Tag Archives: writing

_________ing an Uncooperative Body

I don’t know how to title this. I don’t know what verb to put in that gaping blank space. I don’t even know if body is the right word.

Maybe brain is more correct, though my brain keeps reassuring me that it knows exactly what it’s doing. It points fingers at my uncooperative mouth and unruly hands, blaming the execution when I’m quite sure something must be going wrong further up the line, in the commands or perhaps the translation from thought to action.

And yet . . .

It’s clearly physical, too. Physiological? I watch my hand go astray as it writes letters that I’ve know how to form–that I’ve been writing without conscious thought–for forty years. Even as my brain is putting on the brakes and mentally shouting at my fingers that an “S” doesn’t look like that, my hand carries merrily on, barely finishing an extra loop or a backward curve before I bite my lip and, with a level of concentration more commonly seen in first graders, trace over the letter until it looks right.

Less obviously physical, but just as confounding, when the word in my head doesn’t match what my fingers type or my mouth blurts out, it feels like an accident of the body. A localized failure to follow orders.

And yet . . .

The brain directs the body, is part of the body. So let’s say body. It’s all a little less scary that way anyhow.

That still leaves the verb. The action. What is this dance that I’m doing with my uncooperative body these days?

All I know for certain is that I need an -ing form, denoting an event in progress.

Taming an Uncooperative Body?

I wish. Taming implies making something easier to control. What’s happening has its own timing and progression. The best I can do is to try to keep up with the changes as they make themselves known, one by one, steadily more strange.

Wiling an Uncooperative Body?

I should know by now the outcome of “just try harder” in these situations, but I still fall for it. Occasionally sheer will works. I’m pretty good at forcing myself through unpleasant tasks when necessary. But with writing? Having a conversation? Mostly I end up cranky, with an achey head and a strong desire for a nap.

Ignoring an Uncooperative Body?

Ignoring worked for a while. When the oddities and slip-ups and errors were an occasional thing, I could pretend they didn’t bother me, that I was being a silly perfectionist. They were annoying, yes, but still easy enough to ignore. We’re past that point now, and have been for a while.

Accommodating an Uncooperative Body?

I tried–and continue to try, though with less enthusiasm–to find accommodations that work. I’ll talk instead of writing, I assured myself. I’ll use text-to-speech to check for errors. I’ll switch to handwriting, slow down my typing, outline, make notes, scaffold, revise as much as it takes. Give up Facebook groups and commenting and reading a zillion blogs and articles, reduce my communication load and stop volunteering for projects. I’ll have silence day and learn sign language and only write on “good” days and settle for a word that’s close enough when I can’t find the one I really want.

Each one worked for a while, until it didn’t anymore. A series of Maginot lines and my brain invaded Belgium every time.


Fighting an Uncooperative Body?

At times, I do, out of stubbornness, a refusal to give in, pride. I’m angry a lot these days. At what, I don’t know. Myself? Why? It makes no sense to be angry at myself for something I’m not purposely doing. Maybe at life, circumstances, the way irony is only truly ironic when it’s happening to someone else.

Maybe I’m more frustrated than angry. Maybe the exact descriptor of the emotion is irrelevant. Instead, if I say that the headbanging urge arises too easily and too often, does that convey what I’m feeling? If you’re autistic, I suspect it does. I guess that’s where the fighting comes in. Because I have to still that urge, patiently walk myself back from it, seek another outlet for that feeling. That takes energy, effort, sometimes just plain blunt force. I’m thankful for a lifetime of practice.

Mourning an Uncooperative Body?

Probably too strong and certainly too final a word, but there’s an intense sadness and feeling of loss that walks beside the anger. My ability to express myself in writing has always been one of the things I thought no one could take away from me. I assumed it was a constant.

My skill with words wasn’t just a strength, it was (is? I don’t know anymore) part of my identity. Writing is an integral part of who I am–one of my oldest and dearest special interests, one of the things that defines me. And I’m sad and scared and angry that it’s possibly dying or, at the very least, deserting me for a while.

Where do you escape to when you’re trying to escape the very thing that has always been your most comforting safe space?

