Why Books, Libraries And Writing Can Be Terrifying Places For Some

Every time I walk into my local library to pick up some recycling bags, I feel like I’m entering a world that doesn’t want me there. Or is it that I don’t want to be there?

For me, libraries can be terrifying places. Just like picking up a book and opening it can be a terrifying prospect. As an author and writer, you’d think that both would be something I’d get a lot of pleasure from. But I don’t.

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Does reading, writing or libraries terrify you?

Why Am I terrified of libraries and books?

Dyslexia – that’s the answer. As somebody who is dyslexic, reading and writing are two things I have always found difficult. And writing about dyslexia is even harder.

When I enter the library and face all those books that can introduce me to new characters and transport me to different worlds, I feel like a big door is being slammed shut right in front of me. Why? Because I know that I would find it difficult to read many of the books on the shelves.

How does being dyslexic affect me?

Being dyslexic affects me in many different ways. For example, I often find myself struggling to know what a word or its meaning is.

It doesn’t always come to me even when I try saying the sounds the letters make as they appear in a word. Struggling with a word in the middle of a sentence can stop me on my reading journey and sometimes make me feel like a failure. It’s as if the word is some sort of barrier preventing me from continuing my reading journey.

Occasionally, when I pick up a book, I encounter too many words I don’t understand. They can be the simplest words, yet my brain can not determine them. I start asking myself what those words mean. Are they important? Why can’t I say them?

If I have to go back to the beginning of a page or chapter because I don’t understand the plot or what’s going on, I will almost certainly give up on the book. I may have another go, but more often than not, I never pick up that book again.

It’s not only about reading.

When it comes to writing, one of the strangest things dyslexia does to me is not putting certain letters in the correct order. I struggle if a word has an ‘A’ and ‘C’ in it. For example, I can often type ‘because’ in a blog post, yet Grammarly will underline every ‘because’ I’ve typed because they’re all incorrect.

The same thing happens when using pen and paper. My brain is rushing ahead of me, causing my hand to travel in different directions as it pushes the pen that produces awful handwriting, not even I can understand. What I write resembles the scribbles I drew as a young preschool child.

But not all is lost, is it?

I’m pleased to say that I don’t have problems reading all books. I seem to go through peaks and dips with them. I have to be in the mood to read books. They have to be written in a way that I can understand exactly what’s going on. No silly accents or too many characters whose names all begin with the same letter.

So, unfortunately, you won’t find many book reviews I’ve written, yet you’ll find many comments I’ve written on the many blogs I follow. And by comments, I don’t mean the types that don’t offer any value. If I leave a comment, it’ll be at least a couple of sentences long.

For me, comments are like leaving book reviews. If I leave a comment, it’s because the words on a post have connected with me, and I want to engage with the author.

Happy endings

I allowed dyslexia to suppress my love of writing for far too long. In February 2014, when I published my first blog post, I felt like I had conquered it.

I’ve often heard it said that people with dyslexia have unique imaginations. I’m unsure if that’s true, but it’s been a happy ending. If it were not for blogging and the many bloggers who encouraged me to write, I’d never have self-published two short story collections.

Don’t allow me to stop you.

But even with my love for blogging, I still find books and libraries terrifying places.

It’s not just the fear of being judged for my reading speed or accuracy; it’s also the overwhelming amount of options available. With shelves upon shelves of books, where do I even begin? I had the same problem with blogging. I followed too many blogs, so I cut down on the number I was following. That helped.

For someone with dyslexia or any reading disability, picking up a book can be anxiety-inducing. The fear of being unable to understand the words and follow the plot makes it easy to understand why some people avoid books altogether.

And while libraries and bookshops may seem a haven for book lovers, it only adds to the pressure for some. Surrounded by so many books, it’s easy to feel like you should be reading them all, like you’re missing out on something if you don’t (just like all those blogs you follow).

How often do I hear or read that somebody is so far behind in reading blogs? They fear they could miss out if they don’t read them all.

The same happens with social media. How often do we see people with their heads down while looking at a screen? I’ve witnessed whole tables of people in restaurants, all with their heads down, looking at their phones while eating.

But the truth is, there is no “right” way to read. There is no “right” book to read. It’s okay to read at your own pace, take breaks when necessary, and stop reading a book or blog if it’s not connecting with you.

