I am a dyslexic writer; many people ask me why I feel the need to tell people this. The reason is I think it’s important that people understand and see that no barrier is high enough to stop you from achieving your dreams. From a child I was told that I would never be a writer because no one would respect me due to this learning challenge I face. I struggle with spelling, have terrible grammar, and use far too many commas. I write as I speak, not how I’m supposed to. It’s why I largely write scripts and I’m so terrible at producing blog material.
I know that there will be people who read this and role their eyes wondering how I can possibly be intelligent, or indeed a good writer if I can’t perform these basic literacy tasks. I also appreciate that you are probably wondering why I don’t just get a proof reader? I want to raise awareness of living with dyslexia, the challenges we face, but also the talent behind it without shame…Although it doesn’t define me, I am proud of what I have achieved despite the challenges faced.
Being neuro-diverse doesn’t stop you, it just makes life more challenging. If you are dyslexic and are reading this, I want you to know that you can do anything you want to. If you want to write, then write…Indeed, no matter what disability, or different ability you have don’t for a second think you can’t do what you want to do, it’s just going to be much harder.
As a write who happens to be word blind, you can imagine that it is a difficult to start, this is often due to anxiety. No matter how much you try to edit, you’re going to miss something and you’re going to get criticised and your hard work discarded. This in turn can cause terrible writers block. I have found some techniques that have helped keep me writing. I wanted to share these with you, everyone is different and I am by no means an expert on the subject, but something might help. It’s important to discover your own process, all I can do is tell you mine.
TIP NUMBER ONE
Research and Planning is key
There is a certain amount of research and planning you will need to do before you begin writing anything. It will entirely depend on what you are writing and the type of person you are as to how you will do this.
TIP NUMBER TWO
I know, it’s a bit cliché but it’s honestly the best way to start writing. If you’re stuck, try to turn off your brain for a moment and free write. Find yourself a notebook and a pen right now…do it…Ok, so now you have your tools, I want you to think about the subject you want to write about and just write. Don’t edit, don’t think, just put the words from your head onto the paper in front of you. It doesn’t need to make sense or be any good. The point is to simply get you started.
Exercise: Free write for one minute about the subject you intend to write about.
TIP NUMBER THREE
Write with your heart, edit with your head.
By this I mean, when you write, don’t try to edit yourself just get your story down. It’s ok, you can go back later, don’t worry. By trying to self-edit when you write, you will end up with writer’s block. Try to stick to a lose structure, and it doesn’t matter what you are writing, the structure is the same. Beginning – Middle – End. What goes in each section is up to you.
Exercise: Take your free write and use the concepts you find intriguing and write down everything you know on each area, don’t try to use a basic structure, but don’t worry too much at this point.
Now for the hard bit, editing. Writing and editing are two very different crafts that you will need to learn, it’s important that you don’t start to edit until you have written at least your first draft. (I know, sounds daft, but I mean don’t try to edit as you are writing your first draft).
Your first edit should simply be about finding what works and what doesn’t
Exercise: Now go over what you wrote in the previous exercise and try to figure out what you like and don’t lie about your piece of writing.
TIP NUMBER FOUR
Your first few drafts are going to be shit, I mean really, really shit…and that’s ok.
Sometimes you will get lucking and write something very good, first time. However, most of the time you will end up with something terrible, and it won’t get good for a while, so the key here is edit…edit…edit. When to stop, now that’s covered in a later tip,
Exercise: Once you have finished your initial edit of the first draft, put it to one side, let’s face it, it’s shit anyway. Now the real writing begins.
TIP NUMBER FIVE
You are telling a story, so give it meaning.
It’s true that we love a good story, and to tell a good story you need a few vital ingredients.
Story Title: Your business
Characters: Bad guy – the problem, good guy – you, victim – the customers, etc…
The plot: Your message
The theme: What do you want from your audience?
TIP NUMBER SIX
Put it down…Just stop looking at it for a while.
Once you have the story to a point where you get across your message, stop. We often get too close to our writing, and it can be difficult to edit and get in the correct mindset to be self-critical and objective about our own work. I generally leave my work for a couple of weeks, then look at it again. When you do pick it up again, don’t be surprised if you absolutely hate it.
Exercise: Take your work to a point where you are happy that your message is there but it’s not perfect. Then put it down for two weeks. Set a day in your diary to take another look, a full day will be a good idea.
TIME NUMBER SEVEN
Throw it away and start again, that’s right! You read that correctly.
When you pick your work up objectively, you will see how terrible it is. If it isn’t, then that’s great! You’ve not done anything wrong either way. If you like it, then ask someone else to read it over and give you feedback.
If you do read it back and hate it, throw it away and start again, you have my permission. You didn’t waste your time, you’ve learned valuable information in this first attempt.
Exercise: Either – throw your work away and start again; or, ask someone to have a look at it for you.
TIME NUMBER EIGHT
Have a key purpose for each edit you do.
This was covered earlier, but it’s such an important point I wanted to cover it in more detail. When you edit, try not to edit too much at a time. Have a key purpose for each run through, everyone is different, but I use the following editing structure:
Exercise: Plan your editing process, write it down and work through it.
TIP NUMBER NINE
Don’t give up…it’s going to get difficult.
When you are writing, it’s like anything. It gets difficult and it takes time to get it right, there are going to be times where you think it’s not going to get there and you’re going to want to give up, but don’t. I promise you; it does get easier as you keep practice.
If you don’t like what you’ve written, don’t be afraid to throw it away and start again. Just don’t give up on it. A good idea is to try to write something every day, get used to writing and get into the habit of doing it.
Exercise: Keep a writer’s journal, note down anything that inspires you about the subject you intend to write about. Put something in there every day.
TIP NUMBER TEN
Read it out loud
This is a good one especially if you are trying to write in your own voice, or in a natural voice. When you read it out loud you will naturally change words to how you would normally speak. Don’t force yourself to say what you’ve written, if you keep working on it, you will eventually get it right. If you are writing something you intend to read out loud, punctuate as you speak.
However, one important tip, the last tip that I’m going to give, and this is a freebee…STOP. Once you get to the point where you are taking out and putting in stuff you have already worked on STOP.
Exercise: Read your work out loud once you have done your ‘final edit’ and make any changes needed so that it sounds natural.