Overcome Your Challenges And Write Your Book. A Disabled Writer Shares His Journey.

It’s hard for anyone to write a book and get it out into the world, but it’s even harder if you have health challenges.

Daniel D. Bate is severely dyslexic, completely blind, and physically disabled due to severe joint damage and extreme brittle bones. He is a partially recovered, partial paraplegic. Despite his challenges, Daniel continues to pursue his dream of being a successful author.

You can find his books on Amazon and find out more or sign up for his email list at DanielDBate.com.

What got you into writing and publishing?

I have loved books as far back as I can remember. My parents encouraged my love of audiobooks and I think got rather fed up of reading stories to me so they bought me audiobooks.

I am very much a contrarian. I’m severely dyslexic and even now still spell phonetically. Back then, I couldn’t really read or write. The weird thing was I used to go around with a notepad and pen writing and drawing anything I could. Despite hating reading and writing, I loved books and stories. I love the feel of books. I love the smell of books and just holding them in my hands. It was the audio books my parents put me on that allowed me to really enjoy stories.

When I was in year nine at primary school, we were told to write a poem. I’m not sure what it was about that project, but that really opened the door for me. It made me feel like the written word could mean and do so much more. From that point I wanted to be an author. This was well before any of my physical disabilities.

Since then I’ve tried several times to write, but it wasn’t until the year before last that I was able to achieve this dream. I published my first short story in October 2022. Then last year I published my first full novel, Stepping Stones to Space. It’s the first of many books to come in my Humanities Expansion series.

My book is about an individual that wants to take humanity back to the moon and colonise it. Humanity’s history is full of examples where individuals have made a difference and in this case one woman will be the driving force to get us back into space.

Due to how severe my disabilities have become a normal 9 to 5 Job is not a possibility for me. I am on benefits. I would be dead now if it wasn’t for the N.H.S.

I want to work together to help society and contribute to it. I decided that combining my passion for books was the best way to achieve this. It is not a 9 to 5 job, but hopefully I can build this into a career. Hopefully, I can build something that will help me to get out of the benefit trap and help others to achieve their own goals and dreams.

My hope is that if other people can see someone who is severely dyslexic, partially deaf, completely blind, is a partially recovered paraplegic and who spends 80% of his day bedbound, despite all that, I can still publish a book and work towards goals and dreams.

Hopefully, this will inspire other people as well to reach beyond their perceived limitations and achieve their own dreams. I’m not saying if I can do it anyone can. Everyone has their own unique circumstances, but if I can do it, then you also might be able to try.

What challenges have you had to overcome for your author career?

As I mentioned before, I’m something of a contrarian in many ways. Becoming an author is a very difficult path to take for anyone, even without disabilities. My disabilities though, have in some ways both made things harder and easier.

It was my dyslexia that made things difficult at first. I tried to write my first book before I became seriously disabled and it was a slog. It was extremely difficult just to write a few sentences. Unfortunately, that book got put by the wayside. One day I may come back to it. 

Only once I went blind, things actually got easier. I had access now to screen reader technology, as well as dictation based software like that built into the iPhones. This made my dream of becoming an author more realistic. There was also another piece of software called Dragon, that made becoming an author an easier pursuit. 

My health has had some quite dramatic ups and downs. During one of the high points after I had come to terms with going blind, I took up sailing again and even achieved first place in the Blind Nationals. It was in the B1 fleet racing category in 2012. I was also fortunate enough to be accepted into an amazing university.

After that, my health took another dip and two of my dreams have been postponed. I was not able to go to university in the end, but if my health ever gets back to a sufficient level again, I will pursue those dreams again. 

It seems when my health goes downhill; I get back into my writing.

Using a Mac computer and Dragon Dictation software, I attempted to write another novel. Unfortunately, someone hacked my computer, and that file was deleted. I still remember the broad strokes of the story and may rewrite it again in time, but that was another attempt to become an author that crashed and burned. 

Unfortunately, my health continued to deteriorate and after several other serious incidences it culminated in me becoming a partial paraplegic. I was completely paralysed from mid chest down. My injury was classed as a T7, which means it was roughly between my shoulder blades. I spent five months in the hospital during the COVID lockdowns. I then did another seven months in a respite centre during some of the other lockdowns. I was eventually allowed home. 

