Dyslexia and Writing | The Writers Journey

It's not easy being a writer at the best of times, but being a person with dyslexia and writing for a living is something of a challenge, as Doug Clark outlines in the latest in our series on how to be an author.

Dyslexia and Writing

by Doug Clark

Doug Clarke dyslexia and writing graphicIf things had been different, I may have chosen writing as my primary career, but things weren't different. I was born with dyslexia and dysgraphia, which in simple terms meant that in fourth grade I was reading at a second grade level and writing (penmanship and spelling) at a first. In 3rd grade, while my grades in writing and spelling were Ds and Fs, a comment on my report card said, “He is good at creative reading.” My parents paid to have me tutored outside of school starting in the 5th grade.

On a field trip to the local library in 6th grade I was fortunate to hear Arthur C. Clarke speak about writing and the love of reading. That was a turning point in my life. Books became a source of wild adventures that were worth the struggles and headaches required to unlock. By the time I was in 9th grade, I was an avid reader. The penmanship and spelling, along with what in the 1970's was high tech - typing - were still far below grade level. In fact my typing teacher offered to give me a D in her class if I promised not to take the next one in the series, otherwise she would give me an F so I couldn't.

To this day I can't use cursive writing and my penmanship is something only a doctor, or my mother, could love. Check as you type spelling and grammar checkers have helped a lot, but they still don't help much when I correctly spell the wrong word (on instead of one). Thanks to the computer, I can actually write a short story and even a novel. Thanks of course also has to go to my very understanding editors, who probably roll their eyes at the kinds of mistakes I make.

Artists Create from Struggle

I've heard it said, and I wish I knew the exact quote and who said it first, that all great artists create from the dark times they've gone through and their disabilities. That somehow, if creating is not hard work, that stirs up deep emotions, a masterpiece cannot be the result.

It's funny because as I sit to write a chapter of my book, or a short story, I have some idea about what it is I'm going to write. But the effort required to type each word, (both finding the keys to hit and figuring out how to spell the word), and the effort to keep the sentence structures correct, doesn't give me much my space left to think about what to write. Instead as I finish each word, the next word seems to just be there waiting for me to write.

I've read about how characters in a story start talking and say things that the authors didn't know they were going to say, and lead the story in directions they hadn't planned. I have experienced this not only in dialog, but in action and narrative as well.

I guess that my writing is very much right brained, or perhaps the Holy Spirit is whispering in my ear. In either case my writing is very much from the heart and at times thought provoking.

I began writing after high school - mostly letters, poems, and the occasional newsletter. I tried writing short stories and even a novel, but never found the motivation to finish any of them. Besides my struggles with the actual craft of writing my life had been pretty good. I was missing the "stirring up of deep emotions". Looking back I wish I still was.

Blogging

Tragedy struck my family when my 15 year old son was killed in a bicycle accident on his way to school. To survive, I took to blogging - spending many hours and many tears writing each page. If you want to experience the journey the site is still up, you can find a link to it on my website. My hope for the website was that someone else might read it and find hope in the fact that I survived that perhaps some of my wisdom might make their of grief walk easier.

After a year, the blogging had run its course and I needed another way to continue my grieving process. I picked up an old manuscript I had started years before and reformed its plot into one that spoke to the grief I was still feeling inside. The next 15 months saw the completion of a 113,000 word novel.

After three months of staring the novel I felt disconnected. With the Blog there was an immediacy to the writing. Hours after I was done, the blog was there for the world to see. To recapture some of that, I started to write short stories for the characters in the novel and posting them on blogs for each character. A few months later I started writing a monthly newsletter about the progress of the novel and writing in general.

Another three years have passed. While writing is still a part time enterprise, it has become part of my life. I recently formed a corporation which, among other things, is producing both written and audio books.

When asked, many authors say, "I just have to write. There is a story that wants to be told and I feel compiled to tell it." When I'm asked that same question I have to pause. In the beginning I hated to write. Then I needed to connect with others by writing. Later it was my way to grieve - to let my soul scream. Now? Now it is a way to explore my emotions, to indulge in my imagine - to create something, and yes to continue my grieving process. I write because if I don't my soul is burdened.

I write, not because it makes me feel good. For in truth, if I write for two hours my shoulders and neck are stiff, my head is pounding, and my eyes are blurry. I write because it frees me and it is earnest prayer that my writing will both entertain and inspire someone.

Doug's online company, A Good Tale is currently running a writing competition: The Zombie Apocalypse Challenge. Looks like fun!

What struggles have you overcome in your writing? Share this post and your thoughts in the comments section below.

2 thoughts on “Dyslexia and Writing | The Writers Journey

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Doug. I resonate with the immediacy of blogging, and the delayed gratification of publishing larger works.

    1. Sd,

      I couldn’t have said it better. In this last year I’ve found a compromise – I’ve started writing short stories as part of a monthly contest. The stories are longer than blogs, with more work put in them, but the delay is only a month.

      Doug

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