Susan Cooper was first a teacher, and then switched careers to join a sales force where she rose up through the ranks. Very few even knew the daily struggles Susan lived with in order to communicate, because Susan had learned early on how to use her disability to her advantage.
Susan is dyslexic. But more importantly, she is a storyteller and a writer. Why and how does a person with dyslexia write? Read on to see that it’s not from the mind that Susan creates her stories, but from her heart, and it’s because of this “heart” that Susan has figured out how to communicate in writing, the important lessons about “life’s journey: all the challenges, learnings, memories, and the great ups and downs that happen along the way.”
Dyslexia in the Family
Just before Susan was diagnosed with dyslexia, her younger brother was diagnosed with the same. This did not come as much of a surprise, because her brother had severe troubles with dyslexia, and the family knew there was something wrong. Soon another brother was tested for dyslexia, and he also discovered that he had it.
Susan’s dyslexia was not as prominent. But when she was in her second year of teaching school, she was having several children tested to find out why they had trouble reading. As the counselor conducted the test on these children, Susan saw similarities in herself popping out of the test. “Will you test me for this?” Susan asked the counselor. The counselor wanted to know why and Susan explained that she recognized herself in what was being tested. She was not surprised to find that she was dyslexic.
Susan didn’t think much about this, because she had already found ways to cope with her dyslexia, whether she had named it or recognized it as that or not. But the counselor gave her some more help with coping with it even further, and not much more was thought about it.
But then, Susan left her teaching position, to pursue a new career in advertising sales.
Coping with Dyslexia in the Business World
Things were a little different in advertising sales than they were in education. Susan sometimes found herself in stressful situations or situations in which she didn’t quite know how to deal with yet. In these times of heightened stress, Susan experienced what she refers to as “peak dyslexia.” This was a time when even in her speech, “my words would become jumbled and not make sense. I knew what I wanted to say, but it wouldn’t come out right.”
She confided to her supervisor that she was dyslexic. He told her not to tell anyone.
While many would see this as discrimination, in retrospect, Susan saw it as a wise choice for that time. “Many people who were open about their disabilities would not be promoted, because that [the disability] was how they were seen.” Susan managed to hide her dyslexia by learning the things that heightened her “peak dyslexia” and avoiding them.
If she were in a difficult confrontation, in which she wanted to respond forcefully, instead, Susan would go back to her office, and then take the person aside and talk with them alone, after she had calmed down. She also found that she needed to work slowly and careful, especially in matters of finance and written communication. She soon earned a reputation as a levelheaded, calm person who was not reactive. This also earned her some respect. Little did the others know that she had learned to do this simply in response to dyslexia.
As Susan was promoted, she was given a personal assistant. While at first there were some struggles due to her dyslexia that involved communication, she soon confided to her personal assistant that she had dyslexia. From that moment forward, they put into place a system that worked for both of them, in which Susan was able to send every form of communication to her personal assistant (who also held a degree in English) to be read and revised if necessary, and edited for certain. This worked for a long time, but during the economic downturn in 2010, Susan’s company was sold. All C-level employees who held positions for which the buying company already had employees, were let go. This meant Susan was out of a job.
Finding Her Way Now
Susan and her husband talked about the new situation that Susan was in. She was in her late 50s and had invested wisely her entire career. With her husband gainfully employed, there was no need for her to go searching for a job again. Susan decided she would find her own way now, and she started experimenting with blogging.
Blogging started off as a personal journey. She shared it with very few people, and used it to express frustration about what had happened. But she found she enjoyed blogging, and that it was a cathartic act for her, and as she kept at it and learned more about it, she realized this was something from which she could start a new business. “It is important for me to be productive,” Susan told me. “And I feel that I have something to share, and if I lend my voice to the millions that are out there, if I impact a life in a positive way, then I have succeeded.”
The Story Teller
Susan found that the stories she told in order to draw parallels and make connections with potential customers, were also stories that she wanted to share with her blog audience. “If you do it right, you have to think about how to tell it, where to place the emphasis, to bring about the ‘aha’ moment at the end with a lesson or a moral. Storytelling is like a present. You know there’s something inside but what could it be? As you unwrap the gift your anticipation grows until you unfold the tissue and there is the surprise, the “ah ha” moment. If you do it well it is a great deal of fun for the reader.”
And this is exactly what Susan does. While Susan has three main types of posts on her awesome blog (wine reviews, recipes, and illustrated stories), she says it’s the stories that bring the audience. Her stories are beautifully illustrated by Susan herself, who was once also a commissioned pin and ink artist. “Blogging has really reconnected me with my art,” Susan told me. She uses a computer to draw her illustrations, and as she has learned more and more she feels her art gets better each time. Susan uses her illustrations to pull the reader into each story (and trust me, it works).
If you haven’t had a chance to check out Susan’s blog yet, please do. Her stories are wonderful, and a real treat to read, especially on a break at work. Here’s my favorite story of her’s to get you started, but be sure to check out her others too. You can find most of them in her “Life” page, found by clicking the “Life” tab from her main page.