October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. And so, I offer to you...my journey.
1 in 5 people are affected by dyslexia.
Many don't even realize it. I wasn't aware of my dyslexia until I was an adult. I struggled to get and keep good grades in school but so do most students, right? As an adult, when you know in your bones something is off--that writing, processing, remembering is more difficult for you than it seems to be for most--it's easier to pause and ask questions. Trying to write a book was my wakeup call.
So, what the hell is wrong with me?
It's the question I've been asking myself for so long, and it feels magical to finally have the answer. I'm not distracted and confused half the time just because. Neither is it my "creative brain" tendencies showing through.
My consistent C average in math despite my As and Bs in other classes;
Red marks all over my essays though I loved English class;
My passion for history and inability to memorize dates and order of sequence
My distraction, short attention span, and impatience over the years began to make sense when I discovered I'm "moderately dyslexic." A lot of people are, so it's not that I feel something is wrong with me, but it all makes so much more sense. I feel validated, instead of crazy, and I'm able to cut myself a bit of a break.
Being an author.
In working with other authors, I began to see how different the writing experience is for me. We all struggle with spelling errors and forget a word here and there, but dyslexia is different - it's disjointed and confusing, and more than anything it's disheartening if you don't understand why everything has an added degree of difficulty.
As a writer, it's been assumed that I know how to spell everything, and that I should be articulate. Nope. Never has been, nor it will be the case. I confuse letters far too often, find it difficult to write a grammatically complete sense, always leaving out necessary articles and words that I see on page even though they aren't actually there.
Driving is really stressful in areas I'm unfamiliar with because knowing my right from my left seems like an easy enough skill, but in the moment my mind freezes and I mean left but say right, know to go right but turn left. It's a jumbled mess in my brain, and don't even get me started on my horrible short term memory. Retaining anything is pretty difficult. But those aren't the only tricks my brain plays on me...
I've always wondered why I see strange things, like moving wallpaper and an undulating sky when I know it's not moving at all. I see movement from the corner of my eye on a regular basis, only find there is nothing there. In fact, I believe that's why I spook so easily - I'm so used to nothing being there that when it is, it's a startled, to say the least. Most annoyingly, though, is my hearing. While I might not be able to remember much, I can hear things in a way most other's can't. Certain pitches are massively debilitating, and while my eyes and memory fail me, I can hear sounds and quiet/distant conversations that most of the time others cannot. For instance, certain dog barks and people's sneezing is so grating on my senses that it physically hurts, and often times makes me angry--consistent dog barking that hurts my ears is the worst. And how fortunate for me my day job is dog friendly. I have nothing against dogs, but barking is my arched nemesis. Oh, and lucky for me, my husband is one of those sneezers.
How Dyslexia has affected me as a writer...
I'm a people watcher and always have a plethora of story ideas.
It forces me to take time with each story, more than I would have if I could write as quickly and effectively as I'd like to (see cons below).
There's a different type of satisfaction and pride when you can produce a book that people seem to love after it's been so incredibly different to produce.
It takes me a long time to write, with MANY revisions rounds in order to feel semi-confident in my story before I show it even my first round of beta readers.
The difficulty in getting my thoughts concisely down on paper makes the writing process tedious and long. I'm still working on perfecting my process so that it's efficient and helpful, not stressful.
It's expensive. I have to use many rounds of editors and proofreaders. If I'm asked to change something, even something small, in my manuscript, you can bet I didn't add the right word back in or left one out entirely.
Revision after revision takes a lot out of me and a lot of time, therefore, time is always against me.
By the time my book is published I'm SO tired of my story and wonder if it's even good and worth publishing (reading it over and over, the words all jumbled together and confused).
But if I've learned anything, it's that I have to be patient with myself, and patience has NEVER been my strong suit. It's all a work in progress for me, one I'll likely be battling as long as I continue to write.
Little known dyslexia facts...
Seeing non-existent movement while reading, writing, or copying
Reading or writing shows repetitions, additions, transpositions, omissions, substitutions, and reversals in letters, numbers and/or words
Reads and rereads with little comprehension
Has extended hearing; hears things not said or apparent to others; easily distracted by sounds
Trouble with writing or copying; pencil grip is unusual; handwriting varies or is illegible
Can be ambidextrous, and often confuses left/right, over/under
Can count, but has difficulty counting objects and dealing with money
Can do arithmetic, but fails word problems; cannot grasp algebra or higher math
Excellent long-term memory for experiences, locations, and faces
Poor memory for sequences, facts and information that has not been experienced
Talented in art, drama, music, sports, mechanics, story-telling, sales, business, designing, building, or engineering
Seems to “Zone out” or daydream often; gets lost easily or loses track of time.
Difficulty sustaining attention; seems “hyper” or “daydreamer”
Learns best through hands-on experience, demonstrations, experimentation, observation, and visual aids
I write this post today because in all the research I've done, I've found very little information or tools for authors with dyslexia. Producing a list of dyslexic authors isn't really what I was looking for, but thanks Google. More importantly, I think it's important for readers to understand the author journey. It's different for all of it, and it's definitely not as easy as thinking up a story and getting it onto paper. It's so much more complicated and complex (not to mention expensive), at least it is for me.
But, I've bored you enough with all of that. Hopefully you've gained some insight into my life behind the scenes, as well as the life of a dyslexic. Perhaps you know someone who is struggling with this and doesn't even know it?