Dyslexia: a writer’s best friend
By Sophie Mullen on Sunday, 16 July 2023
If you’d told six-year-old me she’d end up writing for a living, she’d probably have burst into tears. Reading, writing and I did not get along. I was stuck on basic level books. My letters always seemed to jumble and flip themselves round. I couldn’t even hold a pencil right. Teachers rolled their eyes as I repeatedly ‘lost’ the special pen grips they tried to train me with. My older brother had similar, but more dramatic, difficulties when he was a kid. So my parents saw it coming when the school advised I was mildly dyslexic. At some point though, things clicked. I’d always liked coming up with stories, but now I could write them down myself. I read constantly.
My brother, whose dyslexia was so severe he attended a specialist school, was the same. We both studied English Lit at uni, and both chose careers that revolved around the little squiggles that used to be our enemies.
Sure, the time blindness, organisation difficulties and slow processing speed can be a pain. I’m also pretty much incapable of thinking or doing more than one thing at a time.
But in some ways, I see my dyslexia as a strength.
It might take me double the time to read something – and skim reading is totally off the table - but because I need to concentrate on it so fully, once I get it, I usually really get it.
I might find it harder to synthesise information on the spot in conversations and meetings, but when I respond you’ll know I’ve given it thought.
In fact, I think my dyslexic brain’s difficulty organising my thoughts is partly why I love writing so much. I can order and edit and express, in a way I struggle to do on the fly.
So really, I owe my dyslexia a lot.
I know that dyslexia and other learning difficulties are not one-size-fits-all. My experience, strengths and challenges won’t reflect every person’s reality. I was also fortunate enough to have access to additional help early on.
I am so glad though that, as a society, we’re now having important conversations around reframing learning difficulties and neurodiversity. If someone had told me dyslexics can’t read, can’t write, certainly can’t do it for a living, I don’t know where I would be.