I'm currently reviewing the line-edits for my book that will be out this fall. It's slow going because proofreading is difficult for me. I have ADD, so it can be difficult to focus, and I'm dyslexic, which means letters and words get tangled in my mind. I can read a phrase like, "wrods get tangled my mind" two or three times and not see anything wrong with it.
If you're dyslexic, or if you have a dyslexic kid or spouse, you've probably noticed that there are certain things we get wrong when we're tired or stressed, and then there are certain things we always get wrong. Even on a good day when I'm perfectly relaxed, I can't see any difference between words like quilt and guilt. Typing requires tremendous concentration because I know that if I make a mistake, I will probably never see it. In my last manuscript, which I had gone over and over and over, my editors found two places where I had typed "quilt" instead of "guilt." (I fully understand why I have trouble reading those two words, but my fingers know the difference between Q and G on the keyboard, so why do I keep making that mistake when typing? I have no idea.)
I'm actually an excellent typist (or keyboardist, or whatever they're calling it these days). I rarely make a mistake, and that's good, because it's extremely difficult for me to spot a typo. ("Typo" is a word that seriously annoys me, because when I type it correctly, it looks wrong. "Type" is almost as bad.) I frequently type with my eyes closed (right now I'm looking over my computer and out my office window) so I won't be distracted by the words on my screen.
A group of my author friends is toying with the idea of writing a book about dyslexia. When they asked if I wanted to participate, I declined, because they seemed to assume that I shared their childhood experiences of deep shame and the struggle to keep their "differentness" a secret. I'll own to a certain amount of confusion and frustration in my younger years, but I guess I was too feisty to feel any shame about being different.
I have always dealt with my dyslexia and ADD by adamantly refusing to take responsibility for them. This is nothing I've done to myself; it's the way God made me. Anybody who has a problem with that should take it up with Him. I did often feel stupid as a kid, but in my early twenties I was the secretary of an executive who praised my work and gave me a great deal of responsibility (he gave up dictating important letters and reports and just had me write them). He was always saying things like, "This should be easy for you." It took a couple of years for me to figure out that he wasn't just being nice, I really was smart. That idea was reinforced one day when I was playing Trivial Pursuit with my sister and she pretended frustration when I correctly answered a science question. "Of course you know that one," she said, and then made some comment about knowing she could never beat me.
That amazed me, because I had always known my sister was smart. Could I be smart, too? My husband always said I was, but I thought that was just love talking.
Once I began thinking of myself as fairly intelligent, my world expanded dramatically. I quit my job and started college at the age of 25. I made A's in tough classes like Physics and Astronomy. My Russian teacher, when asked whether I had done well on a final, gave me an amused look and asked, "What are you worried about?" Yep, I was smart. After a year and a half, I quit school to start a family, but I never stopped reading challenging books and learning interesting new things. Somewhere around 1985, I discovered the internet--and my world expanded yet again.
It was at the end of 2000 that I decided to try writing a novel. I kept that a secret for several months, but when I finally told my husband, he had no doubt that I could write something publishable. My sister had a similar reaction: of course I could do it. But nobody else--not family, not friends; not even when I told them a New York publisher was actually interested in my manuscript--gave the slightest indication that they believed I was smart enough to write a publishable novel.
If you think you're dumb, you're probably not. Who but a smart person would spend time wondering about her intelligence? Before it's too late, start acting smart, and you'll begin to realize just how clever you really are. And by the way, please tell your kids that they're smart, too. They might not know it yet, and not knowing will keep them from accomplishing many of the wonderful things they're capable of.
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