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Seer of ghosts & weaver of stories

(You are very much not forgotten)

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December Blogging Meme Topic(s) #3:
". . . 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?

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?

(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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I was thinking about selling short stories to magazines/anthologies rather than writing your own collections (and with anthologies, you might be able to get tight enough guidelines that will help you).

I was also thinking about shared worlds like GRRMs Wild Cards series or Andre Norton's Witch World, for 'professional fan fic' rather than licensed books although those work too - perhaps there are Sherlock anthologies that want submissions? I don't know, it was just a vague suggestion.

i'm also aware that it's several orders of magnitude harder to make a living as a poet - I didn't mean to dismiss that.

I have a small number of original short stories that have yet to find homes. I do submit them to places when I find markets to which I think they'd be suited, but they don't have the success rates my poems have (hence how tiny my list of published short stories is in relation to my published poetry). One of them does technically have a home in an anthology that's meant to come out this year, but something tells me it's not actually coming out this year (the publication date has been delayed several times by now).

I've hit a point of personal crisis, I guess: I can't live where I'm happiest, so I'd at least like to find work that will make me happy, but not even that seems to be panning out. So that's the point at which friends and family start saying things like, well, write novels! as if it were an automatic solution to my problem. I don't know what to do about any of it.

the only thing I can suggest is keep writing things that make you happy - and if that's short stories and poems then so be it!

it sounds as though novel-writing would be a really stressful struggle for you :(

The hilarious part is, I can and have written novels. They just can't be published because, well, they're transformative works. The more pressing issue is figuring out how to write a novel that would be publishable, but I have yet to be demon-possessed by an idea for one the way I seem to be possessed on a regular basis by the aforementioned. Examples: between mid-2003 and early 2005, I completed a project that clocked in at over 300k; between December 2013 and June 2014, I completed a project that clocked in at around 200k; and between 2007 and the present, I have an ongoing project that's approaching 200k. If I could just get these word-counts shifted from one context into another, I'd probably be set. It's the apparent lack of ideas for anything more than the occasional original short story that troubles me; hence, I'm questioning the very way in which my mind is wired. As long as an idea obsesses me, I can drive it to completion almost through sheer force of will. It's getting that to plug into alternate slots that doesn't seem to want to happen.

oh right, I didn't realise you had those huge projects.

i'm not sure I can suggest anything useful for rerouting the obsession so I shall bow out.

thank you for our conversation, and apologies if I was dismissive or unintentionally upsetting.

You follow my fandom LJ, right? It's difficult to tell from just looking at it, given I don't do any posting there anymore, just how much writing lives in its archives. Fortunately, I transferred all the writing on that journal over to AO3 a year ago (under the same name). If you look at my AO3 account, you're going to see what I mean. Last time I checked my stats there, I'm approaching 1,600,000 words of content, and this is writing that spans from about 2003 to the present, with most of it actually being as recent as 2005/2007 to the present. This is the heart of the matter, really, and why I look at myself as such a conundrum: I bleed words constantly. I just can't seem to bleed them into an arrangement that constitutes an original novel, and given how easy I find it to write and write and write, you wouldn't think I'd have that much trouble. Ergo, asking questions about how my brain is wired, etc.

You weren't dismissive or upsetting; I'm just trying to clarify why I'm so particularly bothered by this conundrum. All I do in my free time is write, and there are times when I feel like a failure because this constant writing seems to result in everything but a novel that would be sell-able.

I do, and I've read some of your Sherlock and Good Omens fic. I haven't looked you up on AO3, which is probably why I didn't realise you'd written so much.

would it be worth taking the fandom ideas that intrigue and obsess you and writing a novel for those, and then filing the serial numbers off? :)

(randomly, my Twitter feed spat http://readingmedievalbooks.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/advent-at-kings-college-cambridge-a-post-about-learning-to-belong/ out just now - weren't you studying Piers Plowman for your phd?)

Filing off serial numbers has been suggested to me before, but I end up feeling as if I'd be betraying the characters I was writing about by attempting to transform them into something they're not. Thanks for the link; I enjoyed reading that post!

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