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What To Do When You’re Told Reading And Writing Are Not Your Friends

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Being dyslexic has its perks, but it also has its disadvantages. Take a look at the heading of this post again. How many writers would read it with horror? I know I would.

So why have I given this post that heading? Because I’m here to talk about being a writer who happens to be dyslexic and who’s in love with words.

Have you ever played the game ‘Hide & Seek?’

Words play Hide & Seek with me all the time. I can go days, sometimes weeks, writing and rereading a blog post or short story, and those words only come out of hiding when I’ve pushed the publish button. Even then, it’s not always me that spots those words. It’s somebody who has read my post and who kindly points out in an email or via the ‘Contact Hugh’ button on my blog that I’ve made a mistake. I get upset when that happens.

However, I’m not upset with the person who has contacted me but upset with the words that knowingly laugh back at me when highlighted to me.

When did it all start?

The horrors of being dyslexic started way back for me – during my school years, I heard these phases –

Hugh is a little stupid.

Hugh is slow when it comes to learning.

If Hugh wants to become a writer, he needs to try harder.

It would help us if you told Hugh he will never be a writer. He gets his words mixed up and writers don’t get their words mixed up.

Words seem to terrify Hugh.

Those were just some of the comments I heard my teachers telling my parents at the yearly school parents’ evening. Today, teachers know what the signs of dyslexia are, but some people still have trouble putting me being a writer and being dyslexic together.

But words have never terrified me. But they have (and still do) play tricks on me.

The tricks words play

Sometimes, I get so frustrated with words that it can bring my mood down and spoil the rest of my day. Why do I, therefore, write in the mornings? Because it’s when I seem to be at my most creative, that’s why. I fill my whole mornings with words, and every single one of them has the potential to bring my mood down. But it’s not the words playing tricks with me; it’s what my brain is telling my eyes.

Even the best software in the universe can’t always help. Have you been in a position when Grammarly (or another piece of writing software) highlights a mistake, yet you can’t work out what the problem is? Even though Grammarly tells me the problem, I often still can’t see why it’s a mistake. Surely I’m right, not a piece of software? That’s what happens when dyslexia jumps out of a box, pokes out its tongue, and laughs at you.

Image showing several attempts of the spelling of the word Dyslexic

Are there any advantages of being dyslexic?

Yes. Did you know that F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Irving and Linda La Plante had dyslexia? So can I put myself amongst that famous group of writers and stand proud that I’ve written and published two short story collections, have a column at the Carrot Ranch, and have been running a blog for the past seven years where my passion for writing runs riot? Of course, I can.

But the best thing about being dyslexic is that I get repeatedly told that people with dyslexia have ‘special’ creative minds, which sometimes can spark something unusual. Something that makes the reader go, ‘WOW!’

Take, for example, Charli’s recent 99-word flash fiction challenge with the theme of ‘Meltdown.’ Are the comments on the piece I published in response to that challenge proof that dyslexic people do have something special when it comes to writing?

What I’d now want to tell my teachers

Because reading never comes easy to me, I have spent my life wrestling with words and trying to get them down on a page. I am not afraid of words or putting them together to create ideas, blog posts or fiction. Words do not terrify me. I never think “I can’t” when I try to write something. I know from experience that I can. So when I tell myself that words are not friendly, I immediately tell myself that I’m a good writer, who like all writers, continues to improve at their own pace. And ‘Practice makes perfect.’ Doesn’t it?

And it’s thanks to writing prompts like Charli’s 99-word flash fiction challenge that my writing continues to improve. Sometimes I surprise myself, but often not until the comments come in.

No, words and reading are not terrifying or unfriendly. And nor is being dyslexic a problem. No, the problem has always been the people who tell you it’s a problem.

Have you ever struggled with words? Tell me about your ‘word problem’ experiences and share with us how you got over them.

Image showing some straight lines drawn by different coloured pens on a white background

If you missed my previous posts on Diversity With A Twist, here they are.

Copyright © 2021 Hugh W. Roberts – All rights reserved.

***

Photo of the writer, author and blogger, Hugh W. Roberts

Hugh W. Roberts lives in Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom.