And remember! You don’t need to read just books to enjoy reading. I get far more enjoyment from reading blogs than I do books.

Books and libraries may be intimidating places for some, but there’s no denying the magic of losing yourself in a story. However, we can also lose ourselves watching a movie. It’s worth facing your anxieties and fears to experience that magic for yourself.

So, please, don’t be like me. Pick up a book, visit your local library, and don’t be afraid to take it one page at a time.

Who knows? You might find a new favourite author or even discover the joy of writing for yourself.

And don’t forget you can also do the same in the world of blogging. It’s a magical place full of content where you can quickly lose yourself.

Image showing tightly packed books on a book-shelve
Books! Friends or foes?

Now it’s over to you.

Are you dyslexic? How do you manage your reading, writing and blogging? What books or blogs are you reading that help you conquer dyslexia? Tell me about them by leaving me a comment.

This post was originally published in April 2019 and has been updated for republishing.

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75 thoughts on “Why Books, Libraries And Writing Can Be Terrifying Places For Some

  1. Thank you for this honest post, Hugh. Did you know that you might be able to download ebooks from your library and change the settings to dyslexic view? I don’t know a lot about how it works, but I know we have that feature on the Libby app at the library where I work, which is widely used.

    1. Thanks for the advice about downloading library books and changing the settings, Barbara. I’ll have to ask if it’s something our local library does. Next time I have to go in to collect some recycling bags, I’ll ask them.

  2. All my life I’ve adored libraries, or at least I’ve thought so …but after reading this post , I felt I could relate with u . As someone who reads books I’ve felt a pressure to like libraries and while I do , sometimes the weight of the unknown terrified me . I d like to thanks u as this made me realise something about myself , wonderful post

    1. Thank you for reading my post and for your comment.

      Different things can scare us in different ways and can often uncover reasons why we fear them. Then it’s up to us to decide whether to conquer that fear or leave it as it is.

  3. You should definitely pat yourself on the back Hugh. You have overcome the obstacle of dyslexia and are to be commended for it. I miss reading – I was an avid reader for decades and decided to go to Goodreads in January and set a goal of 25 books to read this year. This, I now realize, was a big mistake. In the past, the only time that I seem to read a book, sometimes in its entirety, is over a long holiday weekend. So I decided I should give myself a little push. I did well over the three days I lost internet after a bad ice storm on February 22nd, but have fallen behind now. I am one of the people you mentioned that feels should read every post – today I aim to catch up, as once again I am woefully behind in Reader. I realize I punish myself by saying “catch up in Reader or you cannot read your book.” It’s wrong – I have to manage my time better – that is all there is to it.

    1. I’m not a fan of setting goals for how many books one can read as it can often cause too much pressure, Linda. I say, ‘read at your own leisure because that’s what reading is all about.’

      You know my feelings on feeling obliged to read blog posts. Again, I read at my own leisure and get far more enjoyment out of it.

      I’ve just started using the Reader again, but only to find relevant blogs by adding tags to it. I found some fantastic new blogs yesterday.

      1. It might have been a mistake setting such a high goal for reading Hugh. I finally caught up in Reader last night after being behind for weeks … I was 18 days behind after the three-day internet outage. Try scrolling thru Reader for 18 days … there ought to be a way, without subscribing to people or using Feedly, to search for a certain posting date in Reader without paging down endlessly. I did not read everything – I took your advice. Some fellow bloggers are not only posting once daily, but now several times daily and I am drawing the line there.

        That is how blogging traffic began for me Hugh. I was here five years with only e-mail subscribers. Then a blogger named “Uncle Tree” (who had as the theme of his blog a character whose face was part of a tree) came upon my blog as I had written about the trees and their beautiful Fall colors. He followed me and I began to have followers.

        1. I switched off notifications for new posts from any blogger who publishes more than once a day, Linda. There is an option to receive emails from bloggers once a week, including a link to all their posts, but I rarely get the chance to go through them. I stopped worrying about not being able to read so many posts. It’s not my idea of how to enjoy the blogging experience.

  4. This great post was buried in my emails, Hugh. That should indicate how I am “behind,” in reading as we prep for oir road trip and my daughter’s wedding! You really have conquered your dyslexia by embracing writing and doing so often with your blog posts, comments and stories. It wouldn’t surprise me to believe your creativity with your stories is due in part to the effects of dyslexia. I’ve read that those Uber smart creatives have mental issues 🤣. I would never have known you suffered from dyslexia if you hadn’t disclosed the condition. Very encouraging words, Hugh! Thank you for sharing your story!

