I’ve always known that voice was important, however I found out a few months ago that it is a lot more important than I had first thought. My epiphany was a strange one…
In July last year my thyroid was removed, this left me with hardly any voice because the surgeon damaged my vocal chords. For months my voice was no more than a harsh whisper. I had to try and work with no voice, I had to order food from restaurants with waitresses giving me strange looks, I couldn’t go into shops to buy clothes without the cashier leaning over the counter to hear me.
I realised that without my voice I am not taken seriously, I worked part time in a pre-school. The children that I worked with didn’t behave around me because they knew I couldn’t tell them off. I didn’t feel like I was respected by anyone, people would joke about my voice and I would laugh along because I didn’t have the energy to strain my voice telling these people to try living without being able to talk.
This made me think about my writing, if I wasn’t taken seriously because of my voice then neither would my characters, if someone found it awkward, lumpy, rushed or unrealistic they would just put the book down and not bother returning. So I realised the importance of voice.
When I returned from work, or returned from going out with friends where I could make no attempt to join in the conversation because no one could hear me, I would open up my laptop and write. It was a release for me, I had no control or input in anything in my life so I would make up my own world where everyone could hear me and everyone listened.
I carried on with my raspy voice pretending to my friends and family that it didn’t worry me, when inside I was terrified that I would never sing again. I was scared that I would never be looked at without a jokey smile on their faces, as they wondered what happened to the eighteen year old who sounded like she had smoked 100 fags a day since she was four.
The worst moment was when I was shopping with my mum, we wandered off into separate corners of the shop and when I started looking for her I couldn’t see her. Any other normal person would just call her name and see if she responded, I couldn’t do that. If she called me I wouldn’t be able to respond so by the time I got to her she would have moved on. So I pulled out my mobile and rang her number, she answered a moment later and I said, “Mum, whereabouts are you?” As I said it a boy and girl about my age crossed my path, the girl threw a judgmental look my way before bursting out laughing, she clutched the boys arm as they walked off and said to him, “Did you hear her voice?” I wanted to curl up into a ball and cry when I faced ignorance like that.
Through it all it was once again a blessing in disguise, I made more of an effort with my writing and understood my characters and their voices.
And the best part? My voice came back after speech therapy. Although it’s back I have not forgotten the lesson that it taught me, there is always a place where you are respected and wanted, with your characters on the page. A place where you control everything, and no one is laughed at for their voice or their scars.