Hugh gets his inspiration for writing from various avenues including writing prompts, photos, eavesdropping and while out walking his dogs, Although he was born in Wales, he has lived around various parts of the United Kingdom, including London where he lived and worked for 27 years.

Hugh suffers from a mild form of dyslexia but, after discovering blogging, decided not to allow the condition to stop his passion for writing. Since creating his blog ‘Hugh’s Views & News’ in February 2014, he has built up a strong following and now writes every day. Always keen to promote other bloggers, authors and writers, Hugh enjoys the interaction blogging brings and has built up a group of online friends.

His short stories have become well known for the unexpected twists they contain. One of the best compliments a reader can give Hugh is “I never saw that ending coming.”

Having published his first book of short stories, Glimpses, in December 2016, his second collection of short stories, More Glimpses, was released in March 2019.

A keen photographer, he also enjoys cycling, walking, reading, watching television, and enjoys relaxing with a glass of red wine and sweet popcorn.

Hugh shares his life with John, his civil-partner, and Toby and Austin, their Cardigan Welsh Corgis.

You can follow Hugh’s blog at Hugh’s Views And News and follow him on Twitter at @hughRoberts05.


59 Comments

  1. Right on, Hugh. You’re a hero. I imagine the variances between US and UK spelling also add a layer of difficulty.

    So many writers who don’t have dyslexia give up. Writing is hard. Let me rephrase that. Good writing is hard.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, the different spellings don’t often help, Kathy. I was once disqualified from a writing competition because I’d used the British spelling and saying of certain words rather than the American ones. The contest was held in America, and the judges were all from that part of the world. Although I pointed out there was nothing in the rules about it, they still told me that the judges disqualified me because they saw my story had too many grammar errors to do with the spelling of certain words. It stopped me from entering other contests for a while, but I soon got over it. The story I’d written ended up in one of my books, and I’ve had excellent feedback about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good column, Hugh. I can only imagine what you go through on a daily basis, and I am impressed. Have a great day, and keep wrangling those pesky words. All my best,
    nan

    Like

    • Thank you, Nan. It was blogging that helped me get over my fear of dyslexia. For too many years, I’d allowed it to squash my passion for writing. I’m certainly glad I decided to carry on blogging after publishing a few posts that were full of errors and showed just how much being dyslexic affected me. I only now look back when writing posts like this one.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Jules says:

    Hugh,

    I had a trauma when I was very young. I had my mother pass away before I was three. I was silent for a long time and when it came time to go to school I was always taunted for a) being the new student and b) being quiet and shy and c) not being able to read … until I got some serious help. Which came in the form of a Step-mom who at read to me every night. But that didn’t stop the comments from coming about me being slow or never going to be able to make a good living. Even when I started community college I had a the same Step-mom who read to me tell my then boyfriend that I’d never make it in college.

    No wonder I kept my writing to myself. And was thankful for those teachers who saw something and encouraged me to continue.

    My Dad says he had dyslexia but I was never diagnosed as such. I think through the years I’ve manage to become a professional writer (yep I won some money in contests – at Carrot Ranch.) And now I’m even helping to edit a poetry book! I may not have a great grammar or spelling background but because I enjoy reading and writing I think I’ve been able to be a big help when I show my own creativity.

    Keep on keeping on and as you say may we grow at our own pace!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Jules,

      I’m sorry about your loss at such a young age. It must have impacted your life so much. Children can be so cruel to each other, but it had an even greater impact on me when adults make those comments. Thank goodness that dyslexia is now a recognised condition, and there is lots of support for those diagnosed with it.

      When we have a passion for something, I think we find something that helps us break down the wall the problem has built around us at some stage in our lives. For me, it was blogging, and the help, support and encouragement I get from the comments other readers and writers leave me have been second to none. They’ve certainly helped spur me on.

      I also won a writing contest here at the Carrot Ranch, and I keep trying by participating in other contests. The competition I won here, though, gave me a big boost.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jules says:

        Our families and those who know us sometimes have pre-conceived expectations . So it is really a wonderful feeling when we are recognized in a positive way for the things we have a passion for.

