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Why My Ears Work Better Than My Eyes When It Comes To Advice About Writing

There is lots of writing advice out there, but there are two things I can’t entirely agree with that some authors swear by.

The first is to drink gallons of coffee because writers need lots of the stuff. I’m not too fond of coffee, are you? But I am partial to a bar of coffee-centred chocolate or coffee-flavoured cake. Does that count?

What if you don’t read books?

The second thing is that to be a good writer; you must read books.

The problem with that piece of advice is that picking up a book often terrifies me.

As somebody with dyslexia, reading books is something I struggle with.

I cannot finish reading 90% of the books I pick up because I can’t make any sense of them. But it’s not usually the author’s fault, but the fault of how my brain works when reading words on a page.

My heart sinks when I read the advice that you must read lots of books to be a good writer. I start doubting that I’m not a good writer because I don’t read enough books.

Picking up a book is a frightening experience because my brain tells me I will fail to reach the end.

But even though I dislike drinking coffee and don’t read many books, I still love to write!

They say practice makes perfect.

It’s one of the reasons I participate in the Carrot Ranch 99-word flash fiction challenge every week. People tell me that my writing and flash fiction has improved a lot. And, yes, I can see the improvements.

However, if I rephrase ‘to be a good writer, you must read books,’ to ‘to be a good writer you must watch lots of television,‘ would you look at me oddly?

You see, there are many ways I get ideas for writing fiction and improving my writing, and reading books hardly features.

I watch much more television than I do reading books.

Because of my dyslexia, I find watching television, a movie at the cinema, or a show at the theatre much easier. I can sometimes lose the plot, but I often put that down to a poor script or lousy acting.

I have much more success improving my writing from the screen or stage than from a book page.

However, just because I find reading books problematic doesn’t mean I find other stuff hard to read.

How the world of blogging helps.

When I first discovered the world of blogging, I amazed myself how easy it was to read many blog posts.

I can easily read most blog posts providing the quality of writing is good and does not show any signs of being rushed. I can spot a rushly-written blog post from miles away.

One downside for me because of being dyslexic is that I find blog posts written in accents hard to read. Even the simplest of words prove difficult as my brain tries to determine what the characters are saying.

However, I have no problem if I’m watching a movie or television show where the characters speak in a particular accent. This dyslexia can be a funny business, sometimes.

One last writing tip that may help.

I also get many ideas for stories and blog posts when ‘people-watching’ and listening in on conversations that I and the entire world can not miss because of how they’re being conducted.

My ears work more than my eyes to help me overcome my problem with dyslexia.

I’ve had some success listening to audiobooks, but my eyes need to watch something while listening, so I often give up on them too.

So don’t feel weird or out of touch when other authors and writers recommend that you must read many books to become a good writer and author. It isn’t true for all of us, especially those with problems with words and letters playing tricks on them.

As for drinking gallons of coffee, I’ll have a couple of slices of that coffee and walnut cake rather than a mug of coffee, please.

Are you somebody who is dyslexic but who loves to write? Do you have difficulty reading books? What tips do you use for improving your writing?

Copyright © 2022 Hugh W. Roberts – All rights reserved.

About the Author

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 walking his dogs. Although he was born in Wales, he has lived in 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 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.


39 Comments

  1. Hi Hugh and thank you for this post! I love(d) to read and then in my late 50’s, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. A couple of years into it and I had to go on insulin injections. It was then I realized I was having great difficulty reading and felt severe eye strain. The ophthalmologist diagnosed me with Acute Acquired Comitant Esotropia (one or both eyes turn in causing double vision). I now have prism glasses, but to be honest, they are highly uncomfortable. So, I learned to listen to audio books and sometimes color (on-line and in adult coloring books), quite often work on my crafts or do house/yard work. I do not have shelves of books but my phone, laptop and computer are packed full of audiobooks! Thank you again for sharing your story! Gypsie

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for sharing your story, Gypsie. I’m sorry you have difficulty reading too.

