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    Beyond the Book: Feeling like a Writer (Part 2)

    Beyond the Book: Feeling like a Writer (Part 2)

    In college, I took an introductory writing course, and after I turned in my first assignment, the teacher called me up to his desk. As I wrote about in part 1, having my work be judged on spelling has always been frustrating for me, so when my teacher questioned me about all the mistakes, I let out a small groan and explained that I have Dyslexia.

    What happened next was a bit surprising. He handed the paper back to me and said, “you can write, maybe just have someone else proofread your work.” It was one of the first times I can remember that someone told me I could write. I’m not sure I believed him because, to me, writing was spelling and grammar. However, as I’ve worked on my book, I’ve come to understand that spelling isn’t the same as writing. At the same time, I’ve gained a deep appreciation for the critical role they play in bringing a story to life.

    🚧Bumps in the road

    One of the reasons I got so frustrated when people pointed out my spelling and grammar mistakes was because they weren’t a problem for me. My brain literally could not tell anything was wrong. I knew what I was trying to say, and I didn’t understand what the big deal was.

    As I stated above, over time, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the role spelling and grammar play in bringing a story to life. I now understand that these mistakes are like little bumps in the road that interfere with the immersive experience you get from reading. For me, it’s comparable to when someone talks or leaves their cell phone on during a movie. It’s a distraction that takes you out of the moment.

    Thankfully the advance of technology such as autocorrect, and dedicated proofreading software like Grammarly, has dramatically reduced the number of mistakes that make it into my work. Also, whenever I’m stuck, I can call into the air and say something like, “Hey Siri, how do you spell frustrated?” Then one of my devices will respond with the correct spelling. Finally, accessibility features like screen reading allow me to listen to what I wrote by having the computer read it back in a voice that isn’t too robotic and even has some inflection.

    🎭The Structure of Story

    The other challenge I faced when I was younger, which I also wrote about in part 1, was organizing my thoughts. In school, I was taught the hamburger method, which uses the metaphor of a hamburger to help kids structure their writing. It states that an essay should have an introductory paragraph, the top bun, several supporting paragraphs as the meat, and a concluding paragraph, the bottom bun. While this method closely resembles the traditional three-act structure, I never found it detailed or comprehensive enough to be of any real help to me. However, as I worked on my book, I found many other story models that provided the structure I was looking for.

    Stories are incredibly complex, and over the years, various frameworks have emerged that break them down into smaller components. From Save The Cat to The Story Gridto The Hero’s Journey, each of these models provides a slightly different view into the structure of this art form. On the most basic level, stories organize information in a way that deeply resonates with all human beings. So, learning the craft of storytelling hasn’t just helped me write my book, but it has also helped me organize my thoughts when writing. I even used some of these principles while writing this series!

    ✍🏽A shift in identity

    I’ve often heard the expression, “write to clarify thought,” and for me, that sentiment has turned out to be very accurate. Writing my book has helped me clarify my thinking in many aspects of my life and led to a significant shift in my identity, and it is that shift that I will be writing about in my next post.

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      Separated from my family during El Salvador's civil war, by death and adoption, I am an author, filmmaker, and technologist.