This is the second article in a series of posts chronicling my journey through audiobook production, from conception to publication on Amazon Audible. In this article, I write about my training efforts to build up my stuttering and communicative endurance so that I can record the audiobook in its entirety. It will include descriptions of my daily reading sessions, an in depth look at the cognitive and physiological toll it takes, and honest thoughts on how I am progressing, or not. There will be another similar article later in the series that will show my progress from before and after recording.
Summary of Journey
In the first article, Doubt & Fear, you read about my inner struggle as I worked through some of the concerns I wrestled with before deciding whether to narrate my own audiobook with a stutter.
- I will record it myself.
Since publishing the first article, Amazon Audible’s Audiobook Creation Exchange quality assurance team responded to my inquiry about whether they would accept a recording with my stutter-filled voice. Their response: “After reviewing the case presented in your email with the Audio and QA team, they have indicated that the audio presenting some stuttering as you mention on the email would not be an obstacle.” Some is the key word there, but at least this is something to refer back to when the time comes to submit the recorded audio.
Finding a Studio
Before I could officially make a decision, I had to find a studio to do the recordings, ideally with an audio engineer to edit and produce the audiobook. After a little research, I found a studio nearby that appeared to fit my needs, a small room with a microphone and a team of audio engineers. I contacted them via email and awaited a response.
Two weeks passed without a response until I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. “Hi, is this Christopher? This is Rusty from the recording studio. I saw your email and was wondering if you’re still interested in scheduling some studio time.” I confirmed I was very much interested and explained more about what I was looking to do since the studio specialized in music and vocal recording rather than audiobooks.
Rusty was a delightful older gentleman, a patient listener with a warm scruffy voice. As we talked, I felt comfortable discussing stuttering and asking questions about how he would handle the editing with my stutter and inevitable blocks. His responses were textbook, as if someone had warned him I would be asking him questions about stuttering. He said we would work together to determine what would be left in, second by second, to ensure the end result was authentic and not made to sound better.
This was reassuring. I told Rusty I would call back in a few weeks to arrange a tour of the studio and to schedule the recording sessions.
However, I still had to show myself that I could do it. I needed to test my voice by practicing reading the manuscript aloud. I had yet to do so.
I had to start somewhere and, for me, that usually means jumping in head first without much of a plan and allowing myself to figure it out and make adjustments. With stuttering, though, it had taken years to build up to my current level of conversational endurance. Reading aloud while being recorded is a much different act of open stuttering.
The following morning after Rusty called me back, I started practicing without recording in the privacy of my den. I copied and pasted the title page, table of contents, epigraphs, and introduction into its own document, and began to read.
Pausing and phrasing, line and paragraph breaks, breathing, pronunciation, and pacing all became blatantly obvious as I read. It wasn’t going to be like riding a bike. I had to be patient yet read with a sense of urgency to make it through the words in a timely manner.
In 31 minutes, I read 2397 words without stopping besides to catch new breaths. I was exhausted. I did it again. I read the same 2397 words…twelve seconds faster. It felt less effortful. However, the hour-long workload overwhelmed my vocal stamina. When I stood up from my chair, I had to regain my balance, as if I had sea legs.
The 4794 words had tested not just my stuttering endurance but more so my physical endurance in a way it had not been before. Off to work I went with my head in the clouds, pulsating from the spurt of exertion and mind increasingly foggy for the rest of the day. I wondered how I was ever going to record the remaining 83,000 words.
Conversational Stuttering Endurance Testing my open stuttering endurance was previously limited to periodic situations in my personal and professional life, such as the first few months of dating my wife and irregular two or three hour meetings at work. These were times when I reached the absolute limits of how much open stuttering I could do, causing my pattern to break down and secondary behaviors to involuntarily appear. After these feats, I turn into a zombie, unable to do anything else that required cognitive focus or physical effort for the rest of the day. And forget talking, as stuttering and its side efforts tormented me until I fell asleep and started anew the next day. However, like in this case of recording the audiobook, I knew I was choosing to confront my limits and shed the self-judging thoughts, instead deeming every limited reached a monumental success.
I showed up the next morning and read chapters one and two, 5680 words in an hour and two minutes without stopping. It was another feat of vocal endurance. My voice held up through to the end with a little more energy and variety propelling my words.
Back to back mornings, though, had inundated my cognitive and physical processing power. The pulsating headache onset much faster the second day, which I knew would force me into another fog and I’d have to grind through work. And I did, functioning in a fog-like state that I had been accustomed to after previously finding these limits.
It was too much though. Reading aloud for an hour, grinding through what is usually a stressful nine-hour workday, spending time with my son, making dinner, and the bedtime routine took nearly all the life energy I had for that day, two days in a row. I couldn’t expect to keep up this pace.
On the third morning, I limited myself to one chapter—3400 words in 38 minutes. I held an efficient pace, sustained softened stuttering, and didn’t feel too exhausted afterwards. I would have to vary and restrict the lengths of my training sessions to prevent burnout. Perhaps, at a minimum, one chapter a morning during the week and leave the marathon sessions of an hour or more for the weekend mornings.
The fourth session was by far the most successful. There were many softened moments of stuttering, yet there was no struggle and they flowed into the next word. Voiceless fricatives and plosive, or stop, sounds create the most difficulty for me, such as words that begin with S, F, TH, K, B, D, and J, respectively. But, not in this session. I open stuttered through them and kept moving forward. I read all 4914 words, or chapter four, in 51 minutes, and wasn’t paralyzed by the fog for the rest of my day.
Four morning sessions was enough to know recording the full-length audiobook was within my reach. Unfortunately, or fortunately, day five was the start of a week-long family vacation in which I decided to take a break from pushing my limits and self-publishing to recover for the busy months ahead.
Before I preview the next article, I must admit that I am not a stranger to endurance training. Soon enough, I hope you will read or listen to my book on the journey I took to breakthrough and transcend the traumatic state of stuttering. The story includes my transformation into an endurance athlete via triathlon and marathon running alongside a three-year exploration of Avoidance Reduction Therapy for Stuttering, a combination that led to my breaking through.
Thus, my audiobook endurance training is heavily informed by the success I experienced during that effort, though I suspect producing an audiobook in collaboration with my stutter will be more satisfying than crossing the finish lines at the many races.
In the third article, I will share some updates on my training and other steps in audiobook-making process, possibly including videos of my morning reading sessions.
Thank you for following along!