I still remember the first book I wasn’t able to read. It was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. My problem was not for the reasons you’d think. Yes, this was a controversial book at the time—I attempted to read it in 1973 as a young elementary school student. But the issue was that I physically couldn’t read it. You see, I was the girl with the Coke-bottle glasses and the rare vision disorder that’s only cool to ophthalmologists. By the time I’d reached the fifth grade, the books I wanted to read—the one’s everybody was talking about—were printed with a smaller font than the Weekly Reader and my mixed up brain just wouldn’t let my eyes hold focus long enough to see the tiny words.
For an eleven-year-old, not being able to read about Ponyboy, Sodapop, Two-Bit, Johnny and the rest of the Greasers was devastating. My options were slim since audio books were still a blip on some entrepreneur’s radar. Fortunately, I had a group of devoted friends who volunteered to read the book aloud to me every day at recess. I spent the next few years being read to, until technology and ophthalmology made life a little easier for me. Still, I remember being sixteen and having a doctor tell me I would most likely have difficulty earning a college degree much less being able to realize my dream of becoming an author. The synapse connecting my brain to my vision just wouldn’t allow me to accomplish those goals.
Ten years later, that same eye-doctor marveled at my earning not only a bachelor’s degree in Journalism, but a Master’s Degree in Public Policy. Better yet, I was working as a writer. Well, sort of. I was actually a Congressional investigator who got to write reports and testimony for Congress. But one of those blue books turned out to be my first best seller, a feat I’m still proud of today—even if the subject matter could be used as a sleep aid.
Fast forward another two decades and I’ve finally accomplished my dream of becoming a published novelist. Sure, I can’t actually read the printed version of my books. Not without specially ground hard contact lenses, reading glasses, and a magnifying glass. But I don’t have to read it. I wrote it. Those words on the page came from the voices in my head; voices that refused to be silenced by a nagging disability. (Okay, there are those who think the voices in my head are my real nagging disability, but we’ll save that for another post.)
My process of getting those words on to the actual page is pretty convoluted. Fortunately for people like me, the technology that allows speech to text has been perfected and is now widely used. Who knew back in the days of being read to by friends that a talking phone named Siri would become my constant companion? Or that the British voice on my GPS would take the place of struggling to read the fine print on a map?
Unfortunately, my reading vision will never improve. But the stories in my head refuse to be denied. They flitter before my eyes and throughout my brain demanding to be told. One way or another, I’ll get them on paper and if just one person reads my books and enjoys them, all my efforts will be worth it. This holiday season, I’m grateful to all the readers out there who’ve taken the time to read and review my books, it really means a lot to me.
So tell me, what kinds of obstacles have you had to battle to achieve that one thing in life you always wanted?
(This post originally appeared on the Totebags and Book blog site.)