        Thank you for being you and remember we are all winners – all the time!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I will certainly remember what you say about ‘winners’, Jules. Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. JT Twissel says:

    The best writers are the most creative with their words, their phrases, the plots and their characters. So I would say they mix up their words all the time! I’m sorry you had to go through so much pain … the most creative people I know suffered some sort of prejudice as children.

    Like

    • Yes, you’re right, whether it be about the colour of our hair, not being able to keep up with reading and writing, or not being as good at sports as other children, I think most of us go through some prejudice as children. It’s when adults make those comments (and they still do) that affects me the most, though.

      Like

  5. Hi Hugh, this is a great post. Your statement: But the best thing about being dyslexic is that I get repeatedly told that people with dyslexia have ‘special’ creative minds, which sometimes can spark something unusual. Something that makes the reader go, ‘WOW!’ – ring very true for me. I am always telling Michael this because he has the most wonderful story ideas but struggles to write them down because he to has a learning barrier that makes reading and writing more challenging. I also sometimes sit which him and help him over a hump. I study with Michael for all his tests and exams so he will be more confident when he writes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Robbie, thank you. I know exactly how your son, Michael, feels in struggling to get those words down. I often compare it to wrestling with words. It can sometimes be a continuous fight. However, if we’re determined, then we never allow dyslexia to win.

      And it’s lovely to hear about all the support you give Michael. I only wish my parents had done the same for me, but sadly they believed what most of my teachers were telling them and thought I’d end up in a dead-end job that was part of a dead-end life. My mother was especially overjoyed when I got my first job that was not a ‘dead-end’, although sadly, she passed away the year before my first book was published.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. floridaborne says:

    Those of us with mild dyslexia also seem to be good at wordsearch and scrabble. It comes from years of wondering, “What’s that word?”

    If you have trouble hearing words correctly, it can be a challenge to understand that, “I cook the corn to perk” actually means “I took the horn to work.” It takes a bit of detective work, but if you see a horn in someone’s hand and they’re going out to work, that’s a clue. 😂

    We see the world a bit differently from others — and some of us hear the world a bit differently from others, too — but whatever the differences may be, they provide a rich perspective.

    Like

    • I was never a scrabble player, preferring Monopoly, which I often won. But you’re right about word searches because I can often spot them straight away in a grid of jumbled up words.

      Yes, I also hear certain words differently, and I struggle badly with reading when the words are written in the accent the character is using is difficult to understand. I was never any good at learning foreign languages either.

      Like

      • floridaborne says:

        I don’t like words that are written in the accent of the character either, when it is too extreme (I suppose “extreme” depends upon the person).

        After taking 4 years of Spanish, and remembering one phrase (where is the bathroom), I can relate to the language problem, too.

        I don’t feel so alone.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Charli Mills says:

      I never realized that, Joelle, but yes, words pop out in searches and I love Scrabble and have the ability to rearrange letters quickly. Though, often I reverse letter order when I place the word.

      Liked by 1 person

      • floridaborne says:

        I find it’s easier to play scrabble with the board facing the other person and I’m looking at the words upside down.

        We all find the best way to look at things, even it if’s upside down. 😊

        Like

  7. Bravo, Hugh. My admiration for your fine work always carries with it a special hurrah for your grit and determination. I know it’s not anything like the same thing as dyslexia but as I get older I find words disappearing from my vocabulary at random and then turning up in my head at 3 a.m. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Doug. Your lovely comments are what makes me even more determined not to allow my dyslexia to win.

      As for words turning up in the early morning hours, I have the same problem with whole stories doing that to me. It’s why I have a notepad by the side of the bed. If I don’t write them down, I will have forgotten them when the sun comes up.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Norah says:

    You’re right, Hugh. Your stories are often full of surprises, and it is the attitudes of others that are the problem. Never stop writing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t intend to, Norah. Even when my writing mind goes blank, I come back the next day and often surprise myself with what travels from my head to the keyboard of my computer.