      I have tried audiobooks but have difficulty listening to them. It’s strange, but my eyes seem to take away what I can hear when concentrating on something else, so I’ve not had much success with audiobooks. However, maybe I should give them another try.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hugh,
    You are correct; a writer doesn’t have to read many books to be a good writer. My husband doesn’t read many books, but he is definitely a writer (and author of at least seven novels, a textbook, and several poetry books). He has a spot in his brain that causes double vision, and that causes difficulties when he reads. Over the years, I have read aloud many novels (all seven Harry Potter novels among them) to him, and he is a great listener. Listening for him is one of the best ways for him to learn anything. He does drink a fair amount of coffee though
    Your tips are wonderful. On the other hand, I never drink coffee and that hasn’t seemed to affect my being a writer. ~nan

    Liked by 2 people

    • How wonderful that you read to your husband, Nan. I think the last time anyone read to me was when I was at school. I also recall a TV show where somebody would read a story, something I always enjoyed watching. The story would be spread over 5-consecutive days, ending with a cliffhanger on the first four days.

      As a non-coffee drinker, could I tempt you to a slice of coffee and walnut cake?

      Like

  3. LaShelle says:

    I have dyselexia too and I totally understand what you’re getting at. Sometimes my reading comprehension is nowhere near as effective as a more hands on approach which is why I’m activly looking for writing courses. Loved this amazing advic!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. JT Twissel says:

    I think the best advice for any writer is to read their own work aloud. Feel the cadence and rhythm. Watch out for wasted words. It really is a skill that needs practice more than anything else. .

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Simon says:

    Hi Hugh, I’m feeling quite blank after reading your this particular post. I’m having same issues as you, I’m having hard time reading a book, but I read it again and again to understand and I thought I had focus issues. Look like I have dyslexia? I can’t beleive there is name for this. But I’m happy to accept the fact. My brain has hard time focusing on a Book, so I prefer 90% audiobook 😎. I love to write and writting keeps my mind healing and healthy 🤠. Thanks for sharing this post 😍. I think I have mild form of dyslexia , I’m having Adhd too cannot be sure which one I should accept first 😅. Have a nice day Hugh ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Simon, there is now lots of support for anyone with dyslexia. Much more than there was 20-30 years ago. Have a look around the internet and also your local area. Some dyslexic bloggers offer great advice, so never feel alone or frustrated with the condition dyslexia brings.

      I don’t know if you have tried audiobooks, but give one a try and see how you get on.

      Like

      • Simon says:

        Thanks Hugh. I don’t know how many are around me with similar condition. But thanks, I will try 🤗 to connect with anyone. Thanks for suggesting, I’ve mentioned in my comments that I’m feeling much good and comfortable with audiobooks. Which I’m not sure why, now i know the condition name 😉☺️ thanks to you. Have a good day 🥳

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Jules says:

    Hugh,

    I think all one needs to be creative (writing included) is to live life and have experiences. I like fiction, but I often write about simple things that happen. Like a little wren getting caught on my porch (no spoiler alert – she got out safely).

    The Big “They” of everyone says you should this or that… I don’t buy it. Just continue being yourself and enjoy what you do (((Hugs))) from across the big pond! ~ Jules

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s excellent advice, Jules. There was a time when I was unhappy with being dyslexic. I went as far as to pretend I did not have the condition. When I discovered the blogging world, that all changed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jules says:

        We are all differently abled. 🙂

        Blogging certainly has helped me. I have gotten more support from the blogging community than I ever got from my family.
        I just have to remember they too are differently able…

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Hugh, my son, Michael, has a learning barrier and he struggled to learn to read and write. These tasks for him still take longer than average to complete. He listens to a lot of audio books and aspires to be a writer.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That’s great that he aspires to be a writer and does not allow his condition to stop him from writing. Too many people give up as I did many years ago. So finding the world of blogging was one of the best events of my life as it smashed down the barriers I’d put up in becoming a writer.

      I’m sure Michael also looks up to you as a writer and that you’re giving him lots of advice and support.

