The Great Gatsby has been getting a lot of attention lately with the success of the latest movie adaptation ($51 million the first weekend, according to Forbes). The book itself is a staple of American literature and is considered by many to be a contender for the title of one of the most iconic American novels of all time. It is currently the second-best selling book in the US. This year so far, people have purchased 185,000 copies of the eBook alone.
Interestingly, this book that has such a marked place in American literature and history and that has influenced so many millions of people worldwide came from a unique source. F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, suffered from a learning difficulty, most likely dyslexia.
Why is this of interest to parents of children with learning difficulties today? Because writing is one of the hardest things for a dyslexic person to do. It can be fraught with frustration, disappointment, shame, and feelings of unworthiness. Watching the apparent ease with which others seem to read and write can create a burning sense of injustice in a dyslexic child.
As a result, children with dyslexia rarely pursue writing as a career or even struggle past their comfort zone to distinguish themselves in school with writing. It’s just a fact that as humans, we tend to avoid doing things that just seem too hard. When mastering the basic mechanics of writing is such a struggle, dyslexic students are far less likely to have the energy or even the desire to write simply for the sake of expressing themselves creatively.
And yet if Fitzgerald had not struggled to express himself creatively, a major part of American cultural history would be missing.
Dyslexic or not, creative writing is not for everybody. But if your child has a bent for storytelling, if they get really involved with characters in stories they know, they may have a talent that you can help them nurture.
Although dyslexic students have a major disadvantage when it comes to creative writing (the struggle with language and the mechanics of writing and spelling, etc.) they may also have some unsuspected advantages. Here are a few:
- Overcoming feelings of unworthiness, dealing with secret inner worlds of frustration, and facing one’s own difficult emotions can often make for the best and most inspiring writing. Embracing and learning to do difficult things puts us in touch with our finest, highest selves. It is an experience that brings dignity, a sense of well-earned pride and a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. These are all themes commonly found in fiction (also certain kinds of nonfiction), and a dyslexic student has some first-hand experience with them in one form or another.
- Due to possible language difficulties, dyslexic students may be forced to become extra-observant. This comes into play when talking with others because they may become highly attuned to body language, gestures, inflections, etc. This may also be evident in their ability to observe visual or even artistic details. In effect, they may become highly observant students of human nature and other details, which are invaluable qualities for a creative writer.
- Additionally, dyslexic students can be very creative. They are often forced to do things a little differently than everyone else, and so they must look for new ways to do things on their own, not following anyone else’s example. This can help them to develop creative problem-solving skills. Again, this is a wonderful quality for a creative writer.
So what can parents do to encourage dyslexic children with a potential talent for creative writing to give voice to what they have to say? I’ll make a few possible suggestions next week, but in the meantime, this link profoundly illustrates the fact that the world would be missing some of its most famous authors if dyslexics and others with learning difficulties did not and could not push past difficult barriers.