Can you write and self-publish a book when you have learning difficulties?

Updated: Jan 26

By Elise Smith

The short answer is yes indeed:

My name is Elise, I have been writing for over 25 years. I am an award-winning author of four books so far. I hold a creative writing diploma and have been running a blog for the last 5 years. I am an ex-nursing manager. I live with ADD, dyslexia, and dyscalculia. If you would like to know how you can write and publish your writing project, please visit my website and read my books.

I was never diagnosed growing up, as was so common twenty years ago. It was clear from an early age that I was a little “different” as my mother put it. I was behind socially and could not make sense of all the social skills and rules. I did not pick up well on social cues and never felt I fitted in anywhere. I loved and still do anything arty and being creative, these things flowed well and came fairly easily and naturally to me. Anything academic, though, such as spelling and maths, was a constant struggle. I could read but was well below the reading age of my peers and my writing skills were average. Spelling let me down and maths was like a foreign language to me. I did not learn well in school all the way through. I could not fit into the boxes. The education system let me down terribly all through primary, intermediate, and most of high school.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized my mind just did not think the same. After tests and research, I discovered I had ADD, dyslexia, and dyscalculia.

This did not mean I was dumb or could not learn, it meant I had to learn new ways of learning that the education system failed to show me. So began my journey of relearning spelling, math, reading, and social skills in ways that resonated with me. My daughter too was diagnosed with ADD, dyslexia, balance problems, and Irleins syndrome. Through what I had learned about myself, I could spot the signs and help her too.

What is ADD and Dyslexia?

ADD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder. You may have heard it referred to as ADHD. This is similar except the H stands for hyperactivity, which I did not have.

ADD is a condition where one has difficulty paying attention and with impulses. It often begins in childhood and can persist into adulthood. It can contribute to low self-esteem, troubled relationships, and difficulty at school or work. Medical treatment can help, but this condition cannot be cured.

To the person with ADD, it feels as if everything is happening all at once. This creates a sense of inner turmoil or even panic. The individual loses perspective and the ability to prioritize. He or she is always on the go, trying to keep the world from caving in on top.

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty characterized by difficulty in reading especially. This condition can not be cured. Dyslexia occurs in people with normal vision and intelligence.

Dyscalculia is a mathematics learning disorder. People do not outgrow dyscalculia. It can be as hard to learn addition as it is to learn algebra. Basic concepts like quantities are also a challenge. Dyscalculia can make it hard to do everyday tasks: cooking, grocery shopping, and getting places on time.

Everything from paying the bills on time to keeping up with my work, family, and social demands seemed overwhelming. I did not feel anyone could understand what I was up against.

A few tips for managing adult ADD

I learned skills to help control my symptoms, improved my daily habits, learned to recognize and use my strengths, and developed techniques that helped me work more efficiently, maintain organization and interact better with others. Part of helping myself and my daughter is to educate others to help them understand what I am going through.

A qualified professional can help you expand on these skills and create a system that works for you.

Adults with ADD/ADHD often struggle with executive functioning skills, such as planning, organization, and time management. We are often easily distracted and have difficulty tracking time, struggle to complete tasks, and have difficulty initiating tasks that are routine or seen as boring. We can also have a hard time controlling impulses.

These symptoms can lead to messiness, disorganization, losing belongings, being late, and putting off things such as paying bills.

By implementing the following skills, I found it easier to complete everyday tasks. I became more productive; it reduced my stress, anxiety, and depression (these often accompany ADD/ADHD).

1. Getting started is often the hardest part for those with ADD/ADHD, so start by doing something small and easy. Break your task into smaller steps.

2. Visualise yourself doing and completing the task, as well as the planned reward afterward.

3. Make a list of things that you can reward yourself with when you complete part of a difficult task. Some ideas for this are; listen to music, call a friend, take a walk, watch a show etc.

4. Have a place for everything and strive to put everything in its place immediately after using it. Have a hook for your car keys by the door. Keep your planner on a table by the door so you remember to take it with you. Keep a laundry hamper near where you undress and put your clothes directly into it.

5. Complete less enjoyable tasks before tackling more enjoyable ones

6. Pair less enjoyable tasks with more enjoyable tasks, e.g listen to music or an audiobook while cleaning, curl up in a comfortable chair with a snack to read work documents.

7. Wear a watch and have clocks visible in your home and office.

8. Choose an effective planner, carry it with you everywhere, enter every appointment, and check it at least three times a day.

9. Keep a “to do” list in your planner. Tick things off as you complete them.

10. Time how long it takes you to complete different tasks so that you have an idea of how much time to set aside for different things.

11. Track your time for a day to get an idea of how you spend it.

I can help you on your writing and publishing journey.

Using my experience living with ADD and 25 years of being a writer, I can help coach you on your writing journey.

Discover strategies to organize your book or writing idea, leverage your time, and get your book written so others can gain and learn from your experience.

Could you use some guidance in shaping, developing, or refining your story or writing project?

I can be your writing coach. We will decide together how to best organize your story or writing project. Issues covered may include how to start, structure, characterization, audience, style, and redrafting.

Let's have a chat to talk about your project and see if coaching is right for you and if you and I are a good fit to work together.

After all, you and I would both be making a significant investment in the completion of your writing project or memoir.

You’ll be able to send me current pages of your writing. I’ll review them, and together we will be able to identify and outline the next steps.

We’ll have a conversation about your publishing options and determine the path that’s right for you.

We’ll also talk about the marketing options that are available to get your book in front of the people who will benefit most and want to read your story.

You’ll have full email access to me, where you can submit specific questions and get personalized answers.

Please email me at

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