Writing with Dyslexia

hand-stopI’ve recently finished helping one of my clients write a dissertation on teachers with dyslexia. I am slightly dyslexic, my client is severely dyslexic. Part of the research was a series of interviews with teachers who have dyslexia. I will try to summarize what was found.

Dyslexia is not an illness, or a condition, but a different way of seeing/processing the world. Yes, it presents challenges in a world ruled by print and reading, but also has a lot of advantages where creativity, practicality, memory, oral storytelling, and alternative solutions are required (80,000 years until the printing press was created – well that’s my theory anyway).

The main issue that will drive your solutions, is the degree and nature of your dyslexia.

Teachers with dyslexia are a recent phenomenon, which attests to the way technology has helped people with dyslexia overcome many of the difficulties that used to keep them out of the profession. It is the same in writing.

First the software:

  • Spell Checker (but not Grammar Checker)
  • Auto Correct (for correct spelling – Auto Correct builds up over time)
  • online thesaurus (finding those elusive words hovering at the edges of your mind)
  • Dragon/Claro Read/Windows text-to-speech (for reading out your work)
  • Inspiration/Mind Genius (for mind mapping)
  • Dragon (for dictating)
  • Dyslexie Font (brilliant Dutch creation – free to individual users)
  • Powerpoint/Flowcharter/Scrivener/index cards (for visual story boarding)
  • Scrivener/MS Project/Flowcharter/Excell (visually keeping track of your writing projects)
  • Evernote/Dropbox (capturing those fleeting thoughts, pictures, dictations)
  • Colored screen backgrounds (ivory is my favorite).

 

Hardware:

  • Dictaphone/Mobile Phone (who says the first draft has to be physical, just upload your dictation to Dragon and let the computer transcribe the text)
  • Good quality Headset Microphone (I dictate while I do the household chores using a Plantronics headset)
  • Headphones/Earbuds for listening to text-to-speech in public
  • Colour Coding/coloured Post-it-Notes (to visually keep track of characters/storylines/plot points etc).

Other:

  • Beta readers
  • Alpha readers
  • Writing buddy
  • Proofreader and/or editor (find affordable ones on Fiverr or similar)
  • Outsource stuff you struggle with (Fiverr again or similar)
  • Find other writers who are dyslexic to share thoughts/best practice
  • Know your limits if fatigue is a problem – take regular breaks
  • Share your issues with others/teachers/agents/publishers (you will be surprised who else is secretly dyslexic/dyspraxic/autistic etc and can offer help)
  • Research the internet to see what solutions other people with dyslexia have found
  • Don’t be afraid to think and write visually – in fact you probably have an advantage here over writers slavishly tethered to grammar/text – let your imagination fly.
  • Don’t be too hasty to ‘correct’ those descriptions where you might have used the ‘wrong’ word – good writers slave for hours trying to ‘think outside the box’ and find unique descriptions.  Take time to understand the words you have used and think about how they could fit into what your descriptions or use them to trigger other thoughts.  Your mind might be naturally ‘outside the box’ – in terms of writing descriptions, a veritable gold mine.

I let my poor spelling stop me from pursuing my dream of becoming an author for twenty-seven years.  Don’t let dyslexia stop you from pursuing your dream – there are ways around everything.

Finally, writing is about having something to say, not spelling and vocabulary: these things are part of the editing process that can be ‘corrected’, after the first draft has been produced, with the tools available. No one but you can produce that first draft and say the things you have to say.

Now get writing!

Nick

 

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