Questioning an Uncooperative Body?

Who is this person I’m becoming? There’s an incongruity that’s developing in the gaps of who I am and who I think I am (was? have been?), between the aspects that continue to be strong and the areas that I’m struggling with in ways I have no contingency plan for.

When I’m not writing or talking or listening, I feel as whole and competent and as much myself as ever. I go out to run in the morning and the ideas flow just as they always have and I think “yes, today is the day.” Then I sit down at the computer, stupidly optimistic, eager to write what’s running around in my head and quickly begin to wonder what kind of tricks my brain is playing on me, what made me believe that today–unlike yesterday or the day before–that today would be the day that I could get from thoughts to words so easily.

Disguising an Uncooperative Body?

Increasingly there is the need to disguise my confusion. How often can I ask The Scientist to repeat himself until his frustration surpasses mine? How often can I reasonably tell him that I need silence because listening to speech, trying to link one sentence to another, holding the fragile tenuous meaning of his words in my head until I can respond requires more effort that I can manage in the moment?

How odd does it look to others when my response to the repetition of a question is “sorry, I didn’t realize that was a question” followed by a request to repeat it one more time? How much easier it is to nod and smile and make affirmative noises and hope I’m getting it right.

Of course, The Scientist is on to me and has started repeating himself when his question is met with confused silence or a tentative guess at an answer.

Living In an Uncooperative Body?

My first instinct was “living with” but there is no “with” here. I can no more live with my body than I can be a person with autism. I am my body, uncooperative or otherwise. Increasingly, I find myself gravitating toward activities that don’t require language. I read less, write less, talk less, watch TV less, run more, walk the dog, workout, listen to music, cook, take long bike rides, swim, play games, tend my container gardens, watch The Scientist fish.

Accepting an Uncooperative Body?

I don’t have much choice on this one. The more frequent and pervasive my language problems become, the more I’m being forced to accept that this is the status quo, at least for now, at least until I know otherwise.

There is also the fact that while I’ve lost a fair amount of my communication ability, I’m still able to communicate many things verbally and in writing. My expressive and receptive language has become literal and concrete and often requires more effort than I’d like, but it’s still functional in ways that matter a lot to me. I should be thankful for that. But the sense of loss is still strong at this point and I’m having trouble getting to a “glass half full” way of looking at things.


And so I’ve run out of verbs. I suppose, secretly, I’d hoped that finding the right verb would mean finding a solution, but I can’t write my way to answer on this one.

Not all posts are about answers, though. Some are simply here to say if you found anything in these words that you relate to or you’ve been in this place or you’re in a place like this right now–you’re not alone. And neither am I.

#My Writing Process Blog Hop

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.

Up Next

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.

Sometimes This Happens

I sat down this morning to write up this week’s Take a Test Tuesday post. I took the test last week and I have my results and some notes written up so I wasn’t too concerned about leaving it until Monday to get it finished. Then, thanks to Tumblr, I discovered 2048.

The good news: I’ve gotten the 512 tile twice and I’m feeling pretty good about my chances of beating this thing

The bad news: There’s not going to be a Take a Test Tuesday post this week

This happens sometimes. Discover something new, accidentally lose a few hours, rearrange expectations for the day.  In this case, I think it’s part stim, part perseveration.  But sometimes it’s a new special interest or a new aspect of a special interest.  Whatever it is, I’ve learned to stop (eventually) and ask myself what I’m not doing and why. Because this kind of time loss tends to be a sign that I’m avoiding something, at least in part.

The answer this morning is obvious. Writing is becoming harder and harder. I find myself writing less, putting it off. The frustrating thing is, my desk and my drafts folder are strewn with ideas for posts. I want so much to write, but the mechanics of it are increasingly making it a slow (if you’re curious how slow, this took me close to 45 minutes to write and edit), difficult process. I’ve also started to lose my feel for words, which is a bit scary. I write by how language feels and these days it mostly feels flat and lifeless. That’s making my writing increasingly literal and (to me, at least) boring.

