• Kacen Callender

WIP: Autism? Maybe, Part II

So, the first "Autism? Maybe" post was very strangely timed! I posted it right before many discussions on social media began about neurodivergency in the publishing industry. It's an emotionally charged topic, with many having encountered ableism for their neurodivergency, and it's been interesting to watch people connect the dots, helping me make some of my own connections. Yes, perhaps it's because I'm ND that I jump from book to book in my writing process, and why I struggle to express characters' emotions in the same way I struggle to express emotion in day-to-day life. Interesting.

Still, I can't help but feel frustrated with some conversations that have come from the topic of neurodivergency. Overall, I've seen people actively creating stereotypes of what it means to be a neurodivergent writer, with many people speaking for all of us, as if we're a monolith. I can't blame, then, neurotypical people for beginning to believe we really are a monolith, with at least one example I can think of where an NT person asks what they can do to better help ND people when it comes to studying craft. I find this idea that we're a monolith harmful, and I'd like to add my voice into the mixture of helping people understand that being ND does not mean we all read and write in one particular way.

I have seen examples of neurodivergent people say that their characters are often said to be too emotional, and other ND people say that their characters have been said to not be emotional enough (like me). I've seen ND people who love to outline (to the point where the outline might as well be a book—I sometimes include myself in this one also), and I've seen ND people who can't stand outlining, and have to pants instead. "Show, don't tell" works for some ND people; others prefer to tell, not show. The differences of one ND person to the next truly are infinite. There's been a harmful action in making us into one monolith that thinks, reads, and writes the same way, and we don't.

While I'm happy there's been so much talk about neurodivergence in writing, helping me to see my own neurodivergent tendencies, too, I'm honestly confused about the takeaway(s) that we could all walk away from this discussion with. Besides the fact that we're not one monolith, what is the takeaway that can be helpful to ND community, not harmful in its perpetuating of stereotypes? Perhaps there needs to be more of a general understanding, for ND and NT people alike, that there isn't only one way to write: whatever works, works. Blanket-statement rules for what is "good craft" should not be considered acceptable. If an ND person writes a monologue of thought in a book, and the reader still finds tension and is emotionally gripped, then it works, even if there are some schools of thought that believe "good craft" would not include monologues. Old rules like "no prologues" and "don't write about characters who are also writers" have always frustrated me. Why do those rules exist? If the book works with a character who is a writer and a prologue, then it works. This is generally how I've always operated, so it would be great to see this become the new standard.

In the end, I'm excited to see more conversations, while also wanting people to be careful in their stereotyping of ND people.

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