Can Aspies Make Money Writing?

Some years back I went to a big bookstore in Green Bay, Wisconsin and saw a book on Asperger Syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder.) In the section on career advice it suggested ‘writer’ as a career for Aspies*. But popular wisdom suggests that writing is something that costs money, it doesn’t pay.

Poverty is a big problem for us Aspies. I read that Aspies had a 80% unemployment rate some years ago— even though by definition all Aspies have at least normal intelligence and can use language, unlike low-functioning autistics. Some of us even have high IQs— mine is high enough to qualify me for Mensa membership, though I never wanted to join since to me it seemed like Mensa was a bit intellectually elitist.

I have had difficulty with maintaining a gainful employment and am currently on SSI disability. (The government insists on believing that my Asperger Syndrome started in adulthood and so I am not able to get Social Security disability based on my father’s employment. And since I tried to hold down real jobs before turning to government charity, the govt takes that as proof that I didn’t have Asperger Syndrome back when I had a teaching job right after college.)

I must admit I have never made money with my writing or blogging. Of course the only books I currently have out are 2 poetry books and a very newly published e-book on blogging. And when I applied for an Amazon affiliate account I was kicked off in a month for not making sales. 

There are plenty of people selling ebooks on how you can make money blogging, or make money writing nonfiction ebooks, but I think a lot of these guys just write that stuff for money whether they make an income that way themselves or not.

Freelance writing or working for a newspaper is more like a real job and more likely to pay, but not all of us Aspies can handle it. I don’t think I have the social skills to handle working at a newspaper (even an online one.) And freelance writing can be a constant struggle with a lot of rejection in it. 

Still, if you have developed writing skills (or are willing to work on doing that) you at least have a possibility of making some income that way. You need to make writing and/or blogging and book/online marketing into your *Special Interests to gain the knowledge and discernment you need to make it work.

Thanks for reading this to the end and God bless you,

Nissa Annakindt, poet, Aspie & cat person


*Aspies: persons with Asperger Syndrome (high-functioning autism with no delay in learning language.)

*Special Interests: An intense/obsessive interest in a topic or field of study, a characteristic of Asperger Syndrome.


 

Author-bloggers! My new FB group about author-blogs needs more victims (members.) Join at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/310331253293318/

Key to the Star Trek Aliens

Are the alien species of Star Trek (original Trek) symbols of something else? I suspected so— before there even was a Next Generation. They are of course more than that. But the symbols are a key thing to understand, especially if you are making your own aliens. Or if Star Trek and its aliens are one of your Asperger ‘Special Interests.’

Klingons 

Klingons are the major ‘enemy’ in the original Star Trek universe. So it’s only natural that they are a symbol of the USA’s real-world biggest enemy of the time, the Soviet Union. Klingons are quite plainly presented as cruder, more aggressive, and more direct than Terrans (‘Americans.’)

Klingons remind me of a story my high-school German teacher told us illustrating the difference between Germans and Russians. Seems a small boy’s village was taken over by German soldiers during the war. Since they boy had the good luck not to be Jewish, the German soldiers were kind to him, and let him fire off one of their machine guns. The gun jammed. The German soldiers were all upset, since now they would have to send the gun back to the manufacturer to get it fixed.

As the war went on, the Germans left, and Russian soldiers marched into the village. The boy made friends with these soldiers as well, and they let him shoot one of their machine guns. The gun jammed. A Russian soldier took the gun, smacked it against a big rock, and the gun worked just fine again.

I can totally see Klingons smacking one of their disruptors against a rock to fix it, instead of sending it back to a factory into the hands of whiny, not properly Klingon eggheads.

Romulans and Vulcans

Though Romulans were an enemy race and Vulcans an ally, it was also made quite clear that they were somehow related. Romulans were more aggressive, because they were more emotional. Vulcans traditionally controlled their emotions, and were more peaceful. 

I believed that both Romulans and Vulcans were symbols of Asian peoples. The Romulans were symbols of the Chinese— a mysterious people who had gone communist and assisted the North Koreans in killing Americans during the Korean War.

The Romulans in Star Trek were a mysterious enemy— the Federation had fought a war against them before without ever seeing a Romulan, living or dead, and so they didn’t know Romulans looked like Vulcans. Like the Klingons/Soviets, the Romulans/ChiComs were an aggressive empire likely to conquer planets and never give them back. 

