Free to a Good Home–One Used Special Interest.

My special interests can be broken into several categories: collections, games, TV/movies, books.

And hobbies, but hobbies are the special interest that changes most.

Now, I will admit I have a love/hate relationship with the phrasing ‘special interest.’ It sounds patronising to me, and I know I’m not the only autistic who feels that way. But, I haven’t heard or come up with a better word for my autistic obsessions.

Hobbies I’ve tried and abandoned: knitting, chainmail, and many others. Most crafts wind up being more flash in the pan than a lifelong special interest.

Collections: mugs and notebooks mostly.

Video Games: Mass Effect trilogy, Dragon Age series, Watchdogs 1 & 2, Deus Ex, Assassin’s Creed.

Books: this is another one that varies. I tend to switch genres a lot. Currently? Cosy mysteries are my reading obsession.

Movies: a few, but the ones I rewatch obsessively when stressed out tend to be Jane Austen adaptations.

TV Shows: As Time Goes By, Bake Off, True Crime shows (like on ID network), so many shows, honestly.

The Poisonous Influence of Perfection.

Me to my brain:
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Perfection is a toxic poison that strangles out my creativity.

And really, it’s less about perfection in the end product of my writing–and more about attempting to be expectations I’ve set up for myself of what I think others can do–or think I should do.

It’s a theme that has followed me throughout my adult life working first in restaurants, then as a teacher, and later in insurance.

A theme I didn’t truly understand before learning I’m autistic.

I’ve always needed to demonstrate my abilities at work. Striving to be the best. Not to overshadow others, but more to appear capable. I’ve had a fear of seeming unable to manage: work or life.

And as a result, I work myself to the point of exhaustion.

It’s a trend that followed me into writing.

Setting schedules and deadlines I can’t possibly manage.

Overachieving.

It’s not a bad thing, necessarily.

It is when you’re ignoring your health.

Autistics, at least from my personal experience as one, tend to battle inner ableism. This little voice that tells me I’ve not only got to be at the same level as non-autistic authors but better. It’s poison.

It really is.

The same inner voice that tells me I don’t need help or accommodation when I do.

It eats away at your accomplishments and makes missed goals or deadlines seem like monumentally massive failures.

This year, I managed to almost double my word count.

Brilliant, right? Except not, I didn’t take the breaks between projects that I usually do. I’ve ended up not enjoying writing as usual.

And the last two novels I’ve worked on have been a painful slog until the bitter end.

Next year, one of my biggest focuses will be to enjoy myself with writing.

Deadlines are important and so are word counts, but I can’t write myself into a serious health issue again.

 

 

Remember to Breathe.

(Actual representation of me last week.)

I’ve reached the stage of NaNo where I hate words. I’m convinced I could happily burn my WIP. And I’m definitely questioning my sanity.

I’m tired.

In 2017, I wrote approximately 140k across several short stories and three novels.

This year, I’ve written a 90k novella trilogy, a 52k novel, and I’m on track to wrapping up another 65k – 70k novel. Plus a handful of flash fictions. So if all goes well, I’ll end 2018 having written over 200k words in total.

For me? That’s a lot.

In all honesty, this year, it was too much. I didn’t allow myself enough time to rest.  I didn’t set enough boundaries around my time.

Being a pantser (and not much of a plotter), my brain works best with breaks. I don’t really know where my ideas come from. I tend to just…sit and write, whatever comes out–comes out. Burning myself can be worse than writer’s block. More like writer’s too fucking tired to remember what words are.

I’ve promised myself to do better next year by taking breaks between my projects next year.

In part, my drive to do more and more comes from being autistic. I’ve an inner need to do and be more because of a less than healthy desire to make up for other areas where I can’t quite do what others do. (It’s hard to explain if you don’t experience it.)

On my list for December?

Relax, read through my massive TBR list, watch my favourite holidays movies, and wrap up this fun Urban Fantasy.

I’m not kicking myself if I don’t quite hit the NaNo deadline.

Writing should be fun, and if I add too much stress, I’m not doing myself any favours.

 

Find Your Joy.

IMG_20181013_154609072_HDR - Copy

Can I be honest?

2018 has been a bit of a trash fire of a year, hasn’t it?

Stepping away from the chaotic whirlwind of bad news has been a struggle. Being creating in 2018 has been even more difficult. It’s important to write, even in the middle of the muck.

I think, more than any other time, it’s also important to find happy moments and pursue them.

For me?

This weekend, that meant baking, reading, and video games.

Baking? That went brilliantly. I made Mary Berry’s recipe for profiteroles, photo evidence above. They tasted AMAZING. They also didn’t last the weekend lol. Yum.

Reading? I finally got around to reading Alison Weir’s Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen, which I enjoyed immensely. I love a good historical fiction. And this one was definitely half fact and half fiction. Brilliantly done though.

Video games? I’ve gotten completely obsessed with the latest Assassin’s Creed game, Odyssey. Epic, brilliant, amazing. Love it so much.

