Writing with Autism
Thinking of taking part in our writing competition with the kids? Guest blogger George Harvey explains that creative writing is for everybody and tells us all about his favourite children’s books.
Hello. My name is George Harvey. I’m 21-years-old and I was diagnosed with Autism when I was 4.
Over the years, I’ve had many interests: trading cards, Japanese animations, amateur dramatics, etc. But one of my favourite hobbies has been reading.
Jacqueline Wilson is my favourite author, because her stories help raise awareness of many real-world issues and disabilities. The fact that her target audience is children and she teaches them valuable life lessons is just so inspiring to me. Now, my goal in life is to become a children’s author like her. Why? Let’s go back a few years.
Having Autism causes me certain drawbacks – particularly when it comes to focusing. If I have to write or listen to something important, but I don’t find the information very interesting, then it’s easy for my mind to suddenly wander. Here’s an example. The next paragraph will be a peek into my autistic mind. What you read will be the exact thoughts that go through my head as I’m writing.
Wow, I never thought I’d … Sorry, I had to pause there. I’m thinking of an old Coco Pops advert where the characters are watching ‘Jungle Book 2’. I wonder what Disney’s live action version will be like. I’m lying in bed, wearing a dress ed – sorry, that was a typo. I’m lying in bed wearing a ‘red fleece’ that says ‘University of Greenwich’. I got it at my graduation. My dog, Bertie, is lying near my feet. I’m thinking of that advert again…and an old Nickelodeon program called the ‘Amanda Show’. I really liked the opening music it had – apparently it was taken from the first ‘Spyro the Dragon’ game (PS1). To the left of me is my tea in a black mug. Sorry, just stopped there to take a few sips of it. As I’m writing this the clock on my iPad says 15:23. Okay I should get back now.
As you can see, one random thought leads to another and I never know what’s coming next. I couldn’t even finish my first sentence before it started kicking in. Just imagine trying to concentrate on something serious when you have all this and more going through your head 24/7.
Thinking this way also gives me social problems. Sometimes I’m so absorbed in my world of films, TV shows and video games that I don’t like coming out of it. I used to deliberately avoid contact with other people, so they wouldn’t interrupt my thinking. The result was I started to feel lonely and isolated from everyone – even my friends and family.
Like most conditions however, there are positives to having an autistic mind, too. One is that it gives me a very creative imagination. For years, I kept this imagination to myself. But that all changed in secondary school when my English teacher read the opening to a mystery novel to the class. I was so captivated by what I heard, I wanted to try writing one myself. That was when I realised something: if I wrote down some of my creative thoughts, I could share them with other people and potentially make a living out of it.
Autism still makes things hard though. One of the biggest problems I have is being a perfectionist. No matter how big or small a writing task is, I always want to make sure it sounds right. If it doesn’t, I spend hours – sometimes days – editing the piece until it’s perfect. (In case you’re wondering, this blog post took me nearly 2 weeks to finish.)
But although it takes me longer than most people, I’ve worked out little tricks to help me write. I’ve found it’s much easier to complete a piece if there’s something of myself written into it. If I write a fictional story, I base the characters’ personalities on my own traits, so I know how they’d feel in certain situations. If I write a non-fictional piece, I remember moments in own my life and express them in a creative manner.
Writing like this hasn’t exactly helped my Autism as such, but it has given me a lot of unique opportunities. Many of my publications have been based around raising awareness of Autism and disproving negative myths about it. For example: autistic people supposedly can’t handle jobs involving customer interaction – yet I’ve worked as a checkout-operator for 4 years. I’ve also given presentations in primary schools and I run a successful Autism blog, where I continue my advocacy and showcase exactly what I’m capable of as a Creative/Professional writer.