I had written a post to promote a few upcoming features I’d planned for this blog but, on checking my email this morning, I found a message from a reader on a topic quite close to my heart. I have no intention of posting their name or the contents of the email but, to summarise, it said that they liked the blog (a huge thank you for that) and confessed that they had always wanted to write but couldn’t, on account of being dyslexic.
It upset me to think that someone felt this way and I think it’s important to say something on the matter but, before I do, I need to put it into some perspective.
I am severely dyslexic. I didn’t find this out until very late in my education (while at university, in fact) and it has affected me in more ways than I care to discuss. The one thing it has never stopped me from doing is writing.
That’s not to say that writing isn’t difficult: I struggle getting the right words down; my handwriting, grammar and spelling is atrocious; and I have real issues reading back through my work when editing. On the other-hand, I think I’ve just described the innermost thoughts of 90% of writers.
Dyslexia shouldn’t be a reason not to write if that’s what you want to do. Most dyslexics have no problem getting their thoughts out – it’s only a challenge when writing them down. So, why write them down?
Here are some tips that I’ve picked up over the years. They stem from a lot of trial and error and, as we’re all different, some may not suit you. You’ll need to experiment.
1. Use voice recognition software
Because dyslexia doesn’t affect our ability to think and speak, this kind of software can help bridge the gap to getting our thoughts onto the page. There have been many great leaps in software over the years and most give almost perfect speech-to-text conversion (many even understand my Yorkshire accent, which is a feat in itself). Dragon Naturally Speaking (Nuance) is thought to be a market leader.
2. Ask an understanding friend
This is a low tech version of the software already discussed above but has the added benefit of a proof-reader thrown in. I know that sometimes, especially when we’re writing our first drafts, we don’t want others to see/hear our work and so enter the Gollum phase i.e. hide in dark corners, stroking our manuscripts and cooing ‘my precioussssss’ but I’ve found this useful more than once (the friend, not the cooing). Anyway, someone’s going to read it eventually, why not make them work for it?
3. Make use of spell-check
It’s not just dyslexics that can benefit from this advice but it does come with a caveat – use it, don’t rely on it.
4. Print onto coloured paper
When I print manuscripts for editing, I do it on coloured paper rather than stark white stock. It helps me to see and understand the words when reading them back. I’m not sure why this works but it does. Pastel-coloured paper works well (yellow and pink are best for me).
There have been countless people throughout history that have had to live with this difficulty and have gone on to achieve greatness.
- Lewis Carroll (acclaimed author of Alice in Wonderland)
- Albert Einstein (nuclear scientist and all round genius)
- Leonardo Da Vinci (I think he was a painter or something…could be an actor – I always confuse the two)
I think what I’m trying to say is this:
If you want to write, I urge you to do so because no-one will do it for you (except ghost writers, I suppose, but that doesn’t help my point, so ignore it).