Episode 80B – Jimmy Essien – Stuttering and Spiritual Writing

Overview

This is an interesting discussion with Jimmy. We start by finding out that Jimmy used to stutter and used music to overcome that. This leads to a mind blowing bit of philosophy from Jimmy and how he views the spirituality of writing.

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Transcript

[00:02:45] Stephen: Alright, so let’s talk some author stuff. So obviously we mentioned, we were talking about your books. You’ve learned a lot from when you were 10 years old and couldn’t get past 30 pages tonight. You’ve got a book out, several books out. So what are [00:03:00] some of the. Biggest things you’ve learned that you’re doing now that you didn’t do when you first started 10 or more years ago.

[00:03:07] Stephen: I think that

[00:03:08] Jimmy: practice is really important. And I think I was maybe mentioning in our mastermind group the other day, Steven, that I wish that when I started writing, I had approached it more like I did music because when I was writing songs, I never really aspired to be a great guitar. I just want it to be a good enough guitarist so that I could play the songs that I heard in my mind.

[00:03:35] Jimmy: And a lot of times I would hear songs in my mind that I didn’t have the technical ability for on the guitar. So I would have to practice guitar. So it was very, it was a means to an end and a discipline. And I wished that I had approached writing in a similar way, 10 years ago to dress right scene after scene.

[00:03:53] Jimmy: Because I need to be able to have the chops to write those stories that I see bloom in my [00:04:00] mind. And so I’m doing that. I’m doing that more now, but it would have been nice to have been doing that a lot earlier.

[00:04:06] Stephen: Okay. You got to learn. Oh, we all have to start somewhere. And I think we all start at different spots, different places in our writing.

[00:04:13] Stephen: When you’re writing, what software and services do you use?

[00:04:18] Jimmy: Scribner is indispensable for me. I actually use Scrivener for everything. I even use it for invoices for work and because it’s just so easy for me to use and I use it for journaling every morning and yeah. So Scribner’s the most important and yeah.

[00:04:39] Jimmy: And then besides that, let’s see what else. I haven’t formatted a book in a little while. I think that I want to use, I think that I want to get a map. Just for the purpose of using vellum next time I’ve never used it, but I think I’m going to do that for the next, for that, for the next manuscript.

[00:04:59] Stephen: And [00:05:00] arguably we both use the mastermind to not only keep us motivated, but accountable for our writing and to learn new things off of other writers.

[00:05:09] Stephen: I think that is a tool. A lot of people overlook sometimes.

[00:05:14] Jimmy: Yeah. The mastermind is huge. That’s another thing to answer your previous. Question. What would you do if I went to the thing that I’m doing right now differently than I did 10 years ago is interacting with the community of writers. I had tried to in the past, I had joined writers groups in Portland and whatnot, but it just never really took.

[00:05:36] Jimmy: Um, but yeah, using slack, like you’re saying which slack is a great piece of software for keeping in touch with the community, like a topic based community. And so using a slack to kid to stay in touch with people that is, that’s been really powerful. And then the mastermind, which is attached to slack also has been really good.

[00:05:59] Stephen: [00:06:00] Yeah. Agreed very much. So. There’s our shout out. Uh, everybody listening, go check out. Jay thorns, the author success mastermind.

[00:06:08] Jimmy: Definitely.

[00:06:10] Stephen: All right. So I always ask authors. Think of a topic to discuss something that has affected you, that other authors may be interested in. And we’ve already talked about you as a musician and losing your hearing and how that affected your writing and how those intertwined, but then you threw, you throw this email at me.

[00:06:32] Stephen: Oh, here’s the. How about how I overcame stuttering and how it has effect, why we make art. And I’m like, wait a second. Jimmy used to stutter. I don’t believe because I can not detect any of that. So tell us a little bit more about that, what you grew up with.

[00:06:49] Jimmy: Yeah. This just came to mind when you’re asking to think of something else to talk about.

[00:06:57] Jimmy: And I think for [00:07:00] me, it is. It has everything to do with writing. And let’s see if I can convey how that it is. So I had a stutter for maybe, probably from the age of four onward through my early childhood. And I also had acute asthma and I also had incredibly bad hay fever. And I also couldn’t say my art.

[00:07:30] Jimmy: So I was a mess and nobody could understand what I was saying. And I’m sure as a six-year-old in first grade, it might’ve looked cute, but it was intensely frustrating. And that frustration grew year after year, because I felt like I’m trapped within my own head and resigned to never been able to be understood.

