Asperger Syndrome and The Writing Game

I once looked at a book which had a section on careers for adults with Asperger Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and one of the possible careers is ‘writer.’ And of course I hope it is true. Even though my writing has been confined to blog posts, poems, and unfinished novels up to this point.

When I was applying for Social Security disability based on my late father’s income, an ‘expert’ testified that persons with Asperger Syndrome don’t have any ability to be creative in any way. (He was an ‘expert’ because he had worked with institutionalized persons with autism.) This was kind of breathtaking to me. I had met loads of other Aspies online and nearly all were creative in some way. Most were writers or aspiring writers.

So that gave me a whole new arena for self-doubt. Maybe my creative ideas weren’t REALLY creative since I’m not capable of real creative thought…. But by now I’ve concluded, so what? You don’t have to be totally original and creative to be a working writer. You can have a career of rewriting Romeo and Juliet in the wild West or Hamlet in outer space. As long as you learn the basic writing and storytelling skills, you can do it even if you are not REALLY creative.

The social skills thing is one area in which people with Asperger Syndrome can really be held back. We feel like failures in social situations, and so we fail to do writer networking to meet other writers, even the online version of networking. I’ve seen some Aspies who say they don’t want to interact with ‘neurotypical’ (non-Aspie) people and so stick to a writing group for Aspies-only. Most of whom will NOT succeed as writers, ever, and who may give very wrong writing advice. (If you want a writing career, you need to network with writers who have some success, not just a group of wannabe writers.)

People with Asperger Syndrome can learn to develop more social skills, especially in an online context. It helps if you are a Christian and trained in the ‘do unto others’ idea of treating other people right instead of just wanting to use them for what we want. (You can learn the ‘do unto others’ thing regardless of your faith, however.)

Finally, one thing that can hinder many Aspies from becoming real writers is the ‘eternal child’ thing. Once you have a diagnosis, some people think of you as an eternal child who will never mature, always depend on parents or disability programs. I remember one time, when applying for a Michigan state food benefits program, I mentioned that I had an autism spectrum disorder. The lady then presumed that I was mentally retarded and could not sign my name, so she assured me I could make an X instead. Since I am not retarded but have a high IQ, this was troubling.

When people view you as an eternal child, they look at your writing the way most people look at a small child’s drawing. We praise children’s drawings even when they are dreadful. And people who see you as a child will praise even your most defective writing attempts, leaving you without useful feedback.

I used to have problems with people treating me as a child well into my middle age. Now I’m more likely to just be treated like a pariah. But luckily I have online peer groups I can go to when I need real feedback. I have also developed discernment through lots and lots of reading— I can often sense for myself what works and what doesn’t.

I think that even people with Asperger Syndrome can write books, publish them or get a publisher, and learn to market their books (even trad-published authors need to know book marketing these days.) It can be difficult, but we can learn the skills we need. After all, famous writers like Emily Dickenson and Herman Melville are suspected of having had Asperger Syndrome. If they could do it, why not you?

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