      As for the people who don’t believe I can write (or read) when I tell them I’m dyslexic, I’m happy to say that they are now few and far between

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hugh, thank you for opening a door that many of us have never walked through. You have given us an insight to a topic we may have heard of, or have minimal information on. Not everyone is comfortable sharing what pushed them to do the great things they have accomplished because someone somewhere told them otherwise. I look forward to reading more (and more) of your work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much, Ann. My only hope is that other people with dyslexia who want to write will read this post and feel encouraged to write their first book or first story. My fingers are crossed.

      Like

  10. dgkaye says:

    Fantastic post from Hugh. I’m sorry to hear about the ignorance of so many bursting a child’s balloon. I’m glad Hugh persevered and felt determined to show us all. I enjoy Hugh’s writing style and his famous twisted endings. Just goes to show determination can take us anywhere we want to go. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much, Debby. Those early days at school still rattle around my head, but I find it far easier to push all those negative thoughts away now that I have a blog, guest column and two books under my belt.
      My childhood dream of having a book published also came true – twice!.
      I’d love to be able to see the faces of those teachers now.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. ellenbest24 says:

    My problem (only when someone points it out) is my body dumps iron in my brain and that leaves me a bit like a dementia sufferer. My words either stuck in my mouth or being searched for in my head. Chronic fatigue from ( I am sure from constantly editing) too much iron messes my equilibrium, makes me scared to write because of the mistakes I will not know I have made. Then the Venussections to draw the iron from its buried place,. Rusting quietly poisoning my organs. That leaves me clearer but exhausted. A game of which organ today being played behind the scenes. So I write in the cracks the spaces of clear but always with a voice in my ear. Xxx

    Like

  12. Excellent column, Hugh. A family member struggles with words in such a way, but numbers are fine. So perplexing. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  13. Lea says:

    Hi Hugh, Thank you for sharing your insight and experience being a writer with dyslexia. It makes me appreciate what you do all the much more.

    I’m sorry you had to hear those horrible things when you were a child. But you had the strength, grit and determination to know in your heart that you could write, and write well!!

    Hugh, I do the same thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written an e-mail and proofed it, only to discover an error(s) as soon as I hit the send button. However, if it were something someone else wrote I’d likely see it right away.

    Like

    • Hello, Lea. Thank you for reading my latest post here at the Carrot Ranch.

      I’m delighted that there is now a lot more support for those who are dyslexic. It wasn’t a recognised condition when I was in school, so I probably shouldn’t have blamed most of my teachers so much. But you’re right. My determination to write stood firm, even after hearing my teachers’ words to my parents. I think that when you have a passion for something, nothing gets in your way (unless you allow it).

      Thanks again for reading my latest post and for leaving a comment.

      Like

  14. janiejunebug says:

    Words, reading, and writing have always been your friends. The problem definitely rests with the people who tell us what we are NOT capable of doing. My mother had a habit of telling me the many things I could not possibly do, including “you will never be able to hold down a job because if something went wrong you would fall apart.” I wish she had lived long enough to see my work as a newspaper reporter and then a medical assistant. I saved lives without ever falling apart.

    Love,
    Janie

    Like

    • Thank you for sharing your story with us, Janie. Yes, if those people were around today, I’d love to have been able to go up to them and tell them that I’d proved them wrong.
      ‘Don’t allow negative people to invade your life.’ That’s a quote my grandmother told me many years ago. I wish I’d listened to her.

      Like

  15. I’m not sure I’m dyslexic, but I do twist words and sentences sometimes. My step mother was brutal! I wish she could see me now! Ha! You’re stories are brilliant, Hugh. Keep writing and being you! ❤️

    Like

  16. In spite of this dyslexia, Hugh, your mind works in different ways to come up with the twists and turns many of your stories take in your writing. I worked with a couple of university students who were dyslexic and they were the best writers I had in the 10 years of teaching. Becsue of their disability, there were evern more careful as well as creative in their written words. I’m glad you stuck to your guns and share your wonderful works, Hugh!

    Like

    • Thank you, Terri. As a teacher, it’s good to hear what you said about the students who had dyslexia. Fortunately, things have changed a lot for people with dyslexia now, with lots more support out there. And it’s great to be able to look up to those multi-selling authors who had the condition.