While I was in the respite centre, I got back into my writing in a very big way. I have continued writing ever since then.

While I was admitted to hospital for those five months, I was not able to write at all. This imposed sabbatical on my writing made me realise and reinforced how much I wanted to be a writer.

Despite trying multiple times, it just wasn’t possible while I was in the hospital. When I left, it was a different matter and thanks to certain pieces of technology. It allowed me to embark on pursuing my dream of becoming a author. This is mainly thanks to the accessibility of the Apple iPhone. I also use an iPad and occasionally a MacBook Pro.

I’ve tried Windows operating systems with screen readers like jaws and supernova. They are alright. I find Apple accessibility software to be superior.

Unfortunately, Apple do not like to play nicely with others and the Dragon Dictate software does not work very well with Apple’s screen reader on the MacBook Pro. My way round this was to use the Apple iPhone.

I use the built-in dictation software and an app called Dragon Anywhere. This wasn’t available years ago when I first started to get back into writing, but is now and I would highly recommend the equipment. This equipment is not just useful for blind people, but people that severely have dyslexia or even physically disabled would also find this extremely useful.

It has become even more important for me in the last several years as I’ve had severe damage done to my hands and I can no longer touch type. Many years ago, after I went blind, I was very fortunate to be taught in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, how to touch type. Since then, I’ve also lost that ability as well.

The right technology and software is what really allows me to pursue my dreams of becoming an author.

This article itself has been written using the built-in dictation software in my iPhone.

It does have errors and going back through to edit them can be rather frustrating, but there is a brand-new piece of software that has made things even better for me.

I’m a big advocate for AI software. It has dramatically improved my editing speed. I write my stories predominantly with the dictation software and some of my books are human edited.

Other books in the future will be both human and AI edited. I use Claude.ai predominantly, but I have also used one called Mag AI which is accessible with my screen reader.

I have also tried GPT. Unfortunately, the app on the iPhone is not accessible using a screen reader. I’ve also tried using the Claude app on the iPhone and that is not accessible either, despite it saying that in the app information, but the web browser version for Claude is extremely good for screen readers.

I have had to fight and work extremely hard to achieve my goals and dreams. The medical side of my life takes up a significant amount of my time.

My day starts at 3 o’clock in the morning and ends about 8:30 in the evening. Unfortunately, I am however, bedbound for 80% of the time and only have very small opportunities during that day to do the things I want to achieve.

My goals and dreams of becoming a successful author are slowly, hopefully, becoming true. Initially, much of the process I did on my own. If you want to see an example of the disaster I had with a website, check my first website out at rbookarchives.com

Since then, I have paid people to help get round some of my own limitations. I hope one day to build a team that can help support me. However, for now, money is a very limited resource given my current situation.

 I owe an extremely big thank you too Stuart Grant at the Digital Authors Toolkit in particular for building me an incredible new website, and being a very good decent human being. Him and his team have gone above and beyond for me. They have worked around my disabilities and done an incredible job. 

I have also paid a human editor to edit my first book, Stepping Stones to Space and my second full novel, Beyond Earth. He is also an amazing human being that has taken account of my disabilities and we’ve created a system that now works. 

I am also in the process of getting my first book, Stepping Stones to Space professionally formatted, but many of my books have been written, edited, and formatted entirely by myself. If you want to see an example of that disaster, then check out my short story The Terminus. 

I am still on the path and have a very long way to go.

I first need to build my newsletter. Once I have a large number of readers who enjoy my books, then hopefully I will have enough money coming in to support myself. Once I’ve achieved that, hopefully I can pay for the team that I need to improve my books and make them even better. 

There is still a long way to go, but I will keep on keeping on. I can and will continue to work, but it’s with the help of people like you that will make the difference. You are the amazing ones. You are the ones that will help make my dreams come true and I cannot say thank you enough.

At the end of the day, I just hope that you enjoy my books like I have enjoyed so many other authors’ books.

 (3) What mindset tips do you have for authors when they face the inevitable challenges that come?

Some people dismiss mindset as not being important. I disagree with this heavily.

Mindset is the foundation. Mindset is the cornerstone of how you are going to achieve your dreams.

Your dreams are a guiding light. Dreams are almost like a north star, something to aim towards. Mindset is the vehicle. The ship that is going to take you there.

