Dyslexia can help people to become good at writing, rather than hinder. Dyslexia, which means 'a difficulty with words', could be an advantage if you want to be a writer. The mystery crime writer, Agatha Christie’s dyslexia enabled her novels to be more original and unique than other writers of the time.
You could be forgiven for thinking that dyslexia would prevent someone from having a career as a writer. But many truly innovative and unique writers either have dyslexia or several of the symptoms. The Dyslexia Association points to George Bernard Shaw, F Scott Fitzgerald, Jules Verne, WB Yeats, John Irving, Gustave Flaubert and Roald Dahl among others – there are too many to list here. Successful writers who had dyslexia were often the more original novelists who broke new ground.
Dyslexics have difficulty with reading, writing and spelling in particular, but math, memory and organization may also be affected. This creates problems at school, even though they may be clever. Dyslexia affects 1 in 10 of the population, with 1 in 25 being severe.
Dyslexia is often described as 'the way your brain is wired'. There is no 'cure', but people with dyslexia can learn strategies to overcome their difficulties. Dyslexics develop alternative methods to read and write and they organize their brains circuitry in alternative ways to ‘normal’ people. They use the frontal lobe and the right brain to read and write - non-dyslexics use the left hemisphere.
Dyslectic people have to work harder to overcome their difficulties. The challenges they have to conquer from an early age teach the dyslectic person to persist when faced with setbacks. They learn to look at problems from multiple angles and find new ways around their inadequacies. Having to work out creative solutions trains them to overcome challenges and turns them into natural problem solvers.
The best selling novelist of all time with over four billion sales was Agatha Christie. Only the Bible and Shakespeare outsold her works. It was not a coincidence that the world’s most popular novelist was dyslexic. She said, ‘Writing and spelling were always terribly difficult for me.’ And ‘I was...an extraordinarily bad speller and have remained so.’ Successful dyslexics are portrayed as people who are successful despite dyslexia, but maybe they are successful because of it. Because Christie’s brain was wired differently, her novels were wired differently. Her originality was due to her complicated sub plots and unusually high number of characters. Christie had to reread and rewrite her manuscripts repeatedly. She was very slow took a great deal of time to write. This had the side effect of creating plots and characters were highly developed.
Professor of learning development at Yale University, Dr. Sally Shaywitz, argues that dyslexia should be viewed as a benefit, not a drawback. She has said, ‘I want people to wish they were dyslexic.’ Shaywitz co-founded the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, which studies the connection.
People who are good at spelling and writing can be at a disadvantage if they want to produce creative and original work. At school they are encouraged to perfect what they are already good at. This has the effect of narrowing their vision. It’s surprising how few creative and original writers and novelists were successful at school. Dyslexia is an advantage if you want to produce innovative and groundbreaking work – even as a writer.
Rod Judkins MA RCA is an artist, writer and professional public speaker, delivering talks and workshops that explain the creative process and help individuals and businesses to be more inspired in their lives and work. He is author of the international bestseller, Change Your Mind: 57 Ways to Unlock Your Creative Self.