The Autistic Writer: Executive Dysfunction

Executive dysfunction is common among Autistics. It is often defined as follows: “a behavioral symptom that disrupts a person’s ability to manage their own thoughts, emotions and actions.”

That sounds quite involved, but really it is a collection of symptoms and difficulties that impede one’s ability to make and follow through on plans and thoughts to various degrees. This effects the writing process in various ways.

Using a list of common signs of executive dysfunction from the same link as above, let’s explore how the condition could effect writing.

Being highly distractable.

Self-explanatory. Words don’t write themselves, no matter how easy it sometimes feels to compose something.

Focusing too much on one thing to the detriment or other things.

Not generally an issue with my writing per se, but like any endeavor, obsession in the end leads to decreased, not increased quality and productivity.

Difficulty planning or undertaking tasks if the end cannot be easily visualized.

A big one for me, and it strongly relates to last week’s post on “black holes.” Not mere a matter or the end of a story being unknown, but the real-world results of creating a volume in the first place.

I suspect this is also why I rarely get it together to write for and submit to magazines and other periodicals. Each has it’s own format and expectations, and it feels overwhelming to even begin.

Difficulty motivating yourself to start a task that seems difficult or uninteresting.

Now if I cannot find a project interesting, I shouldn’t be attempting it in the first place, if I expect readers to enjoy it. But aspects of the publishing process apply here as well. Gathering a books meta data, cover creation, and the ever nauseating marketing plans. I have to push the rock up that hill just to get started on those vital but less flashy elements of book creation.

Impulse control issues.

This could be much worse for me, but it plays a role. A movie or a game may call to me several times instead of taking on the writing session I had planned. An excellent cure for this for me is to do most of my work at the local library; if I go through the effort to get there, I am certain to get the intended work done.

Struggling to move from one task to another.

More so an issue for me when inertia from other activities has set in. If for example I have been hiking earlier in the day, I am less likely to put in the work to write, simply because it’s a total shift in brain activity.

Trouble explaining your thought process clearly because putting it into words for others feels overwhelming.

Again, rather obvious. In may not usual be a though process, but I need to keep it slow and steady when I am writing particular work, or be ready to liberally revise. What words I string together in my head often seem clumsy on paper. Less of an issue for me in non-fiction than fiction, though I couldn’t tell you why.

It’s no secret that I have eventually overcome these various executive dysfunction issues in pursuit of my writing. My catalog proves it. But any given time, particularly with my current novel in progress, I have to trudge may way through the mud-of-inactivity to the point of exhaustion before I finally hit the stride to write regularly again.

And plenty of other things remain undone, that I wanted to do, because of various aspects of the Autistic executive dysfunction that never fully leaves my side as I write.

Never fully. I do however manage to chip away at it, like today.

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