Author Jack Kerouac once wrote an article for Writer’s Digest in 1962 that posed the question, ‘Are Writers Born or Made?’
Since I was a child, stories always came to me as easily as speaking did. I made up stories while playing with toy animals, stories when playing games with friends, and stories in my head to send me off to sleep. I had a thirst for reading as a child, and practically devoured books at every chance I got. I was in love with the way that stories could take you to another world and capture and immerse you in it’s world completely.
They say great readers are great spellers, but I had always struggled with spelling. No matter how many times I could look at a word, break it down into sections, if I couldn’t spell it…I couldn’t spell it. Each time I wrote a word that I couldn’t spell, my spelling of it would change, sometimes creating a nearly illegible word. Despite this, my inability to spell never seemed to be much of an issue other than in written work that I couldn’t spell check on a computer. I put a lot of it down to laziness. I was so eager to get my story down on paper, I didn’t want to spend time finding out the correct spelling to things.
But despite my struggles with spelling, I never had an issue with reading or writing. I looked forward to every English lesson and was practically a ‘teacher’s pet’ to all of the English teachers I ever had. I read books that were at a much higher reading level than my age and achieved A’s in English at GCSE. Writing and reading always has been my passion.
So of course, growing up no one had even a sliver of suspicion that I may have had dyslexia, how could I? Writing was my lifeblood and I thrived from the escapism of reading.
Younger me would never have guessed that two months before my twenty first birthday, I would be diagnosed with a moderate to severe form of dyslexia by an educational psychologist at my university.
Now that I’ve been diagnosed, looking back on my academic endeavors is eye opening. During college when completing A Levels, my love for English Literature was overshadowed by my frustration with writing essays. When it came to starting essays and getting my thoughts down on paper, I would get overwhelmed with ideas that I wanted to include. Usually this would end up with me either including far too many topics in one paragraph and then eventually losing steam, or spending far too long on one topic and subsequently, ‘waffling’. I could never articulately express what was in my head.
But university was truly where most of my dyslexia symptoms bubbled to the surface. Studying creative writing, of course I had essays to write and creative portfolios to complete. And even though I was getting good grades, I always felt held back by my inability to properly express myself the way I wanted to. I found myself constantly frustrated by marks I lost on small mistakes. It wasn’t from lack of trying either, with constant proofreading and even re-writing whole essays from scratch, I’d always miss more than one simple grammatical mistake. Mistakes that my lectures assumed were down to rushed work or lack of proofreading, although that was far from the case.
According to the charity Dyslexia Action, “one in ten of the population are expected to have dyslexia.” People tend to associate this learning difficulty with struggling with reading and writing, and seeing words backwards or seeing them move around. Of course these are common symptoms experienced by people with dyslexia, but I never experienced those, and neither do many others. Symptoms like problems with telling from left to right, the inability to notice patterns or not recognizing the separate sounds that make up words are just a few of the symptoms that I have. None of which I ever realised were a part of having dyslexia.
The Relief of Being Diagnosed
Suddenly many things that I had been silently struggling with had a reason and an answer, and I was awoken to the fact that I had been fighting with a learning disability all along. Although my diagnoses was a shock to not only me but my family, it’s also been incredibly empowering to realise that despite my learning difficulty, I’ve worked hard and still managed to achieve high academic grades, been accepted into university and continued to write even when I’ve hit many mental blocks along the way. And I’m not the only one who feels empowered by their dyslexia diagnoses, Emily on an online forum for people with dyslexia said her adult diagnosis “felt liberating” and explained that having an answer for the aspects she struggled with are “eye opening and a relief to finally know why it is that I struggle with certain things. I no longer think that I’m just stupid.”
Kerouac said in his article that there are ‘born’ writers and writers who are ‘made’. I believe I wasn’t born a writer but born a storyteller, and not made but rather forced into writing, propelled by the innate need to create and tell stories.
I can tell you a great story from the library of them hat I have floating around my head, but I guess I’m still figuring out the whole ‘writing’ thing.
If you feel you may have dyslexia, or want to learn more about it, Dyslexia Action is a great place to start. Or feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org