Okay, so this post took a strange turn for the morose but I’ll leave it because it’s part of the breadcrumb trail documenting my language difficulties.

I’m going to give myself this week off from posting, I think. My daughter and her boyfriend are coming to visit later in the week (yay!) and we have lots of fun things planned. I’ll be back next Tuesday with a test for us to puzzle over. Until then, good luck getting that elusive 2048 tile.

ETA:  Got the 2048 last night 🙂


Uncooperative Words and Where I Go From Here

Something strange is going on in my brain. Aside from the usual strangeness, I mean, which I’m quite used to. Back in March I wrote about my missing word problem. Over the past few months, I’ve developed some funky new issues with writing:

  • The missing words are no longer just small words like a or the. Now I also skip right over important words, and sometimes pairs of words. A particularly bad sentence might have three words missing.

  • Sometimes I repeat phrases, typing things like “I was about to about to change directions.” Those are fairly easy to catch when editing.

  • Verb forms have become interchangeable at times, which results in me sending ridiculous texts like “I’m exciting to see you” and mixing tenses in paragraphs.

  • Contractions are occasionally problematic, specifically leaving off the apostrophe and what comes after it.

  • The weird word substitutions continue, perhaps more frequently, definitely in more obvious forms. Also substituting homonyms like to/too and you’re/your, even though I know the correct usage and it drives me bonkers when other people do this.

  • My spelling has become erratic. In some writing sessions, I backspace over every third word, often more than once until I get it right. The biggest problem seems to be the letters coming out in the wrong order. Yesterday I tried to type Walmart into my GPS and I had “mwla” before I realized that wasn’t going to get me to where I needed to go.

This all adds up to making writing–from a blog posts to one sentence emails–very frustrating. Even a single line reply on Facebook will end up with some glaring–though not to me–error. In spite of multiple proofreadings. In spite of taking my time and being extra careful.  Continue reading Uncooperative Words and Where I Go From Here

Monday Morning Musings (9/16)

Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Tumblr user captain-irrayditation who is the winner of the weighted blanket giveaway.  There were a ton of entries and I wish I was able to give every single person a weighted blanket. Hopefully there will be more giveaways in the not too distant future.

Looking for Input from Women Who are Late/Mis/Un-Diagnosed

I’m writing a pair of articles for the Autism Women’s Network about the high rates of late, missed and misdiagnosis in women on the spectrum. If you’ve experienced any of these and would be willing to be quoted in the article, please take a look at a short questionnaire I’ve put together to collect more information on the topic. There are five questions but feel free to answer even one if it applies to you and you’d like to participate.

Nat is Blogging!

Nat, who is a frequent and prolific commenter here (as Quarries and Corridors), has a new blog. The latest post Understanding the ‘Spectrum’ in Autistic Spectrum is a great take on the different ways that the spectrum concept can be interpreted.  I especially enjoyed the color wheel/slider bar analogy. I guess you’ll have to go read it to see what I’m talking about. 🙂  Continue reading Monday Morning Musings (9/16)

Monday Morning Musings (8/26)


One year ago Wednesday I made my first post on this blog. It was really scary until I realized that hardly anyone would see it . . .

Fortunately some people eventually found the blog and those people shared it with other people and things kind of snowballed from there. Rereading that post, I realize that my perception of what it means to be autistic has changed a lot in a year. (If you read that link, keep in mind that I had no idea what I was doing and I made some silly mistakes/assumptions that make me cringe now.) What hasn’t changed in the past year is my wish for this to be a place where people can share their experiences and knowledge and questions. You all have made that come true in ways I couldn’t have dreamed of a year ago.

Glitter stars for everyone!



Earlier this summer I wrote an article for a quarterly magazine published by Autism West Midlands so I was very excited to get a copy of the magazine in the mail this week.  Julia, who is absolutely lovely to work with, also sent me rainbow-themed bookmarks and stickers.

Rainbow-themed autism swag and my first print article!
Rainbow-themed autism swag and my first print article!

Continue reading Monday Morning Musings (8/26)

The Case of the Missing Words

I’ve mentioned my “missing word problem” here before. You may have noticed it in reading the blog or my comment replies–my tendency to skip over a small but necessary word when I write. This is more than a simple problem with typos, which I can easily catch and fix when proofreading.

