Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rebecca Taylor’s Deep Dark Secret

Okay, so I’ll be honest, I struggled to come up with an answer for this post. How deep? How dark? And most importantly—how personal do you want to get Becky?

In the end, I decided to go with a secret that is actually relevant to what I’m doing here—writing. Also, since I’ve spent several years working with struggling students in special education, I think it’s a secret that, if shared, might actually be helpful to some aspiring writers out there who maybe don’t feel they themselves are exactly 100% amazing at some of the most basic skills necessary for writing.

So here it is—I am a mediocre speller.

And, actually, that might be giving myself too much credit.

Here is a sad truth; my ten-year-old daughter could spell better than me when she was eight.

My whole life, I have had a phobia about my spelling. It’s so bad that I hate with a passion having to handwrite anything (no spellchecker) in front of others. Greeting cards, white boards, personal letters, or grocery lists with someone, or many people, hovering over my shoulder?


People seem to often use your capacity for spelling as a benchmark for your entire knowledge base. As if this disability in my brain has something to do with my ability to grasp concepts great and small, pay attention to details, or organize my thoughts both spoken and written. Especially in publishing, of course.

If I ever have to give a big book signing (God willing) never mind public speaking­—misspelling the dedications in people’s books will be my biggest fear.

I mean, how bad will it look, me sitting there with a pocket dictionary looking up every other word? But for me, what would be even worse is someone going home and discovering that, “Geez, that Becky Taylor can’t spell ‘definetly’ right.”

It is especially difficult when it comes to editing my own work—I don’t often see the spelling problems. Thankfully, technology is pretty amazing and catches many, many things. But not everything. Over the years I have learned to compensate for this weakness by going over things repeatedly. REPEATEDLY.

But here is the thing—not being able to win a spelling bee does not mean a person can’t write. I know this because I have met plenty of people who are excellent spellers who can’t craft an entertaining story. Good spelling is one tool that helps communicate your thoughts clearly to your audience—one tool. Thankfully, if you realize this is a tool your brain is not equipped with, there are many options out there to help.

Thank you, thank you

Now, having said all of that, I wish I were a better speller. I wish that when my kids ask me how to spell a multisyllabic word I didn’t have to look it up almost every time. But here’s the thing, it turns out, that not being a very good speller comes in pretty handy when I’m in schools speaking to kids (especially when I was working with kids in special education.)

Lots of kids don’t feel they are good at many, many things—spelling is oftentimes one of them. Admitting to a child that you have a flaw (and let’s face it, I have many) is a pretty powerful point of connection to make with a kid who feels they: don’t read well; don’t write well; don’t remember well; don’t know math well; don’t (fill in the blank) well.

To be able to say to them, “Hey, I’m not perfect. There are many words I don’t spell right without trying really, really hard. But guess what—I write entire books anyway,” tells them it’s okay to have faults and those faults don’t have to stop you from doing the things you want.

Not unless you let them.

Know your strengths, play to those, and find ways to work with and overcome those things that are more difficult for you. If you want to do something in this world, go after it and realize that not a single one of us is perfect—especially not this writer.

For more information on Rebecca and her books, click here.


  1. I feel for you - not being confident in your spelling ability is a definite liability for a writer! I love your advice, though - know your strengths, play to those. Good advice for everyone!

  2. At least you can look up spellings, though. And Word is pretty decent at fixing spellings. I don't see this holding you back, Rebecca.

    Definitely good advice for overcoming your weaknesses. We all have them. ;)

    1. Thanks Kelly! Yes, I use the tools at my disposal, but when I don't have them--agh!

  3. What did people do before spell check and auto correct? Seriously, I love both. And you're not the only one who has difficulty proofing your own work. It's hard to find typos when you know what something should say. Great post!