      Like

  8. ellenbest24 says:

    I have two sons who struggled with reading though both have wonderful recall, (that can be a pain for those who don’t) The youngest, who was recognised early as having dyslexia and the eldest that was called naughty, disruptive and only got the help I could find in libraries and by talking to people in the know. Despite my insisting the system failed him. Eventually he was diagnosed in his 30’s. He loves books on his shelves and his children have enough books to fill a children’s library. The younger son became determined and developed ways to succeed no matter what. He got the help, learned the coping mechanisms and has become a very successful person running two flourishing businesses, he is a perfectionist. But neither will read for enjoyment, but they make themselves read what they need to read, and both of them are adamant readers or tellers of stories for their children. I passed on the imagination to make a tale from nothing more than what’s under the bed. Even if I couldn’t remove their wonky word problems (I would if I could) I am proud of what they individually achieve. P. S. Tea all the way for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What an incredible story about your two sons, Ellen. You must be very proud of them. It’s great to hear that they have not allowed learning and reading difficulties to stop them from becoming successful. I hope many people who feel they are failures because they have reading difficulties read your comment.

      And it’s good to hear that you also sought support to help them. My parents did little to help me, although dyslexia was not a fully recognised condition back then.

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a real shame that he won’t talk about it, Elleen. I recall being in the same position. It took some advice from my partner to accept that I was dyslexic and not to be ashamed of it. It took me a while, but when I told myself that I had to live with it, I was determined to control it rather than allow it to control me.

      I hope he comes around to talking about it.

      Like

  9. Bravo Hugh! What I really love is that you found ways to write and read that work for you. We can’t listen to the “writing experts” who say we must write according to their rules. Your stories are always engaging. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Colleen.

      It all took some getting used to admit that I was dyslexic, but I’m so glad I did. And, of course, stumbling into the world of blogging was a massive boost of confidence for me, especially when I discovered other dyslexic writers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think we all have a bit of dyslexia, Hugh. I know I twist up letters when I type some days. I like to say that I can’t see what I’m saying. But you had such a hard time growing up… I’m glad you’ve found ways to work through the issue. That’s huge! ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Jo says:

    From what I understand, dyslexia seems to be a side effect of a creative mind. Agatha Christie is said to be dyslexic as well. She’s no 1 best selling author in history.

    Like

  11. This is an important post. When I taught I of course had dyslexic students, identified and unidentified; most employed effective strategies with and without support. I appreciate you sharing the strategies that work for you. No one should be excluded from “book talk”. TV and movies, if discussed intelligently as stories and story structures can certainly be part of the conversation and can inform the creative spark.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, D. I only wish more attention was given to TV and Movie talk as much as books get. It’s always good to see blog posts that are reviews of movies and TV shows. And they go a long way in helping those with dyslexia.

      Like

  12. suespitulnik says:

    What a great post, Hugh. I learned as much from what you wrote as I did from the many comments. Thank you everyone for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. […] Why My Ears Work Better Than My Eyes When It Comes To Advice About Writing « Carrot Ranch Literary … […]

    Like

  14. Darlene says:

    When it comes to writing, it’s not one size fits all! What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. The key is to find what works for you. Most people think you need to be able to type in order to write books. I can’t type. But I have written ten books with two fingers.

    Like

    • I always appreciate the advice people give but realise it won’t always work for me. However, when it comes to advice for a particular group (such as dyslexic writers), I think much of the advice will help most of those with the condition.

      As for typing, I only type using two fingers, but I consider myself able to type regardless of how I do it. It’s a little like reading. I struggle to read everything, but I can still read.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. dgkaye says:

    I can surely understand your dilemma Hugh. I also struggle reading some blogs that have weird or faint colors or tiny font. I don’t listen to audio books because I enjoy reading far better. 🙂

    Like

  16. James L says:

    Hi Hugh, great take on this subject – I often feel bad because I’m not reading (or not reading the “right” stuff like classic literature).

    With the latter I believe its a form of pretentious snobbery some writers do to make them feel superior to others.

    My view is I’d rather focus on reading content that helps what I’d write, with other things thrown in occasionally to mix up and influence style.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective on what its like reading with dyslexia- it highlights the importance writing for everyone can have.

    Like

    • Thanks, James.

      For me, it’s more about ‘watching’ than ‘reading’, although reading blog posts has certainly helped my writing. I do like watching the odd classic film (usually at Christmas time), and some classic TV shows such as ‘The Twilight Zone’ have been of huge help to me. I like my fiction with a twist.

      Liked by 1 person

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