I believe the phrase. “all I ask is a tall ship and a star to sail her by.” I believe that this phrase means far more than most people realise. I personally have developed eight mantras that I say to myself almost every day.

My first one is the one I use the most, which is keep on keeping on. Sometimes this one just helps me to work through the hard times and get through whatever is causing me trouble at that moment.

The second one is if it’s going to be, it’s up to me. Your dreams are your own and while people will help, and there are some very kind people in the world, but there is unfortunately evil as well. It will be up to you to achieve those dreams. The third one is:

Do what I can, when I can, how I can.

Time is extremely valuable and you need to use it as efficiently as possible. Every moment we have on this planet is precious and we cannot get it back, buy more of it, or extend it beyond what we have. 

The fourth one is slow and steady wins the race. This one is more about just doing a small bit often. Over time, it will accumulate into a very large thing. If you’re too ill or too tired to do a lot, then don’t. Instead, do a little bit often and it will build into so much more.

The fifth one is efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. Like everyone, we have a finite amount of time to use each day. Being in my wheelchair only for a few hours each day limits the time I have available. Sorting out my medical care reduces that time even more. I need to use my time as efficiently as possible, and I will do if possible several things at the same time.

The sixth one is: How to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. This is a saying that refers to taking a very large task and breaking it down as much as you need to so you can make it more manageable.

If I thought that I’d have to write a 147,000 word novel, I would never have written my first book, Stepping Stones to Space. Instead, I took it a few hundred words at a time. I took it one day at a time, and eventually I had my novel.

The seventh mantra is: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today. This mantra just means don’t wait for tomorrow to do or start a task. Do it as soon as you can, within reason, of course.

The eighth mantra and possibly the most important one is: Everything in balance and moderation. 

The seven previous mantras have been all about working towards your goals and dreams. Sometimes, however, this can push you too far. You might be the sort of person that needs pushing, but there’s also just as many of us out there that may need reigning in from time to time. I have made myself physically ill and even ended up in hospital by pushing myself too far.

I have dreams and goals and I want to achieve them, but we also must remember everything in balance and moderation. This also means getting the proper amount of rest and sleep.

I must work towards my goals and dreams. I must also look after myself, and maintain my health as much as possible. I believe the order should be “health, happiness, then wealth.”

I believe these phrases round themselves out very well and do a good job of pushing you to achieve your goals. No one is going to achieve your dreams for you, so you must work towards them. Even just a little bit of work each day is something towards a larger goal. A little bit each day builds on itself and eventually can become your dreams. 

It’s also very important not to wait till tomorrow. Don’t put it off for another day if you can do it today.

Seven of my mantras are useful for getting the job done and working towards those goals and dreams. One thing you need to remember, though, especially if you suffer from chronic illness is not to make yourself ill.

Some people need pushing towards their goals and those phrases will help but some people need holding back on occasion. I know because I can be one of these people.

I’m like a light switch I’m on or off. If I’m on, I have to do as much as I can and it’s never enough. I have on several occasions worked myself into illness because I want to achieve those goals so badly.

That is why my eighth phrase is so important to workaholics like myself. Everything in balance and moderation that includes rest and relaxation. You feel like there is not enough time for relaxation and too much still to do, but it’s just as vital especially to your health. 

Physical needs are extremely important, but your mindset is the foundation of everything. Dreams are the guiding star that you are navigating towards. Mindset and technology is the vehicle, the ship that will get you there.

Everyone has their own unique drive. This is the thing that pushes you on. Mine is, to me at least books and the hope to have a better life. This is the fuel, the burning desire inside me that pushes me on. It pushes me like a wind in the sales of my ship. One day it will get me there, but in the meantime, the journey is also just as important.  

(4) You use a lot of adaptive technology. What tools related to writing, publishing, and book marketing do you find the most helpful?

I use a vast amount of equipment to both be a writer and get round my disabilities.

As far as word processing software goes, I predominantly use Apple’s Pages app and the Notes app on my iPhone and iPad. This is what I use to do my actual writing.

I also use the built-in dictation software of Apple, as well as the downloadable app Dragon Anywhere software. Apple has the best accessibility software. I am limited to Apple’s own software and software endorsed by Apple. As I mentioned before, they don’t particularly like to play well with others.