[00:07:56] Jimmy: And of course the more emotional. Or [00:08:00] important. The thing was that I was trying to say the more I would stutter, cause that’s usually how it works for people as time went on, as I got to be nine, 10 years old, it, it got a little bit better. Like it wasn’t as it wasn’t as a cute stutter. Um, but at the same time, my self-consciousness was increasing as it does for everybody around that age, it was just really embarrassing and frustrate.

[00:08:29] Jimmy: And then when I was about, I might’ve been 11 years old, 10 or 11 to one day I was walking around the house and I was singing a song to myself. Nobody was around. And I think this, this song was probably like a dead milkmen song or something like that. And so I was singing the song walking around and then it struck me suddenly I’m not stuttering.

[00:08:51] Jimmy: And then I thought, yeah, of course I never stuttered when I’m singing a song. But then I stopped and I sat down, I thought, so why do I not stutter when I’m singing [00:09:00] a song with words, but I do stutter if I’m trying to explain something to somebody else, you know? And, and so I thought about this some more, and then I tried singing another song.

[00:09:12] Jimmy: And again, I didn’t stutter. And so I thought, okay, so what’s different about singing a song? Is it the music, the singing? And so then I thought a sentence. Similar to the way maybe I would think of a song or see a song in my head. And so I thought about a sentence that I just a simple sentence, like the cat walked across the road and I would see the words in my mind as if I were reading it.

[00:09:38] Jimmy: And then I spoke at the catwalks across the road and I didn’t stutter and I would read a book out loud. I didn’t stutter when I was reading books. So as something about trying to express an idea from scratch, that was making me stop. So I started experimenting. If somebody asked me something, instead of just responding, uh, shooting from the hip, [00:10:00] I would first write the sentence in my mind and see it.

[00:10:04] Jimmy: And then I would read the sentence to them and I would not stutter. And so I started doing this more and more with longer and longer sentences. I started getting better at it until. I eventually formed a habit of writing the sentence in my head first and seeing it and then reading it. And this got easier and easier until now.

[00:10:28] Jimmy: I’m barely conscious of it, but I think that it did affect my development after the insight. I don’t know what other people experience when they’re talking like this. I tend to see the words in my mind and I think. Probably that’s why I still don’t stutter. It was, but it was like a fixed, it was like a patch.

[00:10:47] Jimmy: And, but what I saw that was happening back then, it was like, there was a mismatch in speed. I saw concepts, feelings, experiences in my head, but they, [00:11:00] and they were, they were, there was a fervor to them. They were really fast. And when I were trying to speak them out loud, it would just, it couldn’t come out.

[00:11:09] Jimmy: It wasn’t synchronized with my. And so I’ve learned that in order to, in order to articulate the things that are happy in my head, I have to slow those thoughts down. And it’s almost water vapor loading in the air at a very high vibrational rate. You have to slow that rate down. Cool it down until there’s a state change and it condenses to water it’s to something that you can see.

[00:11:38] Jimmy: And that’s how, that’s how I learned to do it. All of those crazy thoughts and fast thoughts and feelings in my head, I had to slow them down and condense them until they turned into something visible. They had to incarnate into the material world, slow way down, and then they would be turned into words.

[00:11:59] Jimmy: But at the same [00:12:00] time, I saw how those words were not perfect. They. They, it was enough for me to approximately communicate what I was thinking or feeling to another person, but it wasn’t the actual concept, the actual feeling or experience. And so I had to accept that if I was going to speak clearly in a way that other people could understand it was going to have to be an approximation of what I was feeling, not the exact thing and whatever.

[00:12:35] Jimmy: That worked. But over the years I saw how this was actually, I think it is actually important and had to do with why I was into why I want us to do songwriting. You know, that irreducible impulse, I spoke about reflecting my experience of the world. There was this desire to actually communicate the thing that I’m really experiencing.

[00:12:58] Jimmy: That words isn’t, aren’t [00:13:00] adequate for. And I think that’s what it has to do with, with writing. And with art, which is, we believe in words, for example, you have a word and that’s re represents a concept, then you have another word and it’s a little bit different meaning, and it represents a little bit different concept.

[00:13:18] Jimmy: And so that’s how we have nuance and in our vocabulary. And we can believe that interval like a musical note to another musical note, the interval between those two slightly different words, we can believe that’s a natural interview. But I don’t think that it is. I think that there’s just, there’s a lot of sound, a lot of tones in between a and a sharp, there is also a lot of concepts in ex in experiences between two words.

