Autism Awareness Day
Some of you may remember this blog from my old site. I’m bringing it back for Autism Awareness Day. If you haven’t read it yet, though, it talks a little about my spectrum experience.
How did you discover you were on the autistic spectrum?
I always felt like something was different about me from a very early age, but I grew up when people were less aware of things like autism, and when they were aware, it was generally medication first. I don’t think my parents knew enough about it, but that was mainly because I kept my feelings to myself, and they could just write off things I did as weird only-child things. It wasn’t until I reached adulthood and a friend of mine was telling me about Asperger's and some of the signs, that it clicked for me. It was like, “Oh, that explains so much.” Then, there were online tests, and I started thinking back to being younger, and the things I said or did or didn’t say or didn’t do, the things other people seemed to do so easily while I cringed inside, the times I was told I was “rude” or “awkward” or told I needed to “get out of my shell” at work and socialize like everyone else.
What changed in your life with this discovery?
I stopped trying to be something I wasn’t. At the time, I worked at a large corporation and felt a lot of pressure to be like everyone else. When I first got there, I went to the after-meeting dinners and socialized like everyone else. I tried to stay up as late as everyone else and get through the next day. I stopped bringing a book with me to the breakfasts and forced myself to make the small talk. I don’t like small talk. I’m not good at it. I also just don’t see the point. Old Nicole wouldn’t have admitted that. When I discovered that I wasn’t “odd” or “rude” and that my brain just worked differently, it was a process, but I got to a point where I told people I needed a break and didn’t go to the dinners. I’d eat breakfast at my own table. I started telling people that I was on the spectrum and explained that they can ask me questions if they’re unsure why I said something or acted a certain way. I didn’t use it as an excuse but explained that this is who I am, and I’m good with it. I actually really love this part of myself now that I understand it. So, I embrace it.
How does autism inform or impact your writing?
It’s huge in my writing life. I’m convinced that because my brain works this way, I write differently and faster than most writers I know. I think it makes me strive to write dynamic characters because I want to understand them, too, since I have trouble understanding real people at times.
What was your experience writing autistic characters?
Kenzie from “All the Love Songs” is my only autistic character (besides Lennox’s sister, who’s mentioned but not featured). I just knew Kenzie. I understood her from moment one, which isn’t usually the case for me and my characters. It can take me a minute or two to start thinking like them, but with Kenzie, I just got her. I think I also got Lennox because Lennox got Kenzie, so that book was a very fast write for me, and I was in an “aspie fog” when I wrote it, which is what my wife and I call it when I just put on headphones and type for hours or days and forget to eat or that there’s a world around me.