The first time I ever tried to get a cartoon published, it was a submission to New Yorker magazine, around 1987. New Yorker is considered the most prestigious publication on Earth for a cartoonist. They rejected me with a form letter. But I never released on the goal of getting a comic in that publication. This week I finally achieved my goal. Well, sort of:


I never really let go of a goal. That's not always a good thing, since all of my unfulfilled goals gnaw on me from within. But it sure feels delicious when one of them wanders in from the wilderness.

Three and a half years ago, when I lost my voice to spasmodic dysphonia, I set my goal on not just beating this incurable condition but ending up with a voice that was better than it had been before I got the problem. My original voice was a bit nasal, and I had a habit of mumbling. If you're going to have a goal of defeating an incurable condition, you might as well add some extras. I wanted my next voice to be better than it had ever been.

As I have written before, I had surgery in July with Dr. Berke at UCLA, who pioneered a procedure to fix this sort of voice problem. It was supposed to take 3-4 months from the day of the operation before a good voice returned. Sure enough, right on cue, this is the 3.5 month mark, and my voice is about 90% functional for most purposes. (I can't shout yet, and by the end of the day it is a bit hoarse.) Still, it's frickin' amazing.

Over the next year, my voice is expected to improve further. But that's not good enough. I'm going to put some serious work into making my new voice better than it ever was. It might take me twenty years, but I'll get there.

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Jan 26, 2009
Hi, Scott--

I'm very happy to hear of the return--even stronger than before--of your voice. I'm a writer working with Toastmasters Magazine, and the editors have asked me to contact you about exactly that. Would you be willing to do an interview with me about the adjustements you've had to make during the process of losing, and then regaining, your voice? The following from the editors will explain a bit more:
"...Kind of looking at what it's like to lose your voice pretty much completely -- how do you communicate with people? And in Scott Adams' case, how did that affect his work? (i.e. , did it make him more creative in his cartoons, since that was his main voice now? Did it give him a different perspective on life, and on the issues
he was drawing and writing about?)
"Also, what's the process now that he's trying to regain his voice? Does he need to re-learn how to talk, communicate, etc.?"
And, of course, we're very interested in hearing about the importance of keeping a sense of humor about it all, and how that likely helped you along the way.
What say you? I'm available nearly every day at patrickmott@roadrunner.com.
Many thanks in advance for your kind consideration.
All the best,
Pat Mott

Nov 2, 2008
Hey great post. I love hearing about really successful people getting rejection letters. It keeps me in the game as I am only now beginning to pitch to magazines myself. Thanks for sharing this and I loved the story about your voice.



Nov 2, 2008
Oct 31, 2008
Are you sure that Maurice Sendak isn't one of your subconscious influences? It almost looks like Dilbert is the grown up version of the boy who knew where the wild things are.
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Oct 31, 2008
I dunno Scott. Maybe you just have a face for radio and a voice for blogging. I bet if you put your mind to it, you could be one of the greatest bloggers.
Oct 31, 2008
Wow, webgrunt, if they were truly that awful, I am sorry I never attempted to get some! Man, what a great halloween snack--taste these---"So bad, it's scary!" I wonder what special powers the elimination track of hyena would bestow on these rotten potatoes! Great stuff, would read again!
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 31, 2008
woo look at me I'm scott adams I have voice problems and I am going to talk about them for the next ten years because I am such a big deal! feh feh feh
Oct 31, 2008
Congrats on the (apparent) success of your surgery!

When can we expect to see you show off your new improved voice on Broadway?
Oct 30, 2008
Glad to hear the surgery is working so far. I've been very reluctant to pursue irreversible surgery. But just like you experienced, I've been struggling maintaining the Dr. Cooper method. Maybe I'll wait another year and see if this holds up for you. :)
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Oct 30, 2008
"If at first you don't succeed, try again! If you fail, quit. No need to make a fool of yourself."
W.C. Fields
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 30, 2008

Glad to hear that your voice is coming back. I hope it stays. Please keep us up to date. My brother has the same condition. Every update you post I pass along.

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Oct 30, 2008
Hi Scott,

Hope you can scream louder than before and may all your dreams come true, but this refers so much to your recent blog entry about , not being content with what you have, and being ambitious as a result. With someone of your intellect and by the way you understand this world [ Gods Debris], you surely must have wondered if Happiness is only a pursuit and never a destination. It is perfectly natural to have ambitions and goals and all that is fine, but this discontent , can it not be the reason there is unhappiness in peoples lives? Can there be progress or satisfaction without struggling to achieve things for yourself ? Can a person simply realize the purpose of his life, and follow it with remarkable dedication regardless of the result? You have done this already, but still you don't cease to have goals.

