Thursday, May 31, 2012

Writing with Dyslexia

This is a huge topic to tackle because a lot of people don’t understand it. Dyslexia isn’t just a straightforward “disability;” it has many flavors and extremes. It’s taken all of my life to understand it, and to be honest with you, there are days where I still don’t understand what my brain is doing.

First of all, let’s clear up some definitions. There is Dyslexia, where you have trouble with letters and then there is Dyscalculia, where you have trouble with numbers. I have both unfortunately. It wasn’t until high school that I knew I had it and I actually was diagnosed with Dyscalculia first.

I not only inverted numbers, but I also invert the operations of problems. If the problem said I should multiply, I would divide and vice versa. So I would get the problem right, if the operation was reversed. I stood and argued with a math teacher one day while she tried to get me to understand what I did wrong and it hit me like a slap in the face. Suddenly I realized why I was nearly failing that class and my teacher had sympathy for me for the first time ever.

Now for Dyslexia there are so many different ways it can affect you. The most simple is the obvious inverting letters. Children often get ‘b’ and ‘d’ mixed up (I will actually write b when I want d and vice versa to this day), the whole ‘i’ before ‘e’ totally throws me. I mean when I write the world field, it looks wrong to me, I want to write it “f-e-i-ld” but thankfully Word auto corrects that for me.

Another way it gets people is what I refer to as the “assumption dyslexia” where you’ll see the start of a word and your brain assumes what is it and is wrong. One example would be “cornflakes” and “cornstarch”. I very rarely do that one.

One that I do without thinking about is similar to "assumption dyslexia", if words are out of order on a page, I can totally read them as if they aren't. So if a sentence says, "You're this reading wrong" I can totally see that as, "You're reading this wrong." I've been told a lot of people without Dyslexia can do this one though, so I'm not sure that's an actual symptom.

One that totally throws my husband off is when I’m very, very tired I can take one syllable of one word and a syllable of the next word and switch them around. Kinda like the saying “knucking futs” (sorry, I couldn’t think of another commonly known one! Lol!). I cannot do it if I try and I cannot do it if I think about it. I just do it without thinking.

But my most common and frustrating trait of my Dyslexia is misusing homonyms. People think I just don’t know the proper meaning or possibly I’m not using an editor or proof reader, but really it’s that I’m mixing up the words. Here is a list of the words I most often mix up:

It’s and its
Heel and heal
Past and passed
Affect and effect
Led and lead
Peal and peel

I’m sure if you ask my proofreader and beta readers, they would tell you there are more, but these are the ones I am aware of. I know the definitions of all of these words, I know the difference, but when I go to write them, I think I’m wrong and go for the wrong word. It’s a vicious cycle. I actually have a bright pink post-it note on my desk with the definition of “Its vs It’s” so if I find myself questioning my choice, it’s right there for me to see.

When I finish a book I do a search for every occurrence of those words I listed and check to see if I used them right. I often have to change all of them. In my YA series my characters almost never wear heels so I can almost guarantee I’ll change any occurrence of that one. I had someone give me a hard time after posting a bit of flash fiction (didn’t send it to my proofreader, it was flash fiction for goodness sake!) because the character was wearing heels and I said her “heals click-clacked on the tiles.” I know the dude didn’t know me and didn’t know I had Dyslexia; it was just his choice of words to point out my mistake. It was kinda bully-ish. I mean, why be mean about something? Then when I point out that I’m dyslexic, you sounds like a jackass rather than like you were trying to help me. Anyway.

So how do I deal with my Dyslexia while writing? I just do. I got through high school and college with it – pulling my teachers aside at the beginning of the year each year to tell them about my problem – now that I’m an adult I have no one to tell to help me out or give me some slack. I know it’s a problem, my proofreader and editor knows about it and my betas know about it so they tell me when they catch the mix ups. I keep a list of my most common mix ups and do the search function to make sure I caught ‘em all and then just pray there weren’t any other I missed. At least I can always update and reupload if I missed one or two.

And seriously, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m totally forgetting things that have just become commonplace to me now.

But I’ll tell you one thing: I will be the first to catch the misuse of your and you’re and two, too and to.


Claudia Lefeve said...

Thanks for writing this post. I'm dyslexic too. My mom couldn't understand how I could read so fast as a kid with it, but my dad said I probably just guessed what the words actually were...very much like assumption but w/ letters. And it took me a whole 5 minutes to figure out why your sentence "You're this reading wrong". I think this is why I rarely notice typos when I read other peoples work (in my mind, they're ALL typos!!) And yes, it's hard being a writer with dyslexia, but you just deal and hope you have a proofreader who catches it all :)

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