Guest Post by Jennifer Frost
Do you feel scared to write, unsure of what to write, or doubtful about your writing skills? Is this because you have been encountering difficulties with words for a long time?
If you (or someone in your family) have an unsteady relationship with words, it can be challenging. But it can also mean being exceptional.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, language-based learning disabilities involve problems with age-appropriate reading, spelling, and/or writing. But this has nothing to do with intelligence level; most people with learning disabilities have average to superior intelligence.
In fact, people with language-based learning disabilities are hitting two birds with one stone when they write.
It is an advantage and a gift to see the world in a unique way, something that all other writers—veterans and newbies—struggle to discover. While others may choose to do things in a less exciting way, those who have difficulty writing or reading must go the extra mile.
And because of that, a language-based learning disability encourages you to focus on the kind of writing that many others seem to have forgotten about: an expression of your true self, whether you have been through a rough or a pleasurable journey.
As you write, you also gain emotional and health benefits, according to a study by Karen A. Baikie and Kay Wilhelm, published in BJPsych Advances. In their paper “Emotional and Physical Health Benefits of Expressive Writing,” Baikie and Wilhelm assert that writing about traumatic, stressful, or emotional events results in better physical and psychological health.
Maximizing your writing potential can be a walk in the park. Here are four things to remember:
Tom McLaughlin, an author of children’s books who has dyslexia (a kind of language-based learning disability that causes difficulties with reading, spelling, writing, or pronouncing words), wrote in an article addressed to children with dyslexia that:
Many people love real stories from real people. Write about your hobbies, your favorite friend, the odd food your neighbor likes bringing to your house, the best Thanksgiving Day you have celebrated so far, or a movie character you can relate to. These are things other people do not know. There are things people have not yet learned about. These are things we would love to learn from you, things that only you know.
With your choice of subject, emotions, observations, or words, there is no right or wrong. As Mark Twain, author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, put it, write what you know.
Writing is about your own creativity.
Each one of us has a preferred style of clothing. This concept is not very different from having our own writing styles.
Do you like a story or essay filled with action, drama, or humor? If you are a cheerful person, concentrate on humor. Are you more comfortable using verbs than adjectives? Then, gather all your favorite verbs. Do you enjoy short sentences? Follow the classic writing rule of KISS (Keep It Short and Simple).
Bringing out your personal style can start the moment you decide to plan your story or essay. Try starting with an outline or mind-map.
Outlining can reveal the relationship of your favorite things, feelings, and words, or the order of events in your story.
According to the Purdue University Online Writing Lab, when outlining, you should:
- Brainstorm: Write down all the things that come to mind when you think about your hobby.
- Organize: Does your brainstorming list contain words or phrases that describe your feelings about your hobby? How about descriptions of the actions involved in your hobby? So now you have two categories: feelings and actions.
- Order: Which do you want to talk about first, feelings or actions?
- Label: What are the specific feelings and actions involved?
Mind-mapping is a fun activity because it involves your imagination.
The technique is like giving life to the content of your outline. Here’s a simple example:
Your community is made up of your family, friends, and other organizations and people who have come up with ways to help you share your choices and bring out your creativity.
1 Members of your family and your friends will be excited to read a sentence that you wrote for a story or essay you are working on.
They care less about grammar and other writing conventions than they do about knowing what you think of your hobby, what you felt about last night’s dinner, or what you saw in your favorite movie.
2 There are organizations and people who have developed tools to guide you in sharing your thoughts and stories.
For example, the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity offers free tutoring for dyslexic school-aged children and creative public awareness campaigns. Online, there are free apps, grammar resources, and grammar editors that are quick and easy to use after you have completed your content.
When you appreciate your choice of words and subjects, your natural creativity, and the support of your community, confidence will spontaneously happen to you and your writing. Because you now know how to share what you know, you have no reason to fear a blank sheet of paper. When you are confident, people will notice that and appreciate what you have to write.
The next time you suddenly feel uneasy or terrified about sharing your wonderful ideas through words, remember that writing is about your choice, your creativity, your community, and your confidence. Do you have trouble with writing due to a language-based disability? What tips would you offer for other writers?
Jennifer Frost — Jennifer is a blogger, writer, mother, wife, and English teacher located in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She’s an open-minded person who loves to travel, explore new places and foreign cultures, and learn new languages.You can read more of her work at englishgrammar.org.