Exercising my writing muscle

Posted on 6th June, 2021

Her writing indicated dyslexia, this was a lot to take in

What was she going to wear? The air was cold and ice was forming on the windows in her bedroom. Warm clothes bought in charity shops neatly hung in the wardrobe. Opening the door, the itchy thickness of the Aran jumpers called her. They were large and hung low and covered the top of her legs, so she could get away with wearing leggings with them. She pulled a jumper out and put it on. Right, nearly ready for college. She stood high, put on her trusted suede coat, she’d got from the second-hand market, picked up her rucksack and walked out of the house to the bus stop across the street.


She didn’t know many people in the class. She sat in her usual space, on the back of the U- shaped desk, facing the lecturer so she could hear her clearly. Class was good. A discussion about the politics of the press was eye opening. It’s the Guardian for me, she thought to herself. The class ended, and the lecturer asked for her to stay behind. Sweat formed on her palms, a false smile of pretend confidence forced out a ‘yeh, sure’. The lecturer pulled out her last assignment and held it in front of them both. They explained how they’d noticed errors and patterns in her writing that indicated dyslexia and they recommended she seek to be tested. A haze of embarrassment flooded her body and her face flushed. This was a lot to take in.


She loved sharing people’s stories

Skip forward to adult working life, having had the diagnosis of dyslexia and then a learning difficulty affecting short term memory, she sat in a university canteen preparing to pitch to a chair of a charity that she could help by finding stories and writing them for their website. The written word did scare her, the amount of work it took to write things which had to be edited so much and changed and receiving critical feedback was tough, but her heart loved sharing people’s stories. She loved meeting people, chatting to them and hearing their stories, and then sharing them to help others. She loved stories.


On her way out of the university, a smile that was so large spread across her face. She had been offered an opportunity to be the blogger in residence for the charity.  The nerves and the anticipation of working with the written word, she suppressed. The next few years were glorious, she visited people and heard their stories and wrote with guidance from a wonderful editor – the Chair of the charity – and published and commissioned many stories. She was very happy.


But how could she turn this voluntary role into a paid role. She’d worked in communication roles - and other non-story roles to pay the rent – however, there was nothing out there that just quite fit. Where could she exercise her writing muscle? A project coordinator role in a national museum offered the opportunity to share stories of various museum professionals. So, she dived into the job and wrote strategic copy for newsletters, blogs, reports and shared lots of stories. Her manager was a great editor.


She sat at her writing desk, turned off the radio, and started to write a blog

How is writing becoming such a strong part of my life, she reflected one day. It’s hard. Maybe that’s the joy of it and the challenge, she laughed at herself. She was now a Stories Officer and had found the perfect role to share stories. She worked with a team and had an influential editor, her manager.


She sat at her writing desk, turned off the radio, and started to write a blog from an interview transcript from a storyteller. I feel like a writer, she giggled, well, I can pretend to be a writer, she smiled. Over the next couple of days, she would go back to the blog and move things around, edit and refine, then the day came to send to her editor. Her palms always sweated when she pressed the send button of the email with the blog. She’d then anxiously wait for a few days for the comments to come back. Her editor was tough, in a good way.


One day, the blogs started to come back with less and less changes and comments of ‘I love this’. The happiness was overwhelming when this feedback started to come in. She couldn’t wait to tell her partner. She felt like she was coming back from school with a good report and excited to share with her parents. Her partner knew how much she worked on writing, and how it was a challenge. But, hey, it was improving, but why she thought?


She remembered being moved to a lower English language class at school because she talked too much – she talked to her friend to ask her questions. She could see the rules of English language being written on the blackboard, but they just wouldn’t stick in her memory. To this day, grammar books with exercises in, sit on her bookshelf and she visits them to try and remind herself of the rules of English language. The rules will still not stick. She reads a lot of fiction, blogs, social media stories, and non-fiction – slowly, but surely. She listens to her editor and takes on board what she is looking for. She actually hears the stories, which is a talent she has naturally but can’t explain.


It’s a mixture of all the above that contribute to her developing her writing skills, and most of all it’s being the influence and guidance of good editors. A good editor who is constructive and allows space for a person’s writing style and confidence to develop is key. She wouldn’t be writing as she is now without the guidance of Judy Willcocks and Eve Kasperaviciute and a lot of hard work. Her learning difficulty will never go away. She works with it and not against it and learns each time she writes something. She sits at her writing desk and is happy, she looks in her diary; when is the next interview with a storyteller lined up? – her writing journey continues.



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Thanks for sharing your writing journey