I find the Dragon Anywhere software is extremely useful for doing flow writing where I can stay dictating for minutes or even over an hour sometimes.

I find the built-in Apple dictation software to be better for short sentences and correcting errors. Anyone who is familiar with dictation software will know it is not the most accurate. It certainly has come on in leaps and bounds over the years, but it still isn’t perfect.

Reedsy is also a site I would highly recommend to anyone. I used it to get an amazing editor and through word-of-mouth have got a professional to format my first book for me.

To distribute my books I use Amazon, but I’m also a big advocate of BookFunnel and I also use Draft2Digital. I’ll be trying to get my books out onto as many platforms as I possibly can, especially my free ones. The last one I put my book on was Wattpad. I’m still in the process though of trying to do the Google Play store.

For my book marketing, I predominantly use Written Word Media and my author newsletter. I post it on social media as well, but don’t do very well with that side of things.

I’m hoping to add another person to the team that can help me with my newsletter and social media. Basically, once I start earning enough, they’ll be requests for a PA at some point. One thing that I struggle heavily with is tracking my sales. All the primary options are not accessible through a screen reader on a mobile device.

One app I do use is called KDP Champ on the Apple App Store. This works only with sales from Amazon, but at least I have an idea of some of my sales.

My current primary goal other than actually writing my books is to build my author newsletter and try and get it sorted with as many people on it as possible while also giving them useful and entertaining content. For this, I use the website ConvertKit. Unfortunately, it isn’t fully accessible to screen reader technology.

I have tried that and I’ve tried Mailchimp and for me at least ConvertKit is the better option. Warning: You will probably be emailing the Help Service quite a bit. If you have to do automations, then I highly recommend hiring someone to do it for you. This has been a source of great frustration for me, mainly because I know that if I wasn’t blind, I would be able to do it for myself.

There are issues, but at least it can be partly used with screen readers and there are other silver linings as well.

I also have an incredible book cover designer who takes great care with describing the book covers he does for me.

He does an incredible job and I very much appreciate him working around my disabilities so well.

I was also very concerned about my first book. I wanted to make sure I got the first three things right. I even paid someone to do the blurb for me.

The first one is your book cover, the second one is your book blurb the third one is your category and keywords. I did everything I could to get the first two of these sorted, but unfortunately I’ve not done very well on the third.

I have tried Publisher Rocket, but unfortunately it’s not accessible on an iPhone. One other very useful piece of software I’m currently using is AI. It was taking me several days, possibly even more than a week, to edit 1000 words.

Thanks to AI, I can now edit 2000 words in one day. This has been an incredible boost to my productivity.

I write the books. I am the one who comes up with the stories, but AI is a fantastic tool and can really help people with disabilities even more.

While I’m not at the same level of some of the prolific writers, this software has made a significant difference for me. Hopefully, my readers will be able to enjoy several new books this year instead of just maybe one next year. 

(5) Tell us about your books and where we can find you online

If you want to hear more about me, my books, and who I am, then you can find me at my brand-new website, danieldbate.com.

If you go on there, you’ll find out so much more about everything. If there is also something else you would like to know personally, then you can join my author newsletter and email me yourself. You can get a free copy of my first published full novel, Stepping Stones to Space.

My book is about Dr Elizabeth Reacher and her team as they strive to send humanity back to the moon. She witnesses another devastating blow against space exploration and takes it upon herself to push humanity back into space and take the first steps back to exploring the stars.

I also have published eight short stories. Four of them are available on Amazon for 99p each, but the other four are exclusive to my author newsletter. Some of them you get for joining, but a few others are to say thank you to those that help me grow my newsletter and recommend even more people.

Other than writing my books, growing my newsletter is the most important thing for me at the moment. If you can help me to grow, then I can’t say thank you enough and I very much appreciate anything and everything that you wonderful people can do to help me on this journey.

Above everything else, I sincerely hope you enjoy the books I’ve written, and that you succeed in achieving your own dreams, and your own author journey.

Want more on accessibility?

I’ve done a couple of interviews related to this:

The post Overcome Your Challenges And Write Your Book. A Disabled Writer Shares His Journey. first appeared on The Creative Penn.

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Author: Joanna Penn

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  • June 26, 2024