The Vulcans were symbols of the Japanese people— not the WW2 enemies that attacked Pearl Harbor and committed atrocities against civilians in Nanking, but the later, allied-to-us Japanese that we perceived as good, possessing an ancient culture, and friendly. The Vulcans were a more mature species, but we Terrans had a thing or two to teach them. Starfleet only had one Vulcan officer, Spock— and he was not only half Terran, but half AMERICAN. 

Andorians

They were the blue-skinned guys with an antenna and white hair. They required enough make-up that there were no Andorians on the Enterprise crew. The very little we saw of them mainly made me think they were a symbol of race/skin-color issues, especially of the more exotic races/skin-colors.

Terrans/The Federation

The United Federation of Planets seems to be a knockoff of a bad Terran idea, the United Nations, but with less vampires (This is a reference to Declan Finn’s vampire novels in which we learn how to get the vampires out of the UN building. Nice to know.) Even the flag of the UFP is nearly the same as the UN flag.

Both Terrans and the Federation are symbols of Americans. Because Star Trek was an American TV show with an American audience, see? Americans are a fairly useful ‘type’ of the population of planet Earth, anyway, because Americans come from all over the planet. And you can’t say that Navaho Americans aren’t ‘real’ Americans because they aren’t Scottish Americans, or African Americans are not ‘real’ Americans because they are not Japanese Americans. 

Because Gene Roddenberry did not have time to invent dozens of alien races for the Federation and introduce them all before the storytelling got started, and because it was cheaper to have regular human actors without a ton of expensive time in the makeup chair, most people in the Federation seemed to either be Terrans or an alien species who looked exactly like Terrans.  The few exotics we saw (Andorians, Tellerites, Horta, Organians) spiced up the rest without scaring off too much of the American audience.

Or maybe the aliens of the original Star Trek WERE too much. The show was cancelled after 3 seasons, and never made it back to network television except for the cartoon Trek which also didn’t last long.

Hoping you had a happy Divine Mercy Sunday or Orthodox Easter,

Whether you celebrated or not (everyone should have a happy once in a while)

Nissa Annakindt

So, what do YOU think of my ‘key’ to the Star Trek aliens? Feel free to rant about how I’m all wrong and you, with your theory, are 100% correct. What do/did the Star Trek aliens mean to you? Or do you hate Star Trek and are ‘wrong’ enough to like other SF series better? 

Don’t feel you have to follow this link! It leads towards my new ebook ‘Getting More Blog Traffic: Steps Towards a Happier Blogging Life’  I just want to be able to claim I’m doing something to help the ebook sell  some copies this week. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086H4FQ4M

All My Languages

Have you ever noticed that writers of the past often had a far better command of the English language than we do? One reason is that for centuries, across all of Western Civilization, becoming educated meant learning Latin and Greek. So the writer educated that way could step outside of his native English (or German or French) to walk around in a different language for a while. If you have ever thought that C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien had a way with words that you did not, it’s probably because those men were educated when learning Latin and Greek as part of basic education was still a thing.

During my lifetime, language teaching has gone from a grammar-emphasis, which explained how the language was supposed to work but made you memorize irregular verbs, to a ‘conversational’ approach which made you memorize whole sentence since you weren’t required to learn the grammar to make up your own sentences correctly.  In either method, I got cynical about language learning as a kid when I realized all the kids in all the schools were taking French, German or Spanish but there were zero books in the local bookstores in those languages. Therefore, not many of the language learners were learning enough to even attempt to read a book in the languages they were learning. (By contrast, when I did my year abroad in Germany, I was able to buy an English-language autobiography of Harpo Marx that I had been seeking in vain back home.)

GERMAN was the first language I learned, since my maternal grandparents were immigrants from Germany and my mother’s very first language was German, though she was not that fluent as an adult. She taught me a couple of prayers in German, and how to count in German. I took German classes in school when I could, and took many German classes in college. I have read numerous books in German, since I learned the secret of finding an interesting book, starting reading, and writing down a list of the words I was unsure of. When I had ten or more on the list, I got out my German-English dictionary. Before long I was able to read more fluently without looking a lot of stuff up.

