I was introduced on call the other day as an ‘essayist’. The idea that someone would describe me as one left the Dyslexic kid in me reeling.
Full Show Notes: https://www.thejaymo.net/2021/10/02/301-2137-dyslexia/
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I was introduced on call the other day as an ‘essayist’.
They went on to say that these ‘essays’ are ‘total’. Text posts on my blog, as an audio podcast and also a video version on Youtube.It was all very kind, and I appreciated the introduction.
The idea that someone would describe me as an essayist left parts of me reeling:
The special needs kid that had to miss break time on a Wednesday for extra lessons. Sat in a 90’s era mobile classroom that suffered from persistent damp. Whilst my friends played outside.
The 10 year old crying at the dinner table because he had to write 100 words for his homework.
I remember that kid. I remember his fear. The terror and anxiety of being asked to put one word after another.
The part of me that got told at the all boys grammar school I went to: “your not dyslexic, you’re just stupid”.
The reeling part of me who is also grateful to his Mum. Who sat with me whilst I drew bloody words from a stone through teary eyes. “It’s only 500 words”. But the essay was set two weeks ago, and it’s due tomorrow. The frank admission that I hadn’t done my homework because I was afraid of writing it.
At University the issue compounded. Ancient Greek philosophy in my second year required 1000 words a week. No one cared that I had dyslexia, only that the words arrived on time. There were tears then too. A young man crying in his dorm room over being asked to place his thoughts upon a page one word after another.
My final year at Uni was a monumental fuck up. I arranged my modules in such a way to avoid a final dissertation. The side effect being needing to write nearly twice as many words in aggregate. Doh.
Done with university I vowed I’d never put myself in a position where I would be forced to write anything. Ever again.
But then came work emails.
I am so grateful to my kind and patient colleagues who would read and reread my emails whilst I freaked out.
I am grateful to everyone, friends, family, colleagues, anyone who has ever proofread my writing for me. Essays, emails, covering letters or whatever.
I suppose what I am saying is that having dyslexia sucks. Especially in a world so dominated by the written word.
I am still of course dyslexic. Nothing is going to change that. I have always been in awe when meeting people who write. Thinking deep down that I would like to do that too. How cool it would be to be able to put one word after another.
But I’m 36 now and things have changed. I actually enjoy writing. The reason being: no one is forcing me to do it.
In 2010 I started a journal, but didn’t keep it up every day or even from month to month. But the intention was there and I’m glad that I wrote the things I did back then.
In 2012 around my 27th birthday I thought I’d start a weekly blog. That first post is called ‘seems simple enough’. Funnily enough I wrote that I was toying with the idea of doing ‘some kind’ of podcast/audio essay thing.
I didn’t start posting weekly until January of 2018. Then 4 months later this podcast began. (Sometimes these things take a while).
It took me 27 years to come round to the idea that I could just write things because I wanted to. And another 3.5 years to get to where I am today.
An essayist, apparently. If this counts as an essay I don’t know. Perhaps I’m just a blogger with a podcast who happens to have over 300,000 words online.
It was only after completing Nanowrimo in 2014 that my attitude toward writing began to change. I mean why not write the novel I always thought was inside of me? 50,000 words in 30 days. Seems simple enough. It was the hardest self initiated creative project I have ever done. But I did it.
That I wrote 50,000 words of awful doesn’t matter. I joked at the time that I’d maybe doubled or matched the total amount of words I had written since leaving university in one month.
I’ve talked about this before, but at the end of those 30days I’d learnt to appreciate the graft of writing. The thing that I had always been afraid of. A sense of the effort required to put one word after another.
After that the journal began to flow in earnest. Because I wanted to.
Several more Nanowrimo’s followed, then the blog began, and then the podcast, then surprisingly, commissioned writing, and a short story longlisted for the BSFA award.
So here I am today. Jay Springett, the essayist (or podcaster). Apparently.
I am still of course trying to improve both my writing and as a writer every day. But the graft of writing is something I no longer fear.
I actually now look forward to people reading my work especially first drafts and getting feedback from the editor. Each time I’ve done a piece of commissioned writing I’ve learnt so much from the feedback.
I do however feel that I am a little stuck. This podcast’s word count constraints work for me. But I’m starting to feel the urge to try other things, more expansive, longer. We’ll see.
The important thing is that the only person making me do it, is me.
The script above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in the audio due to time constraints.
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