Writing Tips from an Idiot
I grew up in an urban neighborhood rich with culture and diversity. And although I was surrounded with unique educational opportunities, part of me struggled to learn.
As a little girl, I attended a public school that pioneered a guinea pig program called Individual Education (I.E.). This program was based on an educational philosophy that focused not only on academics but on creativity and counseling.
We did traditional academics in the morning, then courses like poetry, square dancing, and pottery in the afternoon. If you could dream it, my school would help you create it.
At the time, I didn’t know my school was different. I didn’t know other schools gave letter grades while mine only gave “pass” or “fail.” I thought everyone called their teachers by their first names.
Even though I was in remedial reading and writing classes and struggled with traditional academics, I excelled in the creative ones. I loved any course that involved dancing, acting, and storytelling — as long as I could read my own writing out loud.
When things started to change…
I’ll never forget eighth grade. My family had to move, which meant I was no longer allowed to attend the I.E. side of my middle school. I was now on the standard education side, which offered, in exchange for letter grades, little opportunity to be creative.
I was a C student — a C student full of ideas and dreams but struggling with a learning disability that left me for the next several years running away from a passion to create.
I was a C student who feared being made fun of due to my inability to spell. My high school English teacher even called me a “writing idiot,” which traumatized me.
In fact, I chose to graduate from high school a semester early so I wouldn’t have to turn in my handwritten senior English research project.
Then, in 1997, two miracles happened:
The first came when I discovered Microsoft Word, a program that allowed my dyslexic mind to write the words I’d always wanted to write but couldn’t.
The second came when I met Sister Mary-Margaret, my writing professor at college. She recognized my learning disability and challenged me to look past it.
Sister Mary-Margaret unearthed a passion to write creatively and restored a belief in myself that I’d lost so many years ago. She once said to me, “If you’re willing to do the hard work, you have the opportunity to be a brilliant writer.”
I had never heard that before. It opened up my heart to new possibilities. This once-C student could become a straight-A student, if she wanted, even make the Dean’s list. And that’s just what I did.
Sharing my story to inspire others
Even after I started exercising my creative gift, I never thought I’d use my writing to inspire others. But Sister Mary-Margaret saw something in me that took me years to recognize.
And in 2009, my husband Justin and I started a blog simply out of a desire to share our story. We wrote words to bring hope and restore relationships. Our lives and marriage had nearly been ruined by an affair, and we wanted to help others work through similar issues.
We had no idea if people would read what we had to say, but we felt compelled to write, anyway.
Three years later, what started as a blog has now become a ministry that reaches people all over the world, helping them reconcile their marriages. And just this month, we released our very first book.
Yes, this spelling-challenged, dyslexic “writing idiot” co-wrote a book with her husband. A book full of words that has helped us express our journey of redemption, grace, and forgiveness. And hopefully, it’ll help others walk a similar path.
Who would’ve ever thought it could happen? Not me. And certainly not my high school English teacher. But one person: Sister Mary-Margaret. She saw it from the beginning.
If you’re struggling to step into your calling, I pray you’re fortunate enough (as I was) to find a Sister Mary-Margaret in your life — someone to encourage and challenge you to be who you are, regardless of the fears and disabilities you might be facing. And I hope you lean into those words of wisdom and encouragement and begin your journey.
If you aspire to write, as I did, it’s my prayer that you’re able to look beyond what’s holding you back, believe you have what it takes, and embrace the fact that your words have power.
Who or what is holding you back from writing? Share in the comments.