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Ys

Seer of ghosts & weaver of stories

(You are very much not forgotten)

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December Blogging Meme Topic(s) #3:
Wanderlust
ajodasso
". . . this is how I feel about the act of writing, about all of the voices we pin to the page (we belong more to them than they to us)." Talk about how you feel about the voices you write, whether in fandom or original work?
sovay

If I recall, you were recently diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Do you think your neurotype has influenced the way you write, and if so, how?
ada_hoffmann


(I should preface this entry by saying that this is the first time I've publicly discussed my AS diagnosis at any great length. This is a subject on which I hope to write more in future as I continue to read and to get my bearings; June this year was an accidental nexus-point for referrals that resulted in two different tracks of testing, medical and psychological, both of which should have been done years ago. The one that culminated in surgery, at least, is over and done with. I'm trying to move forward.)

For me, writing has always felt more like an imperative than an act pursued for fun or for any other reasons. Until my late teens to early twenties, expressing myself verbally to anyone but family members I trusted and / or the precious few exceptionally close friends I had was, in a word, impossible (and the act of accurately verbalizing how I actually feel about any given subject or situation is still an act with which I struggle as an adult, never mind how many years I've had to work on it or what I know now about how my mind works). I started writing poetry around the age of 12 or 13 as a release-valve for everything I couldn't say; it was painful to keep my mouth shut, but, being unable to open it, those emotion-fueled words had to go somewhere. Around the age of 14 or 15, I started treating my writing a bit more consciously as art even if the same motivations were still driving it; as long as I had to write things down, why not to try to make an actual skill of it? For a long time, I preferred drawing; I thought that if I practiced long and diligently enough, I could be an artist. Again, it was around 12 or 13 that I realized ten childhood years of sketching and painting were nothing but a spectacular failure (my peers with actual talent for it were getting visibly better at it; I was not). Writing wasn't just a psychological imperative, but a creative last frontier: if I couldn't do it, what was left for me? Even music, which I pursued into my first few years of college, went wrong for me because of the high-pressure atmosphere and toxic personalities you find in a conservatory setting. I'm still a singer, but not the way I used to be; I no longer take voice lessons, and the last time I performed with vocal and drama ensembles was a few years back, in the UK, during graduate school. Writing is quiet enough to live with.

This many years gone (I'll be 33 on December 20th), I can say that writing has both remained an imperative and successfully become the discipline I've mastered to a point that I probably never could have done with visual art or music. Poetry and fan-work function in similar ways for me in that they remain outlets for emotional reactions that I cannot, for the life of me, get past my lips without either causing myself distress or stumbling over what it is I'm trying to say. And, because I've spent just as long honing the technical-skill sides of conveyance (i.e. poetry and prose), I usually get sound pieces of art out of the exercise, too. The only thing I can't seem to write with the same level of frequency is original short stories, as evidenced by how few of them I've had published. People keep pressing me to try my hand at a novel, but this is a point of high anxiety: I know I'm capable of writing hundreds of thousands of words in only weeks, months, but never to the end of accomplishing what other writers seem to find so simple (i.e. building an entire world from the ground up; I can build original characters until I'm blue in the face, I'm great at that, but they're almost always just for use in short fiction and in verse). My fear is that writing-as-reactionary-and-self-expressive-imperative is all that I'll ever get out of it; namely, that my mind is not built for writing novels because I lack the essential type of creativity that's required for the job. Finally receiving a diagnosis of Asperger's (HFA) as an adult has been enlightening, but it has also left me somewhat terrified that the nature of my neurotype is also the very reason I can't just write a novel at the drop of a hat. I don't believe for a second that those of us on the autism spectrum lack creativity altogether, but from personal experience I'm beginning to question if, in my case, there's some truth to the limited parameters you sometimes hear about in clinical descriptions. Nothing else about this new piece of self-knowledge could possibly make me feel broken, but this? Very nearly does, because how else can you ever hope to one day make your primary living as a writer except by writing novels? Some poets are fortunate enough to attain levels of worldwide fame, but the percentage of those in comparison to the percentage of novelists at the same level is terrifyingly small (and I do firmly believe it's all down to luck, because I'm quietly confident that I'm as skilled a poet as any of them).

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M. John Harrison writes very crafted short stories, slivers of which then turn up in his novels. Hard to explain really. He's not the only one, just the one that I know best.

I can't stand Dickens either but all his best books are the ones with lots of characters which lends to lightening character sketches. And *do* try Winifred Watson's Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. It breaks all the rules about what character is supposed to be.

In Wicked we "discover" the witch almost entirely through the views and opinions of others, and their relationship with her. They create a witch shaped space in the novel. Is that clearer? I do love that novel.

You know, the other interesting thing about thinking back to when I read Wicked is that my sense-impression/memory is completely different from what you describe: I came away from it feeling as if I had got the impression of a person from her own perspective, and also the impression of how badly others had characterized and misunderstood her. I can't even remember whose/what perspectives were used in the narrative framework. I'm probably going to have to get my hands on a new copy just so I can reread.

All that is true too :-) It's a complex book.

I also haven't seen the musical, because I keep hearing things that make me go, wait, what? Just how much did they alter the story, anyway?

A *lot*. My worst teaching experience was the young woman who'd seen the musical....let;s say more than twice... and who hated, hated, hated having to read the book and hated it when she did because it was all so *political*.

Oh, wow - the politics of that world are the primary reason I loved the novel so much!

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