ESPERANTO was a language I always wanted to learn ever since I learned about it in my Golden Book Encyclopedia. I didn’t get the chance until I saw Teach Yourself Esperanto, a textbook for English speakers, in a bookstore in Germany during my year abroad. I worked my way through the first four chapters of the book and then was able to read stuff in Esperanto. Esperanto is an invented language designed for international use with no irregular verbs and simple grammar. A person can learn Esperanto in about 1/10th the time that it would take that person to learn French or some other national language (like German or Russian.) Esperanto is a highly resented language since so many people fear having to learn it, and so there are rumors that Esperanto died out in 1920. But since there are current podcasts, shortwave radio broadcasts, and books, blogs and web pages in Esperanto, I kind of suspect it’s still around.

SERBIAN or SERBO-CROATIAN is the language of some local friends of mine. I started studying it because it is a Slavic language but the words are pronounced exactly as written, unlike Russian. It’s hard, but I have the Book2 book and have downloaded the free audios that go with it. (I have audios for German speakers learning Serbian, and for Esperanto speakers learning Serbian, so I am reviewing my other languages when I do my Serbian.

LATIN is something I have been interested in since later childhood, and I have a bunch of language learning books for Latin in the house. This year I decided to add Latin to my official language rotation. I already had the Lingua Latina books, and purchased the audios of it in Ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation. I listen to Vatican Radio’s weekly podcast in Latin (I also listen to the Esperanto, German and Croatian podcasts.)

MY LANGUAGE WEEK

Over a year ago I decided on a three-day language rotation for German, Esperanto and Serbian. I would listen to podcasts in the daily language and do other language work. For Serbian I also listened to my Book2 audios daily since I am still learning at a beginner stage.

This year I added Latin into the rotation. So now I have 4 languages instead of 3. In either case, my language days rotate around the days of the week. Since I write down the day-of-the-week in the language of the day in my calendar, it helps in learning the days of the week in each of my languages.

Some weeks I am more diligent in my languages, some less. Which is the way I am. But I think that regularizing my languages review keeps me more up-to-date in the languages. My German knowledge, particularly, had been declining since my college years since I don’t use it much. Now I think I am getting my German back.

DOES FOREIGN LANGUAGE REALLY HELP?

It’s not really possible to know. If I’d had a duplicate me, and we had decided that one of us would pursue language knowledge and the other would not, and that we would both write, maybe by now we could tell if the language-learning-me wrote better than the non-language-me. Maybe. Because the non-language-me would have had to have done something while I was fiddling about with languages, and maybe that something would improve the writing, too. And we would have different life experiences from the moment of our duplication, and that alone might account for differences in writing skill.


CHRISTIAN WRITERS OF SCI-FI/FANTASY you are welcome to join the Facebook group: Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers https://www.facebook.com/groups/366357776755069/ for writer networking (sorry, no book promos allowed since there is a separate group for that.)

AspieLife: Special Interests and your Writing

One of the fun aspects of having Asperger Syndrome is having obsessive ‘Special Interests.’ These interests are often described as being ‘narrow’— which I suspect means ‘focussed’ and ‘specialized.’ Which is the way of the world. We don’t have PhD ‘generic’ scientists, we have nuclear physicists or geneticists.

What Special Interests really means is that we may be obsessed with ancient Roman history or Star Trek or The Walking Dead or collecting those glass insulators they used to have on power poles….

Herman Melville, an author who is suspected of having Asperger Syndrome (even though the diagnosis wasn’t invented during his lifetime), gives us more information on whaling and sailing ships in the novel Moby Dick than many readers even care for. We might guess that these topics were his obsessive ‘Special Interests.’ And I found the book interesting enough to read voluntarily as a teenager.

Modern Aspie writers have a problem, though. There is more competition for writers, and the modern reader expects us to get quickly to the ‘meat’ of a story. No ten paragraphs of Special Interest generated meandering.

Other people often find our Special Interests peculiar. They may regard us as boring people if we talk about them. Actually, I believe that the real reason we may be boring is not that we talk about our Special Interests, but that since we lack some social skills we may not catch the non-verbal clues that our listeners are bored with what we are saying. Or we may ignore those signs because WE were bored when it was their turn to talk and they talked about their hernia surgery and their diarrhea problem, and now it’s OUR turn. But this isn’t good. We don’t want to bore people when the consequences may be they just don’t want us around.

SOLUTION: The way to make other people think you are a brilliant conversationalist it to talk about those other people, their interests, their lives…. Showing interest is a sign that we care. Or wish we cared. Or something.

