The Autistic Writer: (Not So) Hyperfixation
A majority of people on the Autism Spectrum experience what are called hyperfixations. These are concepts, activities, or other stimuli to which the person pays concentrated, prolonged and in depth attention, often at the expense of noticing anything else while “zoned.”
Some hyperfixations are present in an Autistic person for a lifetime, while others come and go over time.
A similar bit not identical concept is known in the Autism world as a “special interest.” In this case, the passion for the subject is equally intense, but to participation/consumption of it is perhaps less noticable, or more “moderate” as the rest of the world defines the term.
Almost anything can be/become an Autistic hyperfixation/special interest, writing included.
For me, however, this isn’t the case.
It’s true; I am an Autistic writer who doesn’t hyperfixate on the act of writing.
Ironic? Perhaps a little. And to have such a hyperfixation may have greatly increased my productivity over the years. (Though this is no guarantee.)
That being said, perhaps it is for the best that writing doesn’t draw the lion’s share of my life all of the time, everywhere.
What’s interesting about this observation is that even before I was diagnosed with ASD, I considered myself a writer. Yet I bristled at the notion that writing should be an all-consuming obsession. This actually runs counter to the advice I discovered, especially online early on about the life of a writer.
“If you can imagine doing anything else with your time, anything at all, go do it. You’re not a writer.”
I realize that this sentiment deals partially with the notion of making a living as a writer, as opposed to just writing at one’s own pace. Nevertheless, it is a limiting philosophy, and one I hope writers of all types refuse to take to heart.
If you ask me, a writer should have at least one proverbial foot in the real, outside world, even if the rest of him is within his own personal Muse-populated mental metropolis. Being lost in such a place sounds at first blush like a great escape. To a certain extent suppose it would be. But if we vanish too far into our own thoughts, obsessed with writing and creating sentences to the point that we experience little else, what are we writing about in the end? To whom are we writing? Why waste the ink, if we can just compose epics within our head?
If you think this post sounds leans more toward the writing end and less toward the Autistic angle, you are correct to a point. But I wanted to address what has become an unfortunate stereotype of the Autistic genius, cranking out masterpiece after masterpiece merely by taking a few minutes to file reports from within our imagination where we lie ensconced.
Not only is this trope, (popular in Hollywood) woefully inaccurate in terms of the writing process, it is offensively simplistic as pertains to the Autistic experience overall; we are people, not prophets. Not myth and not magic. And even if some of us do hyperfixate on our writing, those of us who have even the slightest desire to communicate legitimate thoughts to the world realize it cannot end there.
As this series oft hath shown, my Autism influences my writing. But it doesn’t write it for me, in a vacuum anymore than my hand, while the rest of me sleeps could produce this article.
If you are reading this, hopefully you already were well aware of this. Yet if everybody knew it, I wouldn’t have been motivated to write this week’s entry in the first place.