Every now and again I read something that throws my mind back to my undergraduate studies and reminds me of just how difficult writing essays can be for someone who hasn’t overcome their dyslexic difficulties yet. The frustration, anxiety and heartbreak at not being able to produce written work to a standard that you feel adequately expresses your thinking is one of the worst things imaginable as a student eager to get the grades you feel you deserve – you know the subject inside out but you just can’t show it on paper!
This brilliant short story by Shirley Cooper from Aberdeen in Scotland gives ‘none-dyslexic people’ an insight into a few of the issues experienced by some ‘dyslexic people’ when faced with the task of having to write a 2,000 word essay in just one week. This might seem like an easy feat for most people who do not have issues with writing but as you will see it presented Shirley with a massive challenge that she had to courageously battle through!
Shirley is an inspiration to all of us at Dyslexic Brian as I’m sure she will be to all of you who read this amazing story.
~ Antonio Giuseppe Farruggia-Bochnak Share this story on FacebookShare
2000 word essay in a week? You have to be joking?
Awww the alarm! 7.45am already, which means I slept for….. (Counting on fingers) 4 and a half hours! Mmmm it is going to be a long day. Even though I was up half the night I did not finish that damn essay. Stress! It has to be in tomorrow and I’m not half done yet, even though I’ve been at it for days, long into the night and early morning. Oh well!
So I get and the first thing I do is switch on the computer, ready to start battling with it again…. soon. Must wake up first, brain is in a fog that is particularly hard to shake this morning. Probably prolonged lack of sleep and the fact that my brain is in constant action. Thinking, thinking all the time, thoughts whizzing in and out, playing movies in my head. Constant thought I can’t escape. Thoughts about everything…thoughts about nothing…..just thoughts all the time. Great!! Being able to think fast, that can’t be a bad thing…right…. wrong! Think of these thoughts whizzing around in there, but when trying to apply an appropriate output for these thoughts you become stuck. That is, the thoughts run up against the brick wall in your mind, jumble up and ‘fall’ out in no particular order. Must sit for ten minutes in silence with my coffee, try and quite the jumble.
It’s Sunday so my family are sleeping late, I won’t be disturbed for a while. So I sit with the laptop on my knee staring at what I wrote the night before. I start to read, I’m confronted with a page full of undeveloped thoughts, bad grammar and lots of waffle! Depicted by the spell checker as lots of little red and green squiggly lines. Awww another frustrated groan leaves my throat. I know what I mean when I write it, I know the facts, I’ve done my ‘homework’ I understand the subject. Why, why is this so hard!
A week, that’s what we were given to produce a 2000 word essay, a week! Perhaps an achievable task for someone more adept with the written word than I. But to me, to be honest a mammoth task! I look at my essay plan again, the order in which I think the information should go based on Cottrel, Palgrave and other authors of ‘how to write a good essay’ type books. The trouble is (I think) that I know my conclusion before I start; I’ve made my judgment on the subject. I don’t necessarily know however, why I think that. This leads me to ‘what an essay is?’
I suppose it is a description, or flow of thoughts, describing arguments and evidence that lead to a natural conclusion. Where the writer takes a certain viewpoint, or impartially describes the argument, using a logical flow of the thought. And that’s when the problem is obvious, my chaotic mind struggles with putting my thoughts in any rigid logical order. The undeveloped thoughts (on paper) are a symptom of my fast thought, my hands unable to keep up with what I’m thinking, so ‘skipping stuff’. Add to this a below average ability for spelling, poor short term memory, slow reading and processing rate, and you have the ingredients for a tortures task!
So I say to my friendly lecturer, who said in an encouraging way “its only 2000 words, and I know you have notes… so you can do it” when I complained that a week was not long enough. I say, you’re probably right, given longer I would have just pained over it for longer! But…in no way is it a flippant or easy task. Just so you know, it will take me twice as long, tremendous amount of concentration, a deathly quite atmosphere in which to quite my mind, many re-writes, re-reads and re-arranging. Then when I get my work back, there will be pages of corrected grammar, spelling and sentence structure, to contemplate. Even though I looked that work over at least three times and could see no mistakes, they are there! Almost like a chicken with blue ink on its feet scratched all over my work! Ah well…I pull my wandering mind back to my work and continue with the battle. I just have to work harder…that’s all!?
~ Shirley Cooper from Aberdeen in Scotland