The mystery of the missing words had proved intractable enough that I’d given up on solving it.

Until now, that is! I’m reading “The Mind’s Eye” by Oliver Sacks and right there in Chapter 2 is a potential answer: aphasia.

Aphasia is a disruption in expressive or receptive language. It can be as severe as a complete loss of understanding of language, including the inability to speak or think in words. (Aphasia usually affects all forms of language, not just speech.) “Global aphasia” often results from a brain tumor, stroke, traumatic brain injury or degenerative brain disease.

However, milder forms of aphasia are characterized by:

  • difficulty in finding words (especially nouns, in particular proper nouns)
  • a tendency to use an incorrect word without a change in sentence structure

In discussing notable case histories of aphasia, Sacks mentions the English writer Samuel Johnson, who experienced aphasia after a stroke at the age of 73. While Johnson eventually regained the ability to speak, he “made uncharacteristic mistakes, sometimes omitting a word or writing the wrong word” in his writing and correspondence.


Adding Up the Evidence

I omit words when I write–more often than the average person it seems–at a rate of about one missing word per one to three hundred words, more if I’m tired (yes, I’ve started keeping track).

The missing words are small but important, like not, an and the. I need to proofread multiple times to catch them, often in an alternative format, because my brain likes to help me out by pretending the missing word exists and skimming right over the omission.

I sometimes use the wrong word without noticing. In writing, it tends to be a word that is close in spelling or sound, though not necessarily in meaning, like bring instead of brain. When speaking, my substitutions are more entertaining. For example, last night The Scientist was using a kitchen towel to clean up a mess.

“Put that in the dishwasher when you’re done,” I suggested helpfully.

He looked at the towel and frowned. “You mean the washing machine.”

Right. That’s exactly what I meant. And what I thought I’d said. This happens a few times a week and I rarely notice that I’ve done it until someone points it out. It’s more common when I’m fatigued or in a setting with a lot of distractions.

I have trouble with retrieving words, especially names of people and things:

“I’ll recycle the, the  . . .” I’m staring at the newspaper and pointing at the newspaper and I cannot for the life of me come up with the word for it. All I have is a blank–a tangible, almost physical hole in my mind where newspaper should be. “I’ll recycle that that  . . . thing after I finish reading it. $%&*! WHY ARE THERE SO MANY DIFFERENT WORDS FOR THINGS?!”

I’d been attributing the increasing frequency of gaps in word retrieval to getting older. It’s frustrating, especially when I’m trying to find the right word for a written piece and it refuses to surface. Sometimes it will be hours before I can come up with the word I’m looking for; fortunately I’ve learned how to set the problem to process in the background. This often results in me randomly exclaiming things like “dichotomy!” at inappropriate times.

Is Aphasia the Answer?

If this is indeed mild aphasia, then I finally have an explanation for some minor but annoying language difficulties. Perhaps my auditory processing delay is a form of receptive aphasia?

Then again, this could all be tied to Asperger’s. I’ve heard others on the spectrum mention difficulty with finding words at times. Our issues with processing spoken language are widely known. The missing word problem, though? Does anyone else experience that to the degree that I do?

Eager to learn more than what Sacks presents in his brief chapter, I Googled aphasia and instantly regretted it. Here’s what I found at that reliable bastion of truth, Wikipedia:

“Acute aphasia disorders usually develop quickly as a result of head injury or stroke, and progressive forms of aphasia develop slowly from a brain tumor, infection, or dementia.”

Ruh roh.

My language glitches have become frequent enough in the last 2-3 years that I can no longer ignore them. The missing words. The struggle to retrieve words. The odd, unpredictable substitutions. The Scientist says that my receptive language difficulties seem to have gotten worse in the past year too. I ask him to repeat himself a lot, especially when he’s not facing me and I don’t have the advantage of watching his lips.

And this is where I think it pays to stop Googling and back slowly away from the neurology textbook.

