The Autistic Writer: Experimental Fiction

A few years ago I took up oil painting. Actual painting. That is to say no classes or research or practicing of specific techniques. After years of wondering what it would be like to paint with oils on a canvas, I bought the equipment and just started slathering paint on.

I have enjoyed it ever since, though with low funds I have had to pause for a while. (It’s not a cheap hobby.)

Though I’ve learned a few things by repetition, I have still studied nothing about the art. I am an experimental oil painter. Which is exactly what it sounds like. I play around with oils until I get something I like. The reason I can do this is simple: I don’t care about what anyone else thinks about my paintings. It’s one my rare artistic endeavors wherein I have no concern about an audience receiving the product.

“The Beholding” –oil on canvas, by Ty Unglebower

I have almost the same attitude about my poetry. While the poet in me is ever so slightly more aware of a potential reader than is the oil painting side of me, I still give little to no thought about what my poetry means to others as they read it. Again, I can experiment with it, or be conventional when writing it.

When writing fiction, on the other hand, I have to give myself permission to experiment. In fact, only one full work of mine, a novella called The Italics Are My Own can be classified as wholly experimental. As an author of fiction, I have an acute awareness, (even if some say I should not) of what a potential readership might get out of my work.

My place on the Autism Spectrum provides (encumbers?) me with some unique positions on not just story, but language. Concept, not just plot. The above mentioned novella is the closest I have come to writing a book without censoring the mechanics of my Autistic way of thinking, observing and communicating.

Yet I hesitate to conduct such experiments more often in long form fiction, because of my concerns of it being incoherent to the reader. And unlike a free verse poem or an oil painting of pine trees, consumer appeal of my fiction is part of the equation.

Experimentation influenced by ASD vs. Coherence to the general public.

Actually, it’s very much like the concept in every day life of choosing between masking and unmasking my Autistic traits in an attempt to succeed further. By default, whether in life or in a novel I am writing, opening the process up entirely to my Autistic tendencies results in something confusing or off-putting to the general public at first glance.

If a concept for a novel speaks to the deepest me, in the end I won’t refrain from writing it, chaos and all. I just may have to paint a canvas soon afterward to remind myself it’s okay to create things without others in mind.

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