Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Word Blind

Sophie asks: Simon, how does dyslexia affect your process when writing?

Dyslexia doesn’t affect imagination or story ideas. It’s more of a hand-eye communication thing. Something goes awry and what I think I’m typing and what I’m actually typing are two different things. I don’t know if it’s a dyslexic thing but I am a messy thinker. I tend to have ideas pile up in my head at the same time. One of my schoolteachers told me once that my mind works faster than my hands. That kinda sums the situation up.

So, even though I know and understand my problem, I am literally blind to solving it. Sometimes I know something is wrong, but I don’t exactly know what is the problem. I don’t see the mistakes—the incorrect words, the impossible sentences, bizarre language structure and the plain incomprehensible. At times, it looks like I’ve printed off the work produced by the infinite number of monkeys at their infinite number of typewriters trying to produce Shakespeare—minus the Shakespeare.

I’m blessed, though. My wife, Julie, is a voracious reader and has the right temperament to cut through my jumble to highlight the problems and help me facilitate editing. She is my seeing-eye dog (she’s going to love that analogy), guiding me through the literary minefield I’ve created. Without her input, not one of my short stories or my novels would have ever been published. I am forever in her debt.

Besides Julie, my spelling and grammar checker is my other guide. I know a lot of writers turn them off, but I keep mine on. I may not take its advice, but I know it’s telling me there’s something from the land of dyslexia lurking in there somewhere. It forces me to really focus on what I’ve written.

Thanks to Julie, writing is a guilt free experience. I can write and not care about the problems because she will sniff them out.

Having Julie read my work aloud has been effective. It’s the acid test. It’s where we uncover where my dyslexia has masked what I really wanted to say or discover that I’ve written something I don’t like and I want to start again. When Julie reads, the issue presents itself in gory detail and sounds like fingernails drawn down a blackboard. When I read, Julie stops me after a sentence or two to point out what I’ve read and what I’ve written are totally different. Whatever misfire is floating around in my brain to cause these problems I don’t know, but I do know that between us, we overcome it.

Some might say it’s very nice to have a proofreader every step of the way and it is, but it is as equally frustrating. It’s tough relying on someone else to tell you where you’ve gone wrong. It’s like being fluent in a foreign language, but only on a verbal level, and being ignorant of the written language. I want to be able to correct the obvious. So at times, I’m not considerate or patient. To be blunt, I am a cantankerous son of a bitch when the words aren’t hitting the page just right, but we get through it.

I can't say this is the perfect system, but it’s a system that works for me.

Yours imperfectly,
Simon Wood

PS: For those joining the party late, anyone who leaves a comment, your name will go into a draw to win a copy of my latest book, Terminated. At the end of the week, I'll draw two names and send them a book.


Hard Boiled Mysti said...

Simon, I would never have guessed from reading Terminated that things don't come straight out of your head and onto the page the way you intended!

One of my close relatives has dyslexia and gave up on reading and writing for the most part. I'm so glad you didn't -- your work is great fun to read and I'm learning a lot about suspense writing in crime fiction.

Meredith Cole said...

Wow! What a wonderful wife you have, Simon! My step-father is dyslexic, and occasionally finds it very frustrating. But he didn't let it stop him from getting a PhD in economics, or from writing articles, etc. Spell check has been a huge help (and I know it is for me, too!). Thanks for sharing your writing process with us today...

Sophie Littlefield said...

I just find that so fascinating - - and you and Julie are a wonderful inspiration on many levels. That sort of teamwork suggests - to me anyway - a relationship that's working wonderfully. Thanks for this, I'll be sharing this post with friends who have told me about their own experiences with dyslexia.

Simon Wood said...

Yes, Julie is in it for the long haul--or until the movie deal lands and then she'll run off with half. :-/

L.J. Sellers said...

Thanks for sharing this. Writing is challenging enough without physical quirks getting in the way. I admire your tenacity and I'm glad you have such a supportive partner.

My son is dyslexic and struggles with reading sometimes. I think I understand it a little better now.

Terry Stonecrop said...

That must be frustrating! I tend to type dyslexic, and worse, but I read fine. So I can edit. Maybe I'm just a sloppy typist.

Still, it's a nuisance. Often when I comment on posts, if I forget to go over it, it looks like I'm drunk... So don't feel bad :)