By Sean Tuohy
I have major difficulties reading and writing. Words get tangled together in an unholy mess on the page when I read. When I write there are several dozen spelling errors and grammar mistakes(In the first draft of these piece there several dozen mistakes that needed to be corrected). Sometimes I see so many red underlined words on my computer screen that I'm scared my Spell Check is going to be so overworked it will give up.
Despite all this, I am still a writer and storyteller. The only difference between myself and most other writers that populate the landscape is I have to work a hell of a lot harder than the next writer to create something that reads smoothly. To put it in the simplest terms my brain is wired differently than everyone else's. I don't take in knowledge and sort it in my mind the same way as other people.
As a kid, this made me very self-conscious. I was different from everyone else, I was a freak, I had "issues." While my fellow classmates stayed in class and read books with the teacher and talked about what they just read, I was pulled out of the classroom and put in a "special classroom" with a "special teacher" and read easier books that were several levels below my grade level.
I was lucky enough to attend school in one of the best public school systems in the country during my early years. Once I was in middle school I began catching up with my classmates, and started reading for myself. I also discovered a love for movies. I would watch the same movie over and over and over again until the tape broke (VHSs were still very much a thing back then), but I also would have the closed captions on so I could read along with the actors speaking. This helped me improve my reading and spelling. After that, I found my love for spy thrillers and hard boiled detective novels, which I ate up, not realizing how these pulpy books were improving my reading and writing skills.
I still very much felt like a freak. Although I began writing, screenplays and short stories, pumping them out like crazy, I never let anyone read them for fear they would see the God-awful spelling mistakes and look at me as if I was a moron. So I kept writing in private and sometimes I would share something with a friend of mine or a close family member. The writing stayed private, it stayed close to me.
As we've mentioned several times on the website and podcast, that is the worst thing in the world to do as a writer. You will never grow as a writer if you never allow people to read your work. You won't know your strengths and weaknesses unless someone tells you. Whatever you write you should have another pair of eyes looking at it. To do this you need to believe in yourself and your work. Believe that what you are doing is good enough for people to read, believe that you have the skills to write a compelling story, and believe in yourself as a writer and you will succeed.
I lacked that completely. I had no trust in myself, my writing, or my skills because of my "issue." This started to change once I wrote a 20-page script about two best friends sitting around talking about movies, girls, and sex. It was a Kevin Smith rip off, but I believed in it. I knew it was funny and I knew people, my friends, would like it if they read it. Guess what? They did read it and they did find it funny. Somehow, I found the courage to share the script. The first few moments of them reading were the most stressful moments in my teenage life. In my mind, I pictured people reading the script and laughing at how badly it was written and me running off crying. Well, that didn't happen. They read the script and laughed because they found the subject matter funny and it was well written. I can remember being in math class and this kid named Robert howling with laughter as he read it. It felt great to have people read my work and really enjoy it. I’m sure people noticed the mistakes, but it didn't take away from the script. To them it was still good despite the mistakes.
We all have something that holds us back from going after our dreams, some force that hinders us from obtaining the greatness we all want. For me, it was my "issues" with reading and writing, but I've learned to let them go. I still have a lot of problems reading and writing, but it no longer holds me back or makes me feel freakish. To be honest, it makes me feel special. I embrace my weirdly wired brain because it allows me to see things that other people don't get to see, write things no one else has written before, and allows me to be me. Find what holds you back from becoming that amazing writer or whatever you want to be and embrace it. Embrace your fear and faults. Embrace who you are and you will succeed.
A final word on this topic:
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