Synchronicity is not something I’ve ever believed in, I’m generally a much more practical person; I can’t ignore something that happened recently, though. The same day I got the idea to write an article about what it’s like to be an author with autism, Alexis contacted me to ask if I would write an article on that very topic; the coincidence suggest that what I should be doing is writing that article, and so I am (don’t ask how long it’s taken me, it’s been a bit of a struggle).
I don’t want to go into too much details about my autism, or my other mental health issues, because it will probably bore you, and because you’re here to read about me and my writing, not about a complicated psychological issue. I do need to give a bit of background, though, so you’ll understand at least a little of what I’m talking about.
I imagine many of you will have conjured an image of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man upon hearing ‘autism’, but that’s an extreme and stereotypical example, most autistics aren’t like that.
Autism is a condition (medical description not personal) that causes a person to see and experience the world in an atypical fashion; commonly, it causes difficulties in social interaction and the processing of sensory information, it also frequently results in problems understanding and responding to body-language and emotional stimuli – if you would like more information on this complex and complicated subject, I recommend https://anonymouslyautistic.net/
Okay, now that you have a small idea of what I’m on about, it’s time to move on to the meat of this article.
On the surface, it might seem as though writing is the perfect career for me: I have a very creative imagination, I tend to live inside my own head, I can be very focused and driven, I get very enthusiastic about projects, and, depending on the subject, I love learning new things – I have a brain full of trivia I’ve been known to bore people with. Not only do I have all of that as positives, my anxiety issues leave me reluctant to leave the house, and that combines with my difficulties when it comes to social interaction to make it difficult to either get or keep what might be considered a regular job.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had jobs outside of the house, I’ve worked retail and done warehousing jobs, but the consensus is that I haven’t worked to my potential. The reason for that is that I find dealing with people very stressful and tiring, and adding the stresses of a more involved job would leave me almost crippled.
As I said, on the surface, writing seems like the perfect career. There is a problem, though. Because I have difficulties with social interaction, understanding or recognising emotions, and sensory issues, it can be very hard for me to write aspects of my books. Possibly the worst part for me is dialogue, I find dialogue incredibly difficult because 90% of all my conversations occur on-line, and on-line conversations are different to those that take place face-to-face; I’ve had people compliment my dialogue, but every time I start to write some I go into a panic, I worry that it won’t sound natural, or that it won’t properly reflect the character speaking, I even worry that I don’t use enough slang, or I over-compensate and use too much.
Once I’ve written a book another aspect of my autism kicks in, the OCD that is common to people with autism. I find it very hard to let go of my novels; as much as I want to release them and make some money from what I’ve written, I’m afraid of sending them out to the world and discovering what people think of them. Of course, before there’s any chance of me doing that, I have to complete the rewrites (3 drafts is about average) and then the edits (4 of these).
You might think that once I actually bring myself to press that publish button my problems are over, but you’d be wrong. They’re only just starting.
Because I want to make a living from my books, and avoid the trauma of working with people in a shop or an office, I have to market my books. As an indie author (I wear that title with pride) the most effective long-term marketing strategy is to have a good presence across the various social media sites; unfortunately, as the name suggests, you have to be social for this to work, and I am not very good at this. For every half an hour to an hour I spend negotiating my way through social media, trying to engage people and get responses that might lead to sales, I have to spend twice that relaxing, playing a game or something.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t stop being a writer for anything, I don’t think I could if I wanted to, the voices in my head won’t let me. I just wish some areas of my chosen career were a little easier. Fortunately, I have a wonderful stress-reliever in the form of Molly, my mum’s Yorkie, she spends most of the day asleep, but always seems to know when I need a little TLC.