The Fear of Writing

Well, today’s Daily Post thingy was to pick a topic from yesterday’s list of things you’re afraid to write about and, well, write about it. Nice idea, but leaves me a little light on topics. So I’ll write about learning disabilities and my fear of writing, and the connection between them.

Parents! If you ever hear your child described as “bright but lazy” by well meaning but frustrated teachers, have that kid checked for learning disabilities right away! The sooner you can get them into a program that knows how to work with them, the less it will cast a shadow over the rest of their life.

My learning disability is called dysgraphia.

Dysgraphia makes writing a real pain. Have you ever been talking and suddenly couldn’t think of the word you wanted, and then you lose your train of thought so that when you finally get the word, you can’t remember what you planned to do with it? That’s how I feel when I’m writing, or at least as close an example as I’ve managed to think up so far. I spend a lot of time with a vacant stare while I try to sort thoughts into words, then I’ll start writing and write the wrong damn word. It’s no wonder I have so much gray hair so young.

Stress makes a big difference, too. When I write in my private journal, it’s far, far easier than writing here, which is still easier than writing something that’s going to be graded or evaluated. Formal paperwork is absolutely terrifying, and the last time I had to write a short essay in class on a test I just sat there in a panic for the first half of the time allotment and then slid slowly into despair for the second half and never managed to put a mark on the paper.

It’s not so bad anymore, as long as I’m not trying to write fast or under pressure. I don’t know if that’s just getting older, “growing out of it” as they say, or because the last several years I’ve put some real effort into improving. This very blog is one of those efforts.

Dysgraphia’s a pain literally too, I used to get terrible pain in my arm when I’d try to write more than just a few words. I haven’t had to worry about that for several years now, I’ve found pens that work with a very light touch and learned new ways to work them. In fact my efforts to get past the physical issues have been so successful that I’m starting to wonder if the pain was entirely caused by stress and poor ergonomics.

I don’t know when I was actually diagnosed, but I know that nobody told me about it until the seventh or eighth grade. Before then what they generally told me was that I was lazy or wasn’t willing to work with them or that I had problems with authority. By the time I first heard the word “dysgraphia” these were all true, but I didn’t start that way.

It was the third grade where I just sort of checked out. The teacher that year had no experience with learning disabilities, she didn’t try to work with me, she didn’t talk to my parents about things in the classroom or problems completing assignments, she just sent me to the office. I guess she figured anyone who could speak as clearly as I could should be able to write just as well. (In hindsight I wonder why it never seemed odd to her that I did so well in other subjects.)

Anyways, she poisoned the well for every teacher I had afterward. That was slightly mitigated by the man who taught me in fourth grade, who really tried to work with me, so it could have been worse. But by then the damage was done and teachers were instantly tagged as enemies in my mind. I still have an uneasiness about them to this day.

Writing terrifies me. I’m sure most of that is childhood trauma from coming to expect punishment every time there was writing involved, like a sick version of Pavlov’s dog. There are other reasons, stage fright if I’m posting it publicly, and the knowledge that my writing will never be as good as I want, general social terror at putting something from my head into words that anyone could read. For years the only substantial writing I ever did was while drunk, which had other problems, but probably helped in the long run.

Since I’ve been making a conscious effort to improve myself it’s getting better, but there’s still that constant little fear while I work on it, even when writing in my private journal. On this blog I always have a moment of sheer terror as I click that blue “Publish” button.

Damn, this turned out a lot more personal than I expected it to be. I hadn’t planned on writing so much of this in the first person. Actually it seems like I had something very different in mind when I started this, but since I never learned to write an outline I don’t have any idea what that might have been. It’s harder than usual tonight too, as if speaking the name of the thing makes it notice me and press harder. I’m just going to post it and go to bed.

One last thing, I cannot stress this enough, if your children are getting nothing but A’s & F’s on their report card, if they seem excessively frustrated with their homework, or if their teachers describe them as “bright but lazy” or something similar, get them checked out. Catch that shit early as possible, because it hurts a lot to work really hard on something and fail for reasons you don’t understand, and then have everyone tell you it’s because you’re lazy.

About Leo Tarvi

Mostly fictional.

Posted on October 12, 2011, in Daily Post, Nonfiction, Personal and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more… plus I’m a teacher… tiptoes away quietly… 🙂

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