On the surface everyone is quick to say they have achieved a lot and hence they are obviously happy, but I want to know, does achieving a million things ever make you happy? Does it truly make sense to have impossible goals and convince oneself that the discontent is the reason the progress has happened? Can there be action without discontent or ambition? Can there be a blissful human being?

Gods Debris is a remarkable book because it resonates with the deepest philosophies in the eastern world, yet the means for its realization is totally different.

I guess this comment makes little sense, but its always good to speak to you.

Get well soon.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 30, 2008
Glad to hear your voice is improving!

I have to admit though, every time I read about your voice problems I have a hard time imagining it. I guess this is because I figure that you and Dilbert would sound the same, and of course Dilbert sounds exactly like Daniel Stern. Whenever I read your columns, in my head they sound a lot like a "Wonder Years" narration.

Heck, if the treatment hadn't worked, maybe you could have just hired him to follow your around and do voice overs for your real life. It would have fooled me.
Oct 30, 2008
I have my own bizarre incurable condition which I have not been able to locate a name for online, and unfortunately, it's a learned response my subconscious seems to have picked up.

I had a job 15 years ago working on a forklift, the order picking kind where you go up in the air, so you can get a box and put it on the forklift, instead of having to take everything down off the shelf just to get one box.

Understandably, the rig is not wiggle-proof, and, once up in the air, you must get used to standing on a wiggly surface, and also dealing with a shelf which may also be wiggly. It's not too tough to get used to.

Apparently, though, how my brain covered this created an annoying side-effect. If I am standing on solid ground, and a nearby object which should not be wiggly is wiggling- say, a table or bookshelf- then >I< feel like I am wiggling.

And it's entirely subconscious, so, I usually don't know if there's a wiggly piece of furniture near me or an earthquake for 2-3 seconds.

It's faded over the years, but it's still there.
Oct 30, 2008
since this post is somewhat health related, I'm curious if you have ever heard of the Weston A. Price Foundation... I'd suggest starting with the Myths & Truths link on the left...

Oct 30, 2008
The way you wrote this blog today infers that you blame affirmative action for your not getting published in the New Yorker. Sad. You suggest that you should have gotten a real dark tan and made your screen name Mohamed. Very inapropriate to make such suggestions in what appears to be an innocent blog. I am considering canceling my subscription to it.
Furthermore, your comments on the '90% functional' part is apparently, once again, blaming affirmative action for the lack of 100% results. This may be a common complaint at UCLA Medical, however incorect, and truly ignorant if nothing else.
Oct 30, 2008
As per the interview, your brain won't let you draw because you've been drawing too much and won't let you talk because you've been talking too much! Just wondering if your brain is really bored with all this repitive tasks and wants to do something else - and you won't listen ..
Oct 30, 2008
Great interview Scott. Unfortunately I am not allowed to buy your book as I have asked for it for Christmas, and my wife would shoot me if I ruined something she was going to buy for me. I am curious to see the cartoons you submitted to the New Yorker and Playboy, although I can't quite picture Dilbert with playmates, maybe you should draw that. Anyway, so long as it is an interview with you that gets published in Playboy, I will pick up a copy of the magazine as well, if it is a pictorial, I may have to take out my eyes with a staple remover. Best of luck with your voice, maybe one day I will have the pleasure of hearing you speak in person.
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Oct 30, 2008
I sincerely hope your family will continue to socialize with you now that you start to talk back ;-)
Oct 30, 2008
This entry reminds me of Wayne Gretzky's story. Perhaps the greatest hockey player in history, he played with kids two years his senior growing up and still scored hundreds of goals a season. In his story he says that even when he was the best - in his minor hockey circle no one even approached his ability with the puck - he still went to the back yard and practiced for hours, everyday. He didn't want to be the best; he wanted to be his personal best.

Scott Adams has the same drive for greatness: why just reach for a goal? Why not stretch to the limit, take a breath-taking leap, and see what might be accomplished? It is in dealing with our weaknesses that our strengths are truly revealed, and this is a great example of that. Kudos, Mr. Adams.
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