Last week was quiet around here because my dad was hospitalized on Sunday and I was away from the computer for most of the week. However, Jeannie Davide-Rivera of AspieWriter.com invited me to participate in a writer’s blog hop (and gave me a deadline!) so here I am. Jeannie is the author of a terrific memoir, Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed, which I was lucky enough to get to read as she was writing it. She also blogs on a wide variety of autism-related topics, including a series of answers to frequently asked questions that she’s recently started adding to her regular blog. Jeannie’s blog was one of the first I ever discovered and I learned a lot from reading her writing as I was exploring whether I might be autistic too. If you’re not familiar with her blog, check it out.
The Writing Process blog hop is basically (for me, at least) a chance to do a structured infodump on a life-long special interest: writing. The cool thing about this blog hop is that it’s migrated from nonautistic writers to writers on the spectrum and is now making its way through the autistic community (Mike Monje was also tagged by Jeannie and will be posting this week.).
On to the questions . . .
What am I working on?
Um, nothing? I’ve finished up the final major edits on Nerdy, Shy and Socially Inappropriate, which will be released by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in September (yay!). The book is a combination of revised bits from this blog and new material, organized thematically into a sort of “user’s guide” to life on the spectrum. I’m really happy with how it turned out and am looking forward to holding the printed book in my hands.
Technically, I should be working on a piece that I’ve been invited to submit to an anthology and some new blog posts and the next article for AWN, but writing gets a little harder with each passing week, so mostly I’m working on being kind to myself around the writing process.
I’m working on writing a lot on days that I can feel the words and the mistakes are few.
I’m working on not melting down on days when I discover that nearly every sentence I’ve written has multiple errors.
I’m working on writing without judgment, on writing and rewriting and rewriting some more.
I’m working being satisfied with what I can do, even if I don’t quite feel like I’m being as clear or as articulate or as precise as I’d like.
I’m working not being embarrassed when I write a ten word tweet and discover an hour later that two of the ten words aren’t actually there.
I’m working on letting the process take me where it does and having fewer expectations.
I’m working on relying less on words, on supporting others through showing up and being present and hoping they understand.
I’m working on not giving up hope of getting back to a place where words have feeling and shape again.
How does my work differ from others in the genre?
This is hard because there is so much diversity among autistic writers. I feel like we’re each very different in our approach and writing style and the topics we write about.
I do a lot of research and try to blend research with my personal experiences. Autism is one of my current special interests, so I enjoy digging into a topic and reading about it in depth as background for a post. In some ways that often makes my writing wonkier and more technical than the average blog. Also longer.
For last few months I’ve been enjoying interviewing other autistic women and including their stories in the articles for AWN. I was starting to get tired of writing about myself all the time so that’s been a refreshing change of pace. It’s forced me to develop a slightly different writing style, which I don’t quite feel comfortable with yet, but I’m eager to keep working at.
Why do I write what I do?
I started blogging for myself–to understand myself better. I never really expected it to go anywhere beyond being an outlet for processing my own realizations and giving me a place to infodump about what was quickly becoming a massively time consuming special interest. That people found what I was writing interesting was a happy surprise.
A few years ago, I tried to talk my way into a creative nonfiction class at the university where I was doing my economics degree. The professor asked me about my writing experience and specifically whether I’d ever written any memoir. Well, no. Needless to day, I didn’t get into the class. At the time, I couldn’t imagine what on earth I could possibly write about myself that would be of interest to anyone. I figured creative nonfiction meant the stuff I so enjoy reading in the New Yorker but the professor had other ideas and deemed me an unsuitable candidate.
Life is funny like that, I guess. I’ve always loved to write. Fiction for fun and nonfiction for work. But writing about myself–opening up my life and thoughts and experiences to strangers–was the last thing I expected to ever do. It’s been an interesting process, one that’s made me stronger and more vulnerable as a person.
Along the way, something else that’s very important to me has happened too–this has developed into a space where people feel comfortable sharing their stories too. That was something I’d hoped for in a “wildest dreams” kind of way. Hopefully, by creating a place where we can learn from each other, I can give back to the community some of what I found when I first wandered into other autistic writer’s blogs looking for clues about myself.
How does your writing process work?
New ideas nearly always originate in real life. A conversation had or overheard. An observation that raises a question. A quirky detail that I can’t quite figure out. Something I’ve read and found exciting or annoying or confusing.
Once I have the seed of an idea, I like to let it germinate in my mind. I’ll come back to it throughout the day or while I’m contemplating the meaning of life at 3 AM. Often I take tough ideas out for a run, literally. Some of my best thinking is done while running or walking the dog. Eventually the idea will take on a specific shape and that’s when I start writing.
I usually write as much as I can off the top of my head, then begin researching to fill in background, answer questions or challenge my own theories. If a topic is difficult, I might start with background reading, let the idea grow in my head a bit, then go back to more serious research. Generally, though, I like to get some fresh thoughts down before I start reading what others have to say about a subject.
I rarely start at the beginning of a post and almost never know how a piece of writing will end. Half the fun of writing is seeing where an idea will take me. If I know the ending, there’s no point in even beginning to write but there’s no sense of mystery or discovery along the way.
Finally, I revise a lot. Right now I have 23 draft posts in my Google docs folder, all in various states of revision. Some posts I’ll write in an hour and have ready to publish in a few days. Others I’ll let sit for months, going back to look at each occasionally until I find the right way of saying what I want to say. And some never see the light of day.
Part of this blog hop deal is tagging other writers to participate. Hop on over to these blogs to check out what they’re up to and read their responses to the blog hop questions next week:
Sparrow Rose Jones is the author of “No You Don’t: Essays from an Unstrange Mind“, a terrific collection of essays about her experiences as an autistic adult. She blogs about autism and advocacy related topics at Unstrange Mind and is also a fantastic musician and has taught me a great deal about autistic culture and history.
Alyssa is a prolific blogger who writes about autism-related topics at Yes That Too. She’s been in China for the past academic year and is returning to the US soon. In addition to writing nonfiction, fiction and poetry, she’s an artist who creates cool visual patterns, which you can find at Because Patterns.
Renee Salas blogs on autism and neurodiversity related topics at S. R. Salas, is a frequent contributor to Autism Parenting magazine and a champion Tweeter and a tireless advocate. She is the author of Black and White: A Colorful Look at Life on the Autism Spectrum, a positive look at life on the spectrum.