At this particular juncture, I had been writing about the Los Angeles Kings for nearly five years. The club had just come off its second Stanley Cup victory in three years and, shortly prior to that, I had moved into my first condo. Things were definitely looking up but, at the same time, it took me a low point to realize that something was missing.
After a failed relationship and being in a job I despised, I fell into a depression. Not deep enough where others were concerned for my well-being but enough where I began thinking — sometimes even overthinking — about my future.
I thought about my writing career and how I wanted to try something new with it.
With their recent success, the Kings were entering the 2014-15 season with talk of a potential dynasty in the air. There were fewer times better to be a fan of the silver-and-black, and I wanted to stay involved. However, I had more-or-less solely been writing game and season previews, recaps and opinion pieces. I had still enjoyed writing those but also wanted to expand my horizons, so to speak. So, my oldest brother suggested that I start conducting interviews.
“Now, how I am supposed to do that?” I immediately thought.
I may have jumped the gun too early as far as being dismissive goes, but you have to understand that being that the Kings play 3,000 miles away from where I lived, my biggest opportunity to interview anyone would probably have to be over the phone.
“The starting point of all achievement is desire.” -Napoleon Hill
The year prior, I worked for an organization which just happened to have a professional association with the [Los Angeles] Kings Care Foundation. The organization’s public relations person read a few of my articles and found me in the hall one day to tell me that she could arrange to have me interview the club’s president, who was also Hockey Hall-of-Famer and one of the most beloved figures in Kings lore.
As you can imagine, as a longtime Kings fan, I accepted — being a consummate professional on the outside and a giddy fanboy on the inside.
Unfortunately, since it was a phone interview, I had trouble reading the questions. Thankfully, my PR friend was there with me, reading the questions for me when I got stuck. Despite my speech issues, the interview went very well. My interviewee was nothing short of a consummate gentleman, happily answering my questions about, among other topics, the Kings Care Foundation and the club’s upcoming outdoor game at storied Dodger Stadium. Just agreeing to be interviewed in spite of his hectic schedule was great enough, but the aforementioned was the proverbial icing on the cake.
As great as the experience was, though, I questioned whether I could do it again with my speech impediment being such a negative factor.
“What is the purpose of being human and alive without doing new things?” -John Sulston
Return to a year later where I was working at the aforementioned despised job where I had to wake up at 4am. Due to this schedule, I was voluntarily waking up on weekends no later than 5am (2am Pacific Standard Time). So, I used these opportunities to prop open my laptop, write what I like to call my IRT (Interview Request Template).
Suddenly, I felt like I was back in high school English class (i.e. the first paragraph should include this, the second paragraph should include that, and so on). I started out by introducing myself, followed by letting them know what I was looking for and finishing things off with my stutter forewarning.
I then proceeded to email as many of the Kings staff as I could that I was interested in interviewing. To my satisfaction, everyone who wrote back — most did so within a day or two — was more than understanding about my situation and were happy to do an email interview.
Yet, while I did appreciate the email interviews, I noticed that some who emailed me their answers had written about a line or two. I soon realized that if I wanted more content, I needed to bite the bullet and try phone interviews.
This, as you can imagine, deterred me.
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” -Albert Einstein
One day, I was riding in the car with my next-oldest brother — a Kings fan himself — and mentioned that famed movie critic Roger Ebert, as a result of complications from thyroid cancer, had lost the ability to speak. As a result, Mr. Ebert has a synthetic version of his voice created. As beneficial as that would have been, though, I was realistic. I was short on the money and resources to make that happen. Besides, while it is difficult at times, I am fortunate enough to nonetheless be able to speak.
I didn’t give up, though.
By this point, I decided to try an app on my laptop, which recited anything I wrote. However, it sounded like a generic computerized voice. Nevertheless, I tried it in two interviews and while neither interviewee voiced any complaints, I felt that the method sounded — and was, frankly — too impersonal.
Back to the drawing board, as they say.
Something that I have never been able to explain was my ability to hold a phone up to my ear and speak fluently when no one was on the other end. Yet, as soon as the phone started ringing, panic and anxiety set in and once the other person answered, I’d usually be lucky if I could utter a “hello”. Plus, by that juncture — early-to-mid-2016 — I thought about doing something significant to coincide with the Kings’ 50th anniversary season, which was to begin that fall. I thought about interviewing 50 former Kings, discussing their respective tenures with the club. Immediately, I scoffed at my own idea, but after a few minutes, I thought, “Why not? Why not just start at 25 and if you reach that, try for 30, and so on.”
So, I started on a new method with my new project, which I entitled “Royal Reflections”.
I decided to use two different audio apps on my laptop: one for the questions and one for the answers.
Taking a method I learned from The King’s Speech, I downloaded some classical music, put on my headphones and began reciting the questions.
If I had four questions for one interviewee, for instance, I would have six separate files: four for the questions and two for the greeting and the “Thanks for doing this and have a great day!”
Yes, my fluency — or lack thereof — was that bad.
Whatever worked, though.
“As practice makes perfect, I cannot but make progress; each drawing one makes, each study one paints, is a step forward.” -Vincent van Gogh
Unfortunately, because I was so dysfluent — not to mention anxious — I had to record one question five, six, even 10 times on some occasions. Even with the music playing through my headphones, I just couldn’t get the words out.
On the precipice of throwing in the proverbial towel, though, one of my good friends told me to just keep trying when I desperately asked, “Can you just do these [interviews] for me?”
So, much to my chagrin, I stuck with it.
I’m glad I did.
The “Headphones Method”, as I call it — because, when thinking of a name, I wasn’t in a very creative mood — wasn’t perfect, but over time, it worked better and better. There are still the odd times when said method isn’t as effective as I’d like it to be, but it does work. Best of all, it piques the interest of so many who wonder how I can barely get a word out when my ears are bare but when those headphones are on, I can charm my way through a State of the Union Address a few times over.
Okay, maybe I’m not THAT good, but you get what I’m saying.
There are more stories to come involving ‘Royal Reflections’, but this should give you an idea of what’s to come.
Remember: Whether you struggle with any sort of obstacle, there are limitless ways to adapt. It’s just up to you to find them.
*To read my ‘Royal Reflections’ series, visit makewayforthekings.net