[00:13:50] Jimmy: And that, in fact, I think that most of our concepts that go through our heads, our feelings, our experiences, Actually don’t have, uh, [00:14:00] aren’t represented by the words we have, and that actually exists within the interstices of our vocabulary. We learn to just stop seeing it. But I think that through artistic mediums, through mediums, through painting, for example, that’s a way of creating something that you don’t have words to express.

[00:14:25] Jimmy: But people can look at it and they can, um, they’re able to grasp a thing that the artist was trying to say that there weren’t words for. And it’s actually another language when that may be, is much more adequate to express, to express what people are thinking and feeling. And so I think that’s why novels do this also.

[00:14:45] Jimmy: And it’s ironic because novels are words, but through writing tens of thousands of words, You can not explicitly say the thing that you’re trying to, you’re trying to say the experience you’re trying to convey to the reader, but through tens of [00:15:00] thousands of words, they can paint a picture like a single image in it’s that single image is a thing that was trying to be communicated.

[00:15:09] Jimmy: I recently read crime and punishment about a hundred thousand words, I think. And there’s something vivid that he communicated to me. And it wasn’t really in any sentence. It wasn’t any one word. There weren’t any words to describe this thing, but the thing is simple and it’s real, but it took a hundred thousand words for him to point to it.

[00:15:33] Jimmy: And I saw it and I said, okay. Yeah, he just successfully painted an image with a hundred thousand words so that I could understand this thing that he was trying to reflect back onto the universe. Yeah. So I think that’s, that’s what I’ve learned about art through overcoming study. And

[00:15:51] Stephen: that’s, that’s pretty deep and amazing.

[00:15:55] Stephen: I do love the fact that Jimmy, the cyborg reprogrammed himself, that’s pretty cool [00:16:00] for me as a tech guy, but I also like how, the way you did it, that you picture, first of all, you’re not the only person I’ve ever heard that stutters, but can sing and do music wonderfully Jim neighbors. What comes to mind as being one of the more famous examples.

[00:16:17] Stephen: Uh, he had a very big stutter, but then he’s saying like church choir, there’s something in our brains. And to me, what it sounds like you did, you found that bridge between the areas like everybody else, that bridge already existed and you found how to form that bridge for yourself. And then it’s very interesting that you write it in your head before you’re saying it, and you went on to become a writer.

[00:16:42] Stephen: So it almost you were meant to do. Yeah.

[00:16:45] Jimmy: Yeah, yeah. There’s a lot that could be said there also, I don’t know how much time we have here. There’s something that I think of as right now, I’m calling it the law, virtuous at ESC. And it’s where I’ve noticed this happened with people. If somebody is naturally bad at [00:17:00] something naturally has some sort of difficult.

[00:17:04] Jimmy: And throughout childhood or a little bit later, even they were forced to practice like crazy in order to get just as good as everybody else’s naturally, they will tend to continue practicing out of habit and eventually become much better than the average person I saw this happen with a lot of people growing up.

[00:17:28] Jimmy: And so I think it, it has to do with that. It has to do with that being forced to establish a discipline of practice and whatever it is in some times you’re forced to, because you have a natural deficiency.

[00:17:43] Stephen: Interesting. So there’s a couple of interesting thoughts going back to what you said about painting the picture.

[00:17:49] Stephen: I love visualizing a novel as like a whole blank wall and you have the. Author with every word he’s [00:18:00] painting part of that wall. So when you’re done, you have the full picture. So you’re not viewing the book as a linear story, but more as a snapshot in time, almost of a visual element and trying to grasp that and wrap my head around it.

[00:18:16] Stephen: That’s pretty intense. I love that.

[00:18:20] Jimmy: Yeah. It’s almost like those images that are composites of hundreds of other photos. And then the whole thing, if you stand back as one image. Yeah.

[00:18:29] Stephen: Yeah. I loved that. And that puts a whole different light on thinking about our words and the writing that you know, that there’s almost a dissonance.

[00:18:39] Stephen: If you’re writing the words and you’re not using your own voice, your own style, not choosing the words that come naturally to you, then there was a dissonance in the story. That’s in perceptible from the visual reading of the words, almost a metaphysical [00:19:00] harmony with UN the story. Okay. Now we’re getting

[00:19:03] Jimmy: really deep and also be a J and Zach’s J Thornton.

