I was thinking earlier about how much writing I do – this blog, funding applications at work, and most recently, continuity scripts for C4 just for starters. I’m sure my English teacher would be blown away by how quickly I can get my ideas on paper these days, though I don’t think she’d be surprised by how many I want to share. That’s because I really struggled with writing for two main reasons for this. Firstly, in addition to having Tourettes, I’m also dyslexic. This was identified when I was very young and it meant I found reading, writing and organising my thoughts on paper quite tricky. This was well understood and my teachers and family supported me.
The second issue was that every time I made a change or mistake I felt compelled to write everything out again. Literally everything! For me each sentence had to be perfect, which made it very hard to write anything within any reasonable time frame. This, combined with my dyslexia, meant every essay took ages and a lot of paper – a particular problem in exams.
This compulsion related much more strongly to Tourettes, and the obsessional behaviour I was struggling with at the time, than it did to dyslexia. I remember finding one school handwriting competition particularly tough. We had to copy out a short poem, and I started it over and over again because I wanted it to be perfect. It got to the point where I was hiding the failed attempts so the teacher wouldn’t make me carry on with one, rather than start again. It went way beyond simply wanting to do well and was more about a desperate need to achieve perfection.
This wasn’t just a problem with writing. I loved drawing, but the same overwhelming need to be flawless affected that too. I think my teachers noticed some aspects of this – they certainly tried to help me speed up a bit, but the root of my difficulty wasn’t fully understood at the time.
Writing got much easier for me for two reasons – firstly, because my obsessive and compulsive urges decreased and secondly because of the computer revolution. This saved me from the re-writing trap by allowing me to move words and ideas around freely without having to start from scratch each time. My motor tics still make writing and typing physically tricky, but that’s much, much easier to deal with than the difficulties my quest for perfection caused when I was younger.
I’m really glad I persevered with writing because it gives me a freedom and a way of thinking that I find enormously valuable.
“Happy Christmas Harold Pinter.”