wanted a divorce. It flowed on to the page like I was there seated in the driver’s seat recognizing that she had more courage than I to turn the page on our long dead relationship.

Words like these had to come out. 

The emotionality and vividness of my memory consumed these early writing sessions. Other inciting moments lived again through my pen. But, it still felt like my foot was on the breaks.

After a few months, I disrupted the momentum to read. I was shocked by how it didn’t capture what I wanted to convey, aside from it being poorly written. 

I was dejected. 

I had begun to believe that maybe I could write a book and even had the nerve to share this belief with others. How wrong I was. So, I stopped writing.

The problem was I hadn’t fully confronted everything I wanted to write about—my transformative change hadn’t run its course yet. Granted, I shouldn’t have stopped writing because I ultimately lost five years to develop as a writer.

When I began anew, life had slowed down from its breakneck pace. I had the time to read, learn, and listen, and only then did the momentum return. I found masterful storytellers in authors, and podcast hosts and their guests. They told stories of experiences that resonated with me. Through their words mine came alive. 

Tim FerrissRich RollRyan Holiday, and Peter Attia—a life analyst, a recovering alcoholic turned ultra-endurance athlete, a stoic philosopher, and a longevity doctor, respectively. Although an unlikely combination, their honest portrayals of the human experience inspired me to pursue change. 

I set out to cultivate a daily practice that had a profound impact on their lives, journaling every day. Ryan Holiday’s book, The Daily Stoic, became my guide. On 1 January 2018, my real writing journey began. The daily entries prompted the words to flow from my head to the pen. 

Further, to physically build momentum, I handwrote a part of the passages from the book at the top of the journal pages. Once in motion, I attached my own thoughts to the daily teachings and journaled on them for an hour each day. I did this for a full year, 365 journal entries with over 365 hours of training. Before long, I had a daily writing practice. 

The writing style and structure was the same as before, paragraph-less pages filled with run-on sentences and mismatched grammar. Yet, I discovered that I had a lot to write about. 

What was it that I couldn’t not write about? It had evolved from the first attempt. 

The process of how I overcame the debilitating side effects of stuttering to cultivate a life that I had believed was out of my reach. 

I needed to document it, re-create the journey, and, most urgently, share the process. 

How did I start, again? 

I took the hour each morning from The Daily Stoic and transitioned it to sequentially writing the story of my lived experience of stuttering and the process of how I actualized change. No one else could write that story. 

I wrote about my childhood, formative adolescent years, and early experiences as an adult in the real world. The memories were vivid and visceral, traumatic and euphoric, haunting and inspiring. It became a therapeutic exercise in and of itself. What I didn’t quite understand, though, was how journaling could spur and propel change. 

To strip my life bare and put up for review the moments, days, and experiences that made me provided the opportunity to understand what actually happened throughout the course of my life. In turned out that most of the thought-disrupting memories found their proper place on the bookshelf to collect dust while the constructive, action-inducing memories compounded to direct me towards healing and change. 

While I wrote, I had no idea of where each daily healing session was leading me. Without a final destination, the emotions and stories guided me to that which could not remain silenced by stuttering. 

Suddenly, after all that handwriting, I finally had the specific words I needed to write what I truly couldn’t not write. 

Traumadebilitateconfrontationcontinuum of changeilluminatepropelcatalysisenoughreverenceand, most impactful, the three words that best describe the through-life experience of affliction and healingevery waking moment

It surprised me that the more I wrote the more I had to write—the complete opposite of writer’s block. This doesn’t mean it was all easy. I still wrestled with my thoughts while working through the many complexities of the stuttering experience. 

Narrative storytelling gave way to the step-by-step process of how I wore away affliction. When I slowed down to write it out, my experience within the journey became both what I couldn’t not write and my life’s purpose. Fighting through affliction is not unique, but few turn back into their hard-fought battles to show how they did it. 

Finally, this was my one thing that only I could write.

I couldn’t not write about what it physically, mentally, and emotionally felt like to live in wonder about how stuttering ends and how what I did finally rid most of its affliction from my life. 

My pen was enraged by the reality that those who probably already experienced what I had been through never reached back to pull someone like me forward. 

After two full years of handwriting for an hour each morning, I had a very rough draft of a book about my journey through stuttering and change. It was the book that I needed as a child, adolescent, and adult to know everything would work out just fine, and a means through which to extend my hand back. 

Words once trapped behind my stutter fueled and refined my pursuit of what it was that I couldn’t NOT write. 

2 comments on “Writing What I Couldn’t NOT Write”

  1. Wow, an hour every day for two years longhand. That must’ve really resulted in an interesting book, and overcoming your stuttering is a very awesome subject too. Wishing you more days of not being able to NOT write!


    1. Thanks Stuart! Half of the marathon is done, with a draft manuscript, so follow along here or on Twitter, @justconfront, for updates as I move through the publication process. I will write about that experience as well. Cheers


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