Writing with Dyslexia
Based on the title of this post you've probably guessed what's coming!
I am dyslexic!
I've wanted to share about it for some time, but I felt scatter brained on how to approach the topic. I didn't really want to share about what dyslexia is, or what it's like to have dyslexia (there are a lot of articles out there on these topics and that's not really what I want to focus on today.)
What I want to share today is...
-How I used to see my dyslexia as a negative thing (like an extra obstacle in front of me that non-dyslexics didn't have)
- And now, why I see it as one of my greatest assets as a writer
Slow and steady wins...or does it?
Let's go back 17 years...
Getting any young family fed, semi-dressed, and out of the house can be quite the job. My mom would shepherd us kids into our maroon (former) fire department station wagon, and we would blessedly bump down the driveway. "Off like a herd of turtles," she'd say.
This phrase brings to mind the image of people who are slow, scrambling to catch up or just can't seem to make it on time.
I always felt this way about my dyslexia. I felt like it made me a turtle. Slow, behind, twice the effort, half the pace.
There is some truth to this. I am a slow reader, the Queen of Typos, and I am a very mediocre speller. Before hitting 'Publish' on these blog posts, I have to read them about 10X and run them through editing software before I feel comfortable posting them.
It's not that my brain doesn't see the mistakes. What happens is my brain is so used to compensating in order to complete a task, that it automatically assumes that what I'm reading is correct.
"I don't want to loose you," he wispered into Bernadette's hair.
Loose verus lose
Wisper verus whipser
I may read that sentence over and over and still not catch those two mistakes, because even though I know how to spell them, once they are in writing my brain automatically compensates, jumping right to the meaning rather than noticing the errors.
The reading turtle
For a long time, my learning difference was super embarrassing to me. I remember dreading playing paper charades in improv class in high school because we had to write a sentence, and drop it into a hat to be picked at random and acted out. I felt ashamed to misspell the action I was thinking of. Fly I kite? Peel a potatoe? Smoke a ciggarret? I hate this game.
I always knew I wanted to write and it felt unfair that I had to work harder for something that I wanted so badly.
As a child, my mom read to my sisters and me every day. The Little House series, The Kildee House, The Strawberry Girl, Understood Betsy, Mountain Born, Little Pear and Red Sails to Carpi just to name a few.
I remember them all to this day. In Red Sails to Capri, there was an ocean grotto. I remember being fascinated with that scene, a blue cave with water so clear you could see hundreds of feet down. It seemed magical.
This was before "Googling it" was a thing, so I had never seen in picture or in person, a place like that described in the book. Despite that being the case, I pictured every detail in vivid color in my imagination.
It was this early contact with geography and history through books that made me want to be a writer. I loved time traveling with words and imagination and I wanted to, one day, create the same experience for others with my own stories.
At twelve, I fell hopelessly in love with Stewpot from Nowhere to Call Home, then Rab from Johnny Tremain, then came Clarkson from They Loved to Laugh, and Christopher in The Perilous Gard. I hated all the girls they fell in love with ("she doesn't deserve him!" was a line my best friend, Christi, and I would wail. Nerds. I know, I know...).
The question, what makes a good story became a fascination with me. I would count pages between one plot point and the next, re-read sections with lots of dialogue to try and understand how it all worked.
I share all this backstory because I want to make it clear that although reading wasn't easy for me, it got easier because I immersed myself in everything that was words and storytelling.
Nice to meet-cha, dyslexia
To gain confidence, I needed to empower myself to overcome the mental barrier of perceived inadequacy. I began researching about successful dyslexics. One of the most prolific authors in history, Agatha Christi, who has sold more books than anyone else, (besides only The Bible and Shakespeare), was dyslexic! Dyslexia is also the most common trait in millionaires.
Who knew? I felt so confident just knowing that I was part of a gifted group of creatives.
I know my dyslexia has made me a more creative, thoughtful writer, and critical thinker. It allows me to focus on story and channel my creativity into creating original content, well-realized characters, and texture my worlds with sensory details.
Run, Turtle, Run!
For all you dyslexics out there, here's my last bit of advice. Cultivate your strengths. Don't focus too much on the things you're not good at, but the things that you are good at. Realize that you are full of gifts and creativity that don't necessarily come naturally to 85% of the population. Your learning difference, if you let it, can allow you to see the world in a different way.
For the majority of you non-dyslexics, I hope that my vulnerability has encouraged you to be brave amid your own struggles. I hope, you will begin thinking of ways that you can take control of your own mental battles, reject lies, and start living in the Truth.
As always this blog is my personal experience and I would love to hear your thoughts or personal experiences in the comments below.