Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Dyslexia and Writing

Monday, a friend forwarded a Feb. 4 New York Times article to me titled “The Upside of Dyslexia,” written by Annie Murphy Paul. He did so because he knows I have dyslexia and thought I would find the article interesting.

He was right, to say the least.

Dyslexia appears as a motif in all five of my Jack Austin novels, as protagonist Austin and the teenage boy he takes in, Nash Henley, both struggle with the affliction. And, as many readers have guessed, their struggles are based on my own. However, my books also illustrate what I have long believed, as Austin says in more than one book, “Dyslexia is a blessing.”

The New York Times article highlights recent research suggesting dyslexics actually learn some visual processes better than those without it. In the fall 2005 UNH Magazine article “Becoming John Irving,” author John Irving, a dyslexic, praises his slow reading pace for allowing him fall in love with language, eventually inspiring his many noted works. Many authors, in fact, have dyslexia, and I agree with those writers who claim—and what the recent New York Times piece points to—that dyslexics recognize certain patterns better than most. My long-held conviction is that this helps one in the creation of something requiring intricate layers, such as a novel or a painting. Moreover, I believe this to be particularly helpful in the mystery genre, which requires clues to be precisely placed.

When I was 10, you could have told me an article proved dyslexia would allow me to be the only kid in school with pixie dust. Then, I still would have given anything to be rid of my “learning difference.” Now I’m 41 and have more or less grown into my skin, and the Times article makes perfect sense to me. The bottom line for me has always been that I have come to believe dyslexia enables me to write better fiction than I could without it. And recent research is finally supporting that claim.


Hannah Dennison said...

Really interesting ... I had no idea. I wouldn't mind some of your pixie dust, John.

Rick Blechta said...

I’d ask for the whole pixie if I were you!