    1. Thank you for all your kind words and continued support, Terri.

      Software like Grammarly does help. Not around when I first started blogging, but now it’s like a best friend to me. We sometimes argue, so I don’t always allow it to have its own way.

      Have a great upcoming road trip.

  5. Hugh you have done so well and you must be very proud of yourself! I am proud of you.
    I have seen dyslexia from a parent’s view. Our middle son was treated very badly at school….he had very similar treatment to you. He was labelled and bulled and even ridiculed by teachers. This was in the 1980s… Every move I made to help him was met with a brick wall.
    Like you Hugh he has found his way in the world and like you he survived and like you is a better man for having the understanding that we are not all the same.
    I am in awe of you Hugh not only are you here and an accomplished author you are always ready to help others.
    Hugs Hugh 💜💜💜

    1. Thank you for sharing the story of your son’s struggles with dyslexia, Willow. It’s great to hear how much he has succeeded and not allowed dyslexia to hold him back.

      The details of your son’s treatment at school are familiar to me, not just from my experiences but many others. Thank goodness there is much more help for students with the condition now, Willow.

      And thank you for the support and lovely feedback.

      1. I agree with you Hugh finally we are coming out of the dark ages of the school treating children with dislexia as morons I had my heart broken so many times on his behalf.
        But like you had got there and has his ways of coping.
        As always I appreciate your help and enjoy your blog💜

  6. This is a terrific post, Hugh. I already knew about your dyslexia, but won’t pretend to understand it, especially as both reading and writing have come relatively easy for me. But I do remember reading one of your books and marvelling at how well you wrote. That’s even more the case with your blogs. I don’t stop by very often, but when I do your message is always coherent and filled with meaning. The same has been true on the odd occasion when we exchange emails. But it’s good to put posts like this out to highlight the issue, because it affects so many people and it gives the rest of us a glimpse into that world and what it feels like. Those glimpses don’t mean we get it completely, but it does help our understanding – and that’s got to be a good thing for everyone.

    1. Thanks, Graeme. Feedback like you have given also goes a long way in helping those with dyslexia know what people know and understand about the condition. The number of people who don’t know much about it is alarming, so I hope blog posts like this one will help.

      And thank you for the lovely feedback on my writing.

  7. Wow! You’re amazing because your writing is always perfect.

    Because of my eyesight, I’m not one to read books except those I’ve downloaded on my Kindle. I need a black background in order to read almost anything. I adore blogging because I can alter the settings on my computer to read comfortably.

    1. I only recently discovered that I could alter the settings on my computer to read blogs more easily, Eugenia. I have to do this with those blogs I follow where the font is so tiny it’s almost invisible. Thank goodness for technology.

  8. I don’t have dyslexia myself, but still find this relatable. More so after I finish reading a book I really enjoy and trying to figure out what I’m going to read next. And then worrying the next book I read I won’t enjoy or that I’ll one day wake up and the love I have for reading and writing is just gone. I feel like that thought terrifies me more than anything else, that the love I have for something could just one day disappear. But hasn’t happened yet so don’t think it will.

    1. I’ve never heard of anyone who loses their passion for reading and writing, although I’ve witnessed many bloggers give up blogging because it overwhelmed them. The secret is to never allow blogging to become a chore. If it does, then changing how you blog will help.

  9. Hi Hugh, this is a lovely post – about the joy of blogging and also showing us a glimpse into your life with dyslexia. You have conquered a lot and we’re the richer for having you blogging and commenting on our posts. Many thanks 🙂

    1. Thank you, Debbie. That is so kind of you to say.

      I’m pleased to say that dyslexia is something there is a lot more support for than there used to be. Talking and writing about it certainly helps.

  10. Thank you for sharing your experiences with reading and writing, Hugh. It is a great insight into the way these experiences affect you. I’m so pleased you have found your happy place. That’s all one needs to do. As you say, there should be no ‘shoulds’ for books or blogs. If each one finds their own happy place, what a wonderful world it would be.

    1. I agree, Norah. I’ve found my happy place with both reading books and reading blogs. I recommend that those who feel they must apologise for not reading blog posts do the same. It then becomes a much happier place to be.