Now, I’m back to writing on my new work in progress–an urban fantasy. Should be great fun.

How about you? What moments of joy are you finding for yourself this year?

How to Create Authentic Autistic Characters with 10 Questions.

As part of my How to Write Autistics series, I thought I’d share a list of questions that can help create an authentic character who doesn’t feel like a stereotype.

And I should point out these are just question that occurred to me. As with anything, other autistics might have their own thoughts. But here we go.

Ten Questions to ask your autistic characters (some might apply just generally to neurally diverse characters):

1. Were they diagnosed late in life or early?

It can affect how they develop coping skills.

2. Are they self-diagnosed?

3. Do they suffer from hypersensitivity? Are they overly sensitive to light, sounds, textures?

For example, I can’t stand the sensation of most fabrics touching my fingertips. It makes drying off with a towel or folding laundry particularly frustrating. I often have to repeatedly dip my hands in water or lotion my fingers to deal with it.

4. What are their special interests?

I hate the term special interest…but obsession sounds equally wrong. Most autistics I know have specific topics or things that qualify as their special interest. Some of us have lifelong ones while others are temporary. Some of my special interests include Bioware Video Games, TV Shows (As Time Goes By  and others), and Football (as in soccer.)

5. How do they stim? Also, how do they feel about their stim? How do those around them react to their stim?

6. What coping mechanisms do they use for dealing with social stresses?

7. How do they deal with meltdowns and/or shutdowns?

8. Are their family supportive of them finding independence as an adult?

9. How do they deal with eye contact?

10. Do they live atypically? In other words, do they try to blend in and mask their neural divergence?

I’m sure there are a ton of other questions.

There’s a brilliant Youtube channel that can be an amazing resource for you (there are others, but this is one of my favourites):

https://www.youtube.com/user/neurowonderful

 

How to write autistics and not rely on tired stereotypes.

Despite mainstream media and their mostly dismal attempts at creating autistics. It’s rare to see examples of autistic characters who feel ‘real.’ We’re not all rain man or white, young, male savants.

We’re real people who are just as diverse as every other subset of humanity.

Many autistics like myself will tell you if you’ve met one autistic–you’ve met one autistic.

When creating neuroAtypical characters, I try to be cognizant of creating individuals, and not carbon copies of either myself or some stereotype I think non-autistics will easily recognise. I will admit many of my own experiences find their way into my stories. How could they not?

In fact, one of my favourite parts of writing my most recent release, The Lion Tamer, was including Alex and Alice. Autistic twins. They’re on different parts of the autism spectrum with their own special interests and struggles.

Neither of them is some off the charts genius.

They’re just autistic.

No massively high IQ required to be legitimate human beings who deserve to be celebrated.

So, here are a few tips on creating autistic characters, or what are some of the pieces/parts to doing so. (And please keep in mind, this is from my personal perspective.)

  1. Talk to #actuallyautistic people, not just autism parents before you start.
  2. Avoid AutismSpeaks.
  3. Stimming. Your autistic character should have a stim. We stim.
  4. Special Interests. I could write an entire post about this.  We have them. Obsess over them. Use them to calm ourselves from super stressful moments.
  5. Emotions are something many autistics struggle with. We can feel quite intensely, but we don’t often understand what we’re feeling. I’ve spent days trying to decipher an emotion before.
  6. Sensation. Many autistics suffer from hypersensitivity. I, for example, struggle with touching certain fabrics. Light affects me. Certain sounds can trigger me into a meltdown.

Just a few thoughts.

Not sure if any of it is helpful.

I might turn this into a series of posts about being autistic/writing autistic characters.

Do you include neuroAtpyical characters in your stories? Do you have characters who have anxiety, or PTSD, or are autistic? Or some other mental disability or illness?

 

 

My Year of No.

Several friends of mine tend to have a ‘word of the year’ that seems to sum up how they intend to approach a new year. I usually don’t. For 2018, I had one word on my mind – No.

No.

No.

No.

This is my year of No.

One thing I’ve noticed about myself (and other autistics) is we loathe confrontation so much that we end up saying yes when we’d rather say no. We get roped into doing more and more if only to get out of a conversation or argument. Being afraid to hurt someone’s feelings is also part of it.

Last year felt like a year of yes. It was completely unintentionally. And by the end of 2017, I felt exhausted physically, emotionally, and every other way you can. I’d pushed myself to do more and more and more. And had less and less and less as a result, if that makes any sense at all.

So this year is my year of no.

I’m not saying yes to getting involved in things (whatever they may be) when I’m honestly not interested or if it pushes me beyond what’s healthy for me.

I’d actually started doing it in November of last year and ended up writing the best novel I’ve ever written to date.

If life is all about balance, a bit of no sometimes helps keeps you from tipping over.

(That made no sense.)

How about you?

Do you struggle with saying no to opportunities even when you should?

Do you have a word for the year?