[00:19:08] Jimmy: Zach Bohannan three story method, actually hints at this because the three story method, as they describe it as frankly, Meaning the various levels of the story ourselves similar. So you can have the three aspects of a scent of a scene, three aspects of a chapter, three aspects of an act and a three aspects globally, for example, and fractal.

[00:19:36] Jimmy: Structures are a, that’s how nature builds things. It’s a very natural, very intuitive way of structuring things. So I think that that, that belongs in this whole conversation.

[00:19:48] Stephen: Yeah. That’s and that’s, again, the story craft that book and thinking of it in a higher level enlightened way. It’s almost as if we’re aliens [00:20:00] visiting and try and do it.

[00:20:02] Stephen: Through different senses is what I keep thinking of some scifi story here.

[00:20:08] Jimmy: Yeah. Life is short and we have a desire to communicate with one another. And we can do that through speaking through the words that we’ve inherited, which is amazing, but we all also realize that it’s inadequate. And so there are other ways that we are trying to speak to each other, trying to communicate.

[00:20:29] Jimmy: In ways that that words won’t do justice. And so I think that the novel is as a way to do that.

[00:20:37] Stephen: Yeah, absolutely. And I do like how you perceive. Writing in the same vein as music, because it is creative art, someone that does a sculpture, what’s that old a thing. Was it Rodin or somebody that said that he traded the sculpture and they said, it’s a beautiful sculpture that you made.

[00:20:56] Stephen: He says, I didn’t make it. It was always there. I just brought in. [00:21:00] And you could think the same way with your music. I’ve played some music, written some songs, and it’s an expression. You’re bringing things out. There’s more than what the words in the song. Art, the music itself conveys a certain feeling and you’re giving us a different viewpoint on novels, the reading of it in a more spiritual, creative musical way almost.

[00:21:24] Stephen: And I think that’s something I’m going to have to definitely ponder a bit more.

[00:21:30] Jimmy: Yeah. I definitely trying to ponder it more and work with it more. And yeah, the other possibilities are infinite. You’re talking about music. I used to stare at my fretboard. My, when my favorite experiences was to sit down and try to write a new song, stare at the fretboard and just see the literal infinity.

[00:21:51] Jimmy: Because you have all the fret combination of frets and strings, which that’s a lot, but then you add the dimension of time and it’s literally infinite. You can add the [00:22:00] dimension of genre on there also, and then just a place, my finger and strum it. And okay, now we are we’re collapsing the probability wave.

[00:22:10] Jimmy: Now we are plucking something out of that infinite universe and yeah, I feel the same way with same way with.

[00:22:20] Stephen: It’s you know, people say all the good music, all the good songs have been done, but there’s still new songs that come out that I like new songs that make me think different. Same with the boards and the books.

[00:22:32] Stephen: Yeah. We’ve only got everybody in music has the same notes, the same chords, the same scales. Everybody in writing has the same letters in the same words, but you can. It’s so much different music out of what you bring to what you’re doing to the arts and creativity. If you view the writing as more of a creative art, rather than a craft, and I have to get this at, let the words sing to you [00:23:00] totally can change how you view what you’re writing.

[00:23:04] Jimmy: Now I’ve

[00:23:04] Stephen: got to do that. Jimmy. You got me saying, wow, I’ve been doing it wrong.

[00:23:13] Stephen: All right. Hey, this has been a really great, cool talk. I’m glad I finally got you on here. I had to kick your butt a couple times, uh, cause

[00:23:21] Jimmy: yeah, to get jobs now, but it was seriously. It’s an honor to be on your show has really fun conversation

[00:23:29] Stephen: very much. So we’ll have to, are you going to a new Orleans per

[00:23:33] Jimmy: chance?

[00:23:34] Jimmy: No, I’m not. I thought about it. There were a lot of events to go to and I had to choose only a couple of, I

[00:23:41] Stephen: understand. Well, next time essential gathering or something we’ll catch up. I’m sure we’ll have a good discussion before we go. Do you have any last minute advice for new authors?

[00:23:52] Jimmy: Ah, life is short.

[00:23:55] Jimmy: Do what you feel called to do, and that’s about it. [00:24:00]

[00:24:00] Stephen: If you go, I love that you can’t get any better than that. All right, Jimmy. Hey, it’s been a really great afternoon talking to you. I will let you go. So you can go work on your sauna and your next piece of music or your writing. You’ve got a lot of things in the, a lot of irons in the fire.

[00:24:17] Jimmy: That’s right? Yeah, one too many, probably. All right. Thanks a lot.

[00:24:22] Stephen: Thanks man. Talk to you later.

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