  11. Hi Hugh,
    Long time and really good to meet again. Hope you are well.
    For various reasons I have ‘been away too long’.
    I do not have dyslexia but I can identify with alot of your post content.
    Thank you so much for sharing your story which has reinforced for me to face my fears generally.
    Take care ❤️

  12. I have lot of respect and awe for you, Hugh. You have conquered dyslexia probably more than you can fathom. You are an avid (blog) reader and a writer!! And, to be honest, it is very rare for me to read blog posts without typos. Yours are an exception!

    I think we all have to find a balance in our lives, especially when the choices are overwhelming – whether it has to do with reading, work, projects, ideas, … It’s one page/paragraph/day at a time! 🙂

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Liesbet.

      Using a programme like Grammarly has helped me pick up typos and grammar mistakes, but they can still sometimes creep through. It’s strange, but I pick up more spelling mistakes on some blogs than on my posts.

      I find it sad when people say they are far behind with their blog reading and apologise for it. For me, that’s not what blogging is about. It should always be about the enjoyment and fun it brings.

  13. Hugh, your words are inspiring. Decades ago a family member could only cope with small blocks of writing, and just read comics. Luckily instead of his mother being upset, she was happy that he was reading.
    Hugh, happy reading and writing 🙂

    1. Thank you for sharing that information about a family member, Suzanne. Because blog posts are unlike reading books, I’m happy I discovered blogs. Some blogs can be challenging, but I tend to skip them (and no longer worry about not reading them) if I have difficulty reading them.

  14. I can’t imagine entering a library with anything but the anticipation of discovering the wonders inside. I’m so sorry you had – and still have – a different experience, but I can understand. I think you’ve done an amazing job of not letting your challenges and fears define you.

    1. Some of those challenges and fears are still with me, Janis. However, since discovering blogging, I’ve come a long way in overcoming many of them.

      I still do not like libraries or bookshops. They still make me uneasy, so reading blog posts is my way of enjoying reading without facing some of the fears I still experience.

  15. Hi Hugh. I’ve never understood dyslexia or how it affects individuals. You are the first person and author that has explained how the brain tricks the mind into reversing your world. If I understand you correctly, through mental training, you reverse the trickery of the brain to compensate. Does it ever come at a time when you see the letters or words correctly? Or does the mind counteract even when you see things differently than the non-dyslexia person? Whatever way you deal with it, one would never know if you didn’t share it. It’s brave to reveal any mental or physical handicap. I previously felt ashamed to tell people about my struggles with depression. I give you kudos for your courage.

    1. I’m glad I put this post together, Chuck. By the way, it’s good to hear from you too.

      Dyslexia affects me every day. It creeps up on me, and I find myself at a loss for spelling a word or knowing what the simplest of words means. Sometimes, I read words differently, meaning a sentence has a whole new meaning. Often, this happens without me realising it. Sometimes, I must stop reading and return to the sentence because I tell myself it can’t be right.

      I’ve often found myself reading something out loud to my partner and him querying what I’ve read. I’m glad that we can now laugh about it, though. It gives him a firsthand example of the way dyslexia affects my brain.

      After reading this post, my partner gave me two examples of words I can not spell or say correctly – Cactus and millennium. I struggle with saying both of those words.

      I hope you no longer feel ashamed to write about the depression you experience. Many people may see it as a weakness to talk about, but I know many people (including me) who see it as a strength.

  16. I think it’s incredible what you do Hugh considering the everyday challenges that you face. And your blogs are so clear and concise, and so helpful to people.

    Respect for not letting it beat you, I’m not sure if I would have your determination.

    1. I allowed it to beat me up for far too long, Paul. Many years wasted, but I’m catching up on all those wasted years now.

      Thank you for the feedback on my blog posts. That’s great to hear and could have something to do with being dyslexic.

  17. I have petrified by anything having to do with math. I’m constantly transposing numbers and sometimes can’t even remember the multiplication table. So I completely understand. I think anyone who’s seen the movie Ghostbusters has a fear of libraries. But for a different reason of course.

    1. I’ve never seen any of the Ghostbusters movies, and now you mentioned that a library features in them; I think I’ll leave it that way. Thanks for the warning.

      I was never very good at Maths either. Although I don’t seem to have as much of a problem with numbers as I do with words.