The language oddities I’ve described here are firmly in the “inconvenient” category for me right now. Unless that changes, I’ll consider the similarities to aphasia symptoms an interesting bit of trivia. Stay tuned . . .

**In proofreading this multiple times, I found 7 missing words (my, their, a, I’m, an, the and of) and 1 incorrect substitution (ever for even). There may be others that I missed.

Sunday Thoughts on Writing

As promised, here is the second of the blog awards I’ve been tagged for. MCS Gal at Cooking for the Chemically Sensitive tagged me for the Reality Blogging award. Her blog is a mix of practical kitchen/household tips and recipes for those who have chemical sensitivities, so if that’s you (or someone in your family) check it out.

The rules for this one are simple and I’ve pasted them at the bottom. I’m going to prompt twist and use my “7 things about me” to talk about one specific thing: writing.

1. Between my junior and senior years in high school I applied to a summer writing program at Yale. I submitted the required piece of short fiction and soon received an acceptance letter. . . to the nonfiction program. Because my fiction was so good that they thought I should be writing nonfiction? After reading the brief program description, I declined. There was no way I was going to go on “experiential” field trips every Saturday and then spend the week writing about them. That would have required talking to strangers. Seriously.

2. I have always written Autistic characters. I haven’t always known that I was doing it.

3. Early last year, I tried to talk my way into a creative nonfiction class. I was an econ major; the class was an upper division course for writing majors. It sounded interesting and fit my schedule so I asked the prof for an exemption from the many prereqs. I talked up my published short stories and my nonfiction editing experience. “Have you ever written any memoir?” she asked. And my first thought was, who would want to read about my life? I didn’t get into the class. Life is funny like that.

4. I have a phantom word problem. Sometimes I skip over a word when I’m typing–usually a short word like at or not–and when I proofread, my brain “sees” the missing word. It’s frustrating. I worry that people think I don’t proofread, when in fact I often read posts a half dozen times or more before publishing. I read in gdocs, on paper and in the post window. Sometimes reading in a different format or taking time away from a piece reveals the missing words, but not always.

5. When I can’t find just the right word, I worry that the right word doesn’t exist. I worry about this in the way that some women worry that their soulmate doesn’t exist.

6. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to have three writing buddies–Mary, Michelle and Kathryn–talented writers willing to look over my drafts and make suggestions. It’s rare thing to find someone who is closely matched in skill level and willing to slog through hundreds of thousands of words to let me know that I might want to put a comma here or explain myself better there. I can only hope they’ve gotten as much out our writing partnerships as I have.

7. One of my most cherished  possessions is my 1962 third edition of Roget’s International Thesaurus. The words are grouped by ideas rather than alphabetically, which is a beautiful thing. I stole it from a nun. Sister Laurette. I think she stole it from someone else because she inscribed her name over a different set of initials.

My Roget's Theasaurus, yellowed, stained and falling apart
My Roget’s Theasaurus, yellowed, stained and falling apart

realityThere are, of course, rules:

  • show appreciation of the blogger who nominated you and link back to them in your post;
  • add the award logo to your blog;
  • share 7 things about yourself;
  • nominate 5 – 10 or more bloggers you admire;
  • contact your chosen bloggers to let them know.

And now, in keeping with my theme, I’m going to tag some bloggers who I admire as writers. Don’t feel pressured to do anything with this, folks. I know one of you isn’t even blogging any more. This is my way of saying I like what you write and I also like how you write it.

  • Aspie Writer who is blogging her excellent memoir, Twirling Naked in the Street. I don’t comment on it nearly enough but I’m always excited to see a new installment pop up in my reader.
  • Adrienne at Eat Me, Drink Me, Bite Me, because it was her honest, gutsy blogging that planted a seed in my head.
  • Unstrange Mind who is fearless and whose courage makes me want to reach deeper.
  • Ariane, who writes at Emma’s Hopebook, where amidst the smart, thoughtful commentary you will find beautiful sentences like this: “Different sized flakes whirl about as though unaware that gravity will eventually win out.”
  • Lori at A Quiet Week in the House, who I am putting last because once you go look at her gorgeous artwork, you will forget to come back here.