SECOND SOLUTION: Join a MeWe group (or Facebook) dedicated to your Special Interest topic, so you have an outlet to ‘talk’ about your Special Interest that isn’t boring other people, or adding boring amounts of Special Interest content to your novel.

Do we have to make all our writing Special Interest free? And just write in a bland, ordinary way to please other people? No, readers don’t like bland either. You want to include the things you are passionate about. You just don’t want to bog down the story with too much Special Interest content. Keep the story action coming. Breaks in which you insert Special Interest content should be few— and connected to the overall story, if possible. Think of them as dazzling little gems that spice up your story— but adding a hundred more such moments would not be dazzling but blinding and scary.

Having Asperger Syndrome and/or Special Interests doesn’t spell doom to a writer— Herman Melville did pretty well for himself after all— but we must be sure that WE are in charge of our stories, not our Special Interests. We want our writing to be interesting, brilliant and different in a cool way— and attractive to readers.

QUESTION: I wonder if it is possible for us to develop a Special Interest on purpose? I mean, if you had to take a class in college in order to graduate, could you make American history or mathematics or Spanish your new Special Interest? Because you have to take the course anyway and you might as well be interested in the subject, and having an obsessive interest in it might help you get better grades. What do you think?

Do I really need to learn Chinese to write this character? & Celebrate

Right now I am occupied with outlining a science fiction novel, Tiberius Base. I’ve written some 51 pages, by hand, in a composition book. I’m following the instructions in K. M. Weiland’s Outlining your Novel Workbook, and so far it has been useful in developing characters, particularly the main character, a junior administrator at a starbase-under-construction, Ping Yuan.

I’ve been having an impulse to learn a little Chinese as a result. Chinese is the character Ping Yuan’s native language though he is fluent in interplanetary Trade Languages like Esperanto and Volapuk.

Foreign languages are kind of a Special Interest of mine, and I try to keep them under control— ‘you can’t buy a beginning Italian book until you have finished the beginning Serbian book.’ But I’ve also come to understand that starting a language project is one method I use to relate to fictional characters.

As a kid I was a massive Star Trek TOS fan—  before Star Trek needed initials. I particularly liked the junior officers, Sulu, Uhura and Chekov. As a result at various times I tried to learn Japanese, Swahili and Russian. Not a lot of results, but I do know the Swahili word for toilet and learned to identify Japanese writing from Chinese or Korean at an early age. I even know a few words of Russian, including one naughty word.

I have at various times used similar approaches to characters of my own creation. I have also deliberately given characters a certain linguistic background to match a language I was at the time interested in.

In my current project I’ve done some of that. Esperanto, a language which is a long term interest of mine (I have read books in it), is the Trade Language most used in my setting. I made some characters native speakers of German, which is my own ancestral language and one I studied in college. I can also read in German.

The character Ping Yuan was made Chinese for story-related reasons— he needs to be a communist-style ‘scientific atheist’ because another major character is a Catholic priest. But I think that learning a bit of Chinese does help— I’ve signed up for the Chinese lessons on a free language learning site and ordered the book that goes with the 50Languages free audio lessons.

Question: Do I think language learning in general is a good way for writers to relate to characters? It depends a lot on the writer. And on the character. But the language learning process can help you relate, and you will probably learning bits and pieces of your character’s culture as well. You might give it a try especially if your character’s culture is different from yours. (Or if you are a German-American like me, your character is too, and you’ve never tried learning a little German.)


This is also my Celebrate the Small Things blog hop post. As of this week it still seems like blog hop host Lexa Cain is not feeling well enough to participate, so prayers for her are still in order.

My celebration this week is about the 50 Languages free language learning materials. I discovered this years ago. It is sponsored by the Goethe Institute which used to encourage people to learn German. The 50 languages thing is really quite clever. The lessons are translated into the languages, and the learner picks out two— his own native language and the language he wants to learn— and can download the paired two-language audios. So— I can download some Chinese lessons with an English translation, but some Dutch speaker who wants to take Arabic lessons can get audios for that, too. It’s very helpful and great for homeschooling families who want to teach a language.

Riding your obsessive interests

Captain_KirkAs a person with Asperger Syndrome, I have Special Interests— obsessive/intense interests in a number of topics. My Special Interests include languages, ancient Roman history, The Walking Dead, and Star Trek.

Right now, especially Star Trek. At an intensity that’s a distraction from my writing work. Which is an on-going problem— it’s hard to plot and write the story I’m supposed to be working on when my mind is buzzing away at a Special Interest.

