Lucy V Hay continues her journey to get to the bottom of all things writerly. The following article contains some of the best advice we’ve ever seen for facing the kinds of obstacles all to often sends our way:
by Lucy V Hay
We all have challenges to our writing. In today’s world we all live busy, hectic lives and sometimes it can feel impossible to finish writing what we started. But what about those of us who face extra obstacles or challenges that can make writing a page feel like writing War and Peace?
Exploring diversity and the need for equal opportunities in today’s world, I have interviewed 10 writers with mental health issues, disabilities or special learning needs. Each sharing their own unique stories, they have offered up some advice for other writers. Here’s what they all had to say.
1) ‘Be honest about what you can and can’t do’
– Rachael Howard, writer with ME
‘I am pretty well housebound, so the internet is my lifeline. My main problem is lack of mobility and my condition is unpredictable, I can book a trip then have to cancel the morning of travelling because of the pain. This makes me appear unreliable.”
‘I have to be honest about what I can and can’t do. I have had meetings and been mentored via skype and deadlines have been shifted for me. It is a good judge of how the person is if they are prepared to be flexible.’
‘I have worked with two production companies successfully. In each case there are members of the company who are also disabled. They get my issues and work around them with me. I have learned to ask for help. Not easy to do.’
TOP TIP: Don’t be afraid to be honest. Let people know what you can and can’t do. If they run a mile they are not someone you would want to work with. Use the internet. Most people will happily Facetime or Skype.
2) ‘Use software and ask others for help’
– Rachael’s daughter, writer with Autism, Dyslexia and Dyscalculia (Rachael’s daughter was happy to be included anonymously)
‘It is even more tricky for my daughter, she cannot interact with people at all unless she knows them well. She uses software to help with grammar and spelling or passes it to me regularly to read it. She uses online a lot for research. She can’t ask questions of people, but she can read what they write.’
TOP TIP: Don’t be afraid to ask for help with your various challenges. It will surprise you how much help is out there. Don’t apologise for what you can’t do. The industry needs to adapt to you.
3) ‘Use the speech function on your computer and audiobooks’
– Nigel Auchterlonie, writer with Dyslexia
In his own words, Nigel describes accepting that he wasn’t the brightest kid at school, despite thinking he should be achieving better grades. However, Nigel enjoyed a successful career working on Dandy comics and works to this day as a professional writer. Finally, in his thirties Nigel was diagnosed with Dyslexia.
Nigel says he finds writing much easier than reading. If you struggle reading your work back, Nigel advises using the speech function on your computer. Hearing the computer read the text aloud makes it clearer and guarantees an accurate reading. Similarly, rather than giving up on reading books, listen to audiobooks instead.
TOP TIP: Don’t let yourself be labelled as ‘bad’ at something. If you enjoy it, keep doing it. As Nigel proves, you just might make a very successful career out of it…!