Writing is Communication Too

If you get a group of writers together, on the internet or in a workshop, someone will eventually ask the ultimate navel-gazing question: why do we write?

My stock answer–the one that’s easiest to explain and makes me look least weird–is that I write because I enjoy it. There’s nothing like the rush of chasing an idea, my fingers flying across the keyboard, barely able to keep pace with my thoughts. There’s no other activity I can get so completely lost in.

That answer saves me from having to reveal this: I write to set the words in my head free.

My brain latches onto interesting ideas in a way that makes it hard to stop thinking about them. Once something grabs my attention, my mind will turn it around and around, shaping and growing it like a vase on a potter’s wheel. Writing the idea down stops the rapid spinning of the wheel and leaves me with the equivalent of a finished vase I can share with other people instead of a hard lump of clay sitting in my brain.

Shaping an idea in my head feels like this:

Ultimately, I write because I need to. I communicate better through written words than spoken words. When I write, I can take as much time as I like to shape my thoughts into a coherent whole. I can get feedback from others to check for clarity. I can let an idea breathe and grow over days or weeks.

The process is something like this: Write. Revise. Reconsider. Delete. Edit. Clarify. Rethink. Shape. Walk away. Come back. Write more. Think more. Print it. Read it. Share it. Revise, revise, revise. Done. Mmm, maybe just change that word. Or this one. Okay, really done. Yeah? Yeah.

Doing this in a spoken conversation is impossible. There’s no delete button for spoken words. Revising, in the form of explanations and clarifications, is rarely successful. Once you say something, it’s out there in a way that is, ironically, indelible.

Communication Deficit or Communication Difference

So do I have a communication deficit? (one of the core diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s)

That may depend on how we define communication. You could argue that writing is a one-way process. I carefully shape my idea and put it out there, feeling quite content with how it looks and feels, and then I go on my merry way, chasing another bright shiny idea.

It’s all very neat and tidy. It’s also very autistic. What could be more characteristic of an aspie than a one-way information dump followed by a determined retreat back inside my head to ponder the mysteries of the universe, or at least the mystery of why someone keeps leaving sandwiches on the sidewalk of one particular street where I walk my dog?

But, short of a mind meld, writing is my best shot at sharing what I want to say. I could talk all day and not get across half of what I can communicate in writing. Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve shared things with my family–in writing–that we’ve never talked about. Big important things and little niggling things, all of them left unspoken, sometimes for many years.

The result has been anything but one-way. Sharing my thoughts in writing creates an opening for others to start conversations, to ask questions, to offer insights and to share their own thoughts. This is communication–deep, fulfilling, nontraditional communication–in a way that I’ve rarely experienced.

It feels so good to share something with my husband and see a light of understanding in his eyes. It’s done wonders for our relationship to revisit past hurts and misunderstandings in a fresh light. There’s a new level of understanding opening up and I think it’s because I’m finally able to communicate, really communicate, how I experience and process the world around me.

I’ve also discovered that writing is a way to communicate with myself. The process of exploring Asperger’s is helping me integrate disparate parts of myself into a whole. It’s creating a map of my inner landscape in a way that is profoundly healing and empowering.

Perhaps this is what I meant when I said I write because I need to. Writing connects me to those around me, and it connects me to myself.

Once a Writer, Always a Writer

This is one the first things I ever wrote, when I was seven. I remember hearing my mother telling parts of this election day story to someone and deciding that I wanted to make it into a book. I still have it, in all its stained, stapled glory, and thought it would be fun to share.

If you look closely enough at these pages, you’ll see my aspie traits shining through. Note the atrocious handwriting.
Aspie trait #2: oddly advanced vocabulary and syntax for a 7-year-old (quite puzzled, indeed)
I have a feeling a lot of this writing is actually echolalia (the repetition of another person’s words, which is common to kids with ASD) and I was mimicking my mother’s telling of the story to another adult.
More aspie traits: a pedantic approach to social situations and a rigid adherence to the rules (going out the “in” door! *gasp*). I was also a pretty funny little kid, no?