Autism and Writing: My Story

April 8, 2024

Telling Stories 

I was told I was selfish so many times growing up that I accepted it. But it wasn't only the telling. From what I could see, it was true.

I loved being by myself. I made up fantasy worlds and characters and sometimes stayed up all night exploring them. I wrote out poems and made colorful illustrations for my short stories. Sometimes, I  stitched my work into little hand-bound booklets and was surprised to learn that Emily Dickinson had once done that too.

I did have other interests, of course. I liked TV and all things paranormal and certain times in history and exploring the woods that surrounded our neighborhood. 

And I most especially loved reading. 

I read book after book after book. Those books befriended me and I befriended them back. I rarely felt lonely and I was never, up to and including the present day, bored.

People, however, were always a problem. Even though I sometimes felt I knew what they were thinking or feeling, I almost always had trouble understanding what they actually meant. 

Getting Along

But it wasn’t just the confusion. People siphoned my energy and gave me headaches. Learning about my interests and walking in the woods recharged me. Time spent writing or drawing made me feel happy and fulfilled. Time spent with people made me almost unbearably anxious. TV and books engaged me. School made me feel me feel isolated and disconnected, or worse.

Sixth grade was so difficult for me, in fact, that I remember the entire first year of middle school as overcast. No one liked or disliked me in middle school, but I was so shell-shocked and depressed from what had happened prior to that, it took the entire school year for me to regroup.

Then we moved from Michigan to Indiana, and I decided to recreate myself. I was going to leave the pain and humiliation behind and become a popular girl. And so I did. Not individually popular, exactly, but popular by association. I became part of the in-group, which was nothing short of miraculous.

For a long time, I congratulated myself on my incredible acting ability. But in reconnecting with some of those old friends on Facebook in recent years, I've realized something. Not all popular girls are mean. Some are gracious and kind and perfectly willing to take an earnest, awkward girl under their wing.

Unfortunately, that kindness wasn't enough. 

I was always quirky. That was okay, to a point. It was okay to like books and write poetry and read tarot cards for my friends. But I had learned where the line was in 6th grade and I had not forgotten it. I knew I had to pretend.

And that took a toll. 

At first, substances helped. Then I realized I could just walk away, so I did that instead. I left one place or person after anotherquickly, ruthlessly and absolutely. Friends. Family. Boyfriends. Schools. States.

I traveled the country and toured with the carnival, and worked as a waitress and wrote poetry on napkins. And then I had a child and came back to Pennsylvania where my extended family lived and made myself fit. 


The suffering generated by a career and a life that wasn't right for me is hard to express. But I will say this. When that life and job finally imploded, a part of me was paradoxically, and oh so selfishly, glad.

I was ready to recreate myself again. Except that this time, I was going to be the person I was meant to be.

For the most part, however, this was easier said than done. Some things went well. Turning my interest in the paranormal into a blog and studying commercial art and getting a job in the graphic design department of our local newspaper are examples of things that mostly worked.

Unfortunately, the big thing, the thing I wanted with all my heart, failed me.

I had been scribbling in notebooks and on scraps of paper my entire life. I had even banged out a couple of stories in small pockets of free time as an adult. I thought I was a writer, but for some reason I didn't understand none of my novels ended up marketable or even especially readable. And I was unable to move on from this.

I wrote and rewrote. I read books on writing. I attended webinars. I joined a writers' group.

I selfishly ignored my family and started over and tried to apply what I learned, and then I did it again and againeven though the same problems persisted.

None of my books had three discrete acts. Nothing I wrote adhered to its genre. Characters didn't develop, or at least not enough. Events came out of nowhere like collisions on the highway. 

And I did not know how to fix it and I still don't know how to fix it.

But I do know this.

Two years ago today, I was diagnosed with autism and that cast my suffering and my selfishness and my many failed novels in an entirely different light.

For a while after my diagnosis, I did a lot of talking about how different things seemed in that new light. But people didn't really seem to understand what I was trying to say, and I didn't really understand either. Finally, I started this blog to share some bits and pieces of writing and talk about autism and then, almost immediately, I set the blog to private. 

I wasn't really ready to talk about autism then, but over the last few weeks I have realized that I am. So, as of today, this blog is public. It has a new name and a new focus and I feel good about that.

My plan is to talk about my experience with autism in between scraps of fiction and creative nonfiction and reflections on autism and writing. 

I hope it will be of use!

Since someone askedyes, that's me in the picture above (on the left).

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