“People with Asperger Syndrome lack Creativity”

Katniss as a baby kitten.

Katniss as a baby kitten.

Some time ago an expert with power over my life announced to me that as a person with an autism spectrum disorder I could not possibly be creative.  Since this expert ALSO seemed to conclude that I did not have Asperger Syndrome during my childhood but somehow acquired it later, making me ineligible for certain benefits, I tended not to believe him.

After all, people like Vincent van Gogh, Herman Melville and Emily Dickenson are suspected of having Asperger Syndrome. They weren’t exactly uncreative, talentless hacks.

But once the poisonous idea has infiltrated my mind it becomes fuel for doubt. Maybe all my writing ideas, stories, poems are all flat and lacking in creativity. Maybe no one will ever tell me because everyone somehow detects my inferior Aspie status and lies to me out of pity.

Take a story idea I’ve been working on, that I call ‘Jane Eyre in Space’ because the early history of the main character, Hana Kelly, is similar to that of Jane Eyre. And the story takes place on another planet, a colony of the Terran Empire, sometime in the future.

Well, using Jane Eyre as a model proves I’m not original, since if I were really creative as only neurotypical people can be I wouldn’t need to use another book as a model for part of my story.

And setting stories on other planets isn’t original, it’s been done to death. And every single one of the little ideas I’ve had that make this story different— well, I had to come up with the ideas from somewhere. Something inspired them. So I just uncreatively take ideas from other places and that’s all there is to my fake claims of creativity.

But no matter how much that kind of self-doubt hammers through me, I know from my reading of writing books that other writers— REAL writers, neurotypical writers— do the same thing as I do. They get their story ideas from someplace. Think of Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series, which essentially retells fairy tales as fantasy romances in Edwardian England.

In fact, if the majority of our story ideas were not taken from other, familiar sources, the reader would find them too unfamiliar and bizarre to make for a comprehensible read.

So: I am Aspie, I am writer. If I can do as well as those other uncreative, defective Aspies like Herman Melville, I’ll be happy with it.

Can Writers with Aspergers write Likeable Fiction?

aspergerThe most stereotypical concern of writers with Asperger Syndrome (autism spectrum disorder) is that we can’t write social interactions because we aren’t good at them. But I’m not going to write about that today.

Instead, let’s look at the likeability factor. Aspies tend to go through life pretty well friendless, or having people we call ‘best friends’ who call us acquaintances at best. It’s because we don’t make eye contact properly, or we send off non-verbal vibes that we aren’t interested in friendship when actually we are, or we make mistakes and say something tactless.

But if we ourselves are perceived by others as unlikable, won’t our fiction be unlikeable too?

Well, all I can say is ‘I hope not’. But writing fiction is a different animal than winning personal friendships. Once you have a book out there that has been accepted as a standard, normal novel by a publisher (or by a community of readers, for indie writers), your book gets judged on what’s inside it.

As Aspies there may be something ‘missing’ in our writing because of our condition, but there is something added as well— an intensity due to our Special Interests. If we use our Special Interests carefully in our fiction, and don’t overdue it, we bring a passion to our writing that neurotypicals may lack.

An example of a probably Aspie who became well-regarded as a writer is Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick. I loved that book as a teen— probably because I read it on my own instead of having it forced on me in school. He gave a lot of detail on life on a whaling ship— I detect Special Interest there— and that added to the appeal of the book as a whole, at least for me.

So I think we Aspies can write fiction readers will like. We just have to get out there and get trying.