      1. I know what you mean! It is similar to believe you cannot break out of what you were taught and how you were raised… it took me almost 40 years to drop this.

        1. Wow! Did you ever look back and wonder why it took you so long?
          I guess it’s all to do with the fear of change, even though what you want to do is only for the best, Erika?

        2. It was a process to go through until the big breakthrough. It had to do with fear. But it was the fear of being me since I was never allowed to be who I wanted to be. I had to fulfill a certain personality to be a valuable person. It took a lot of pressure until I broke that wall. Instantly, after I realized this a new life began and I began writing my book “I’m Free”.

  18. “It’s worth facing your anxieties and fears to experience that magic for yourself.” Hugh, that is so true. You are an inspiration. I am not dyslexic but have a condition that challenges me in doing everyday activities, like writing, typing, etc. Thank you!

      1. I face them one day at a time. I’m not sure it is a passion. But it gives me an outlet and an opportunity to connect with the great blogging community. I have strong support at home as well. Hope you do too.

  19. You are to be greatly admired for tackling your dyslexia and overcoming it! I could not imagine being afraid of libraries (a favorite place along with the disappearing bookstores), but now I can!

    1. Thank you. It’s been a difficult journey, and I hope anybody who struggles with reading and writing reads this post and knows they are not alone.
      Thank you for your support.

  20. Hugh, I enjoyed reading your post and the word uplifting sticks out for me. Many of us take it for granted that we can go into a library and pick up any book and read without difficulty. I have lived experience of dyslexia, and appreciate the way that you have explained your experiences; I imagine with the intention of helping others who also struggle to cope with dyslexia. Cheers. Steve

    1. Thanks, Steve.

      Yes, I hope this post gets read by many, but especially anyone who struggles with reading or writing and may feel alone and not know how to get help. I struggled with it for far too long and only wish I’d discovered the world of blogging much sooner. The community here is incredible and very supportive.

      Thanks so much for reading this post and leaving a comment for me.

  21. I did not know you had dyslexia when I first read your blog. I went there after reading your stories at the Carrot Ranch.

    I frequently find your blog posts helpful. Thank you, Hugh!

    1. Thank you for leaving a comment, Chel.

      Discovering the Carrot Ranch is one of the best things that has happened to me on my blogging journey. I can’t remember who introduced me to it. It may have been Geoff Le Pard (TanGenral). It was the place that ignited my passion for Flash Fiction.

  22. Interesting. I have problems spelling and when I write with my hands I sometimes invert the order of the letters in a word. When I was a child learning to read, I would write words backwards. Libraries are challenging for me to find the books, I often request them online and pick them up at the counter. If I had to put them back on the shelves, it would be challenging. Alphabetical order is challenging. Thanks for the read, and congratulations on your courage to write despite dyslexia.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experiences with reading, writing and libraries, Alessandra.

      I don’t have problems putting things in alphabetical order, so you’ve told me something new about struggles with reading.

      It’s also reassuring to hear from somebody else who finds libraries a challenging place. Requesting books online and collecting them (instead of looking for them) is an excellent way to get around that problem. Something for me to think about.

      1. It is embarrassing. My first post- doc job involved databasing science publications then putting them back in the shelves in alphabetical order. I mean, I could, but took much longer than a normal person.

  23. I agree with Penny, Hugh. You’re such an inspiration and from my perspective, it is good to get the insight into how a student might feel if I send them to the Library to work.

    I can’t imagine what you describe about libraries, they were amongst my favourite places growing up.

    Thank you for having the courage to share with us, helping us to understand the experience of dyslexia.

    I’ve admired your work since I started reading it Hugh, and now you’ve given me extra reasons.

    Bx 🤗

    1. Thank you for the lovely comments, Brenda.

      Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, but dyslexia was not recognised when I was at school. I recall parents’ evenings and some of my teachers telling my parents I was slow and not very bright. Some even said I was stupid. You can imagine the effect it had on me.

      When I discovered blogging, it was something I never thought would help with my bad feelings about being dyslexic. If it had not been for a daily prompt asking bloggers to write about a secret that nobody knew about, I’d never have continued with it.

      The support and encouragement from many readers have been amazing. That’s why the blogging world is so special to me.

    1. What a lovely thing to say; thank you, Penny.

      Without blogging, I’d still be stuck and afraid of the dyslexia monster. But if we face our fears, things turn out so much for the better.

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