      I’m glad I stuck with writing, although if it were not for the blogging, I wonder if I’d ever had given it another go.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. JT Twissel says:

    The people I know who are dyslexic are creative geniuses but they never got over the hurt of being labeled “slow” or worse. I have math dyslexia – I cannot be trusted with numbers at all! The rest of my family excel at math so I grew up feeling defective. However then I learned how to use Excel and I can do things they can’t. I am guilty of reading titles the wrong way – but I believe that’s my warped view of the world. I love your creativity Hugh!

    Like

    • Thank you, Jan. I failed all my maths exams at school, yet I did really well in my English exams. I was determined to prove my teachers wrong, most of whom were rather shocked by my grades.
      I also have the same problems with menus, often seeing words of certain foods that aren’t on the menu.
      I’m quite good with technology, especially checking out how various platforms like WordPress work.

      Like

  18. Well said, Hugh. Your piece here is inspiring and your blogs are informative, helpful, and innovative. Your pieces of flash fiction are fun and we have come to enjoy (and almost expect) the Hugh ending with a twist. 🙂 You are doing and being awesome!

    These days, there is much more help for dyslexic children. They get adjusted home work and tests and there are apps and products to help them. At least in Belgium. 🙂

    I sometimes mix some letters up, usually when typing and don’t realize until later that something went wrong. I often misspeak too, as in saying “left” when I mean “right.” Often, my head goes way too fast, much faster than my speaking abilities and that leads to warbled situations…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Liesbet. I will have to try and fool you all with some of my endings on new pieces of flash fiction. I can almost see the shock of horror on the faces of many of my readers.

      Yes, I’m delighted there is now far more help for people with dyslexia. I get messages from some dyslexic writers who thank me for motivating them to carry on writing. It’s lovely when that happens because it shows that my posts about dyslexia are helping.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. A wonderful empowering post, Hugh. I struggle with words too, including how to spell “dyslectic.” I’m so sorry that you’ve heard such hurtful things said about you, and how fantastic that you are reading and writing and proving them wrong. Hopefully, some day, people will learn to look at differences as strengths and opportunities. Thanks for sharing your experience and wisdom.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Hi Diana, thanks so much for reading my latest post here at the Carrot Ranch.

    I’m older and wiser now, so those negative words back then are something I now know I could go back and prove wrong. Dyslexia wasn’t a known condition back then, so I’m grateful and delighted that there are now many support groups and help for people with the condition. And I hope posts like this one give people with dyslexia the confidence to continue writing and reading.

    Thanks again for reading and leaving a comment.

    Like

  21. Charli Mills says:

    Hugh, this post gives me so much heart! I was placed in remedial reading as a young child because “hooked on phonics” did not work for me. I could not (can not today) break down words into their smallest components because of dyslexia. But my mind can put together the whole words, sentences, and stories. It was my remedial teacher who realized I was reading chapter books well above my grade level, but I couldn’t read using the phonics system. You can hear my dyslexia when I talk yet it did not stop me from becoming a public speaker or reader. Again, my brain got creative. I love the honoring you do for the creative dyslexic brain.

    Earlier today, I texted a friend and misspelled another friend’s husband’s name to the point she had to ask, “Who?” I got flustered and couldn’t figure out how to spell the name. I simply wrote, “Her husband.” She responded with his name and I was like — aw, that’s how you spell it! Silly things like that make people scratch their heads but a writer is a writer who loves words and stories and craft. I’m so happy you defied your teachers who did not understand.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment, Charli. I often spell words the way they sound. Of course, the spelling of those words are never correct, but when I see the correct spelling, my brain tells me those were the sounds I was making when trying to spell the word. Although it seems straightforward, it’s a very head-scratching experience because I should be able to spell those words the first time with the sounds I’m making, yet my dyslexia won’t have it.

      Like

  22. James L says:

    Thanks for sharing Hugh, I can’t imagine what it feels like writing/reading when you have dyslexia, but I congratulate for pursuing your passion for writing, rather than let it put you off!

    Liked by 1 person

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