When I am feeling a Special Interest very intensely, it takes up more of my time. Because my Star Trek interest has been at the top of my mind lately, I’ve been rereading some of the Star Trek novels from my collection. I have a whole bookshelf that is nearly all Star Trek books. This takes up time I should be spending on writing, blogging and housework.

I’ve also been highly tempted to buy new Star Trek novels. I haven’t bought new ones in years. In part because since my father’s death in 2004 there has been no one to go to the bookstore with.  And of the two most recent Trek novels I’ve bought, one was dreadful and the other was so-so. But still, I keep looking on Amazon and sooner or later I may buy.

Special Interests can cost an Aspie a good deal of money— money we mostly don’t have since Aspies have an 80% unemployment rate. One of the tough parts of riding a Special Interest is to say ‘no’ to buying special-interest-related items when the interest is very intense. When this happens I may feel intensely like I ‘need’ certain items— and have less sales resistance to buying them even when they cost too much and I don’t have money to spare.

One thing that helps me is to rate the Special Interest that triggers the desires. A brand-new Special Interest does not warrant purchases, because the interest may fade quickly and may not recur for years. With a lifelong Special Interest such as Star Trek, a few modest purchases may be justified.

Others are harder to figure. With my interest in languages the problem is that I like to try new languages, but don’t know how interested I will be in them in the future. So I go for free audio language lessons from Book2 with a new language and tell myself when I’ve completed the lessons then I can buy something related to that language.

As a writer there is one way to keep a Special Interest from becoming a distraction— use the Special Interest that is obsessing you in the story. Herman Melville did that when he wrote Moby Dick— he gave us a lot of information about whaling and the life at sea in the book.

Of course if you are writing an Amish romance, it may be difficult to work a science fictional Special Interest into the story. Your current interest may not be something you can incorporate into the story. But you might be able to use your Special Interest as a reward when you have completed your writing quotas for the day.

Another trick might be to try to reactivate a previous Special Interest which DOES fit your story. How might you do this? Well, here’s an example: I currently have one writing project which is set in Russia. The Russian language has been one of my Special Interests, on and off, since my late teens. Doing a little work with Russian language tapes or listening to online radio from Russia might ramp up that particular Special Interest, and that might keep my interest on the story a bit more.

The worst temptation for an Aspie Writer when the Special Interest bug bites is to drop the current writing project for a new, more compatible one. I almost did that a couple of days last month, when instead of working on my current project I did some planning/outlining for a starship-based science fiction story which was compatible with my Star Trek obsession. But today my plans are to be a good girl and work on my proper project— mainly doing planning/outlining since I didn’t do quite enough of that before beginning.

Question: do you have Special Interests or other obsessions which can be a distraction from your writing/blogging? How do you cope?

Celebrate The Small Things: SP Anthology

Celebrate blog hop

The small thing I’m celebrating today is that I got up the courage to volunteer to write a story for an anthology called No Award, a science fiction and fantasy anthology for supporters of Sad Puppies, which is an attempt to push for a more diverse set of authors getting recognized by the Hugo Awards.

I don’t normally volunteer to write stories for anthologies. I don’t normally know about anthologies I could possibly write stories for. But this time, since I’m now a member of an online writers group for conservative and/or libertarian writers, I found out about this one.

I even mentioned the idea I had for the anthology story. It will be set in the not-too-distant future and center around a scientific discovery— a gene that causes homosexual orientation. And the social fall-out as gay people discover they are biologically straight, and straight people discover they are biologically gay. A situation made hellish by an intrusive government which keeps DNA records on all citizens and which also requires that one-tenth of government jobs be filled by licensed and registered homosexuals.

Anyway, I mentioned a bit about my idea and a couple of group members told me to go for it. And since they are group members I respect, that’s really encouraging to me.

I know I have no guarantee that my short story will get published in the anthology. But I feel optimistic that I could come up with something well-written. And since I’m a gay woman I add diversity to the anthology— not that this ought to be a major consideration.

My life has been a history of writing attempts failed due to either writer’s block or writing avoidance. I think I may have a handle now on improving that, but it’s a little fragile at the moment. I’m going to be starting the story this morning, and I hope my writing day goes well.

If you are a writer, how is your writing life going? Any new projects you are feeling enthusiastic about? Or is your writing energy waning lately?

 

This is a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop.