Writing with Aspergers

Hi
I have decided to have other voices of people on the Autism spectrum write some guest blogs for me every once in awhile. The guest blogger this week is David Perlmutter who is an accomplished writer and has just put out his first non-fiction book America Toons in a History of Television Animation. I am very fortunate that David took me up on the opportunity because the article he wrote, which is just below, is fantastic. So with no further Ado.

 

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Writing with Aspergers

By David Perlmutter

Hello- My name is David Perlmutter, and I am a writer.

Oh. And I have Asperger’s Syndrome.

Please notice that I did not overplay that last bit of information. It’s not as important as you might think.

Well, it is important, but not the way you’re thinking. It doesn’t define who I am to myself- even if it does for others. Others who don’t know what Asperger’s is or what the symptoms are, and are inclined to judge me simply because I have it.

Essentially, I am just a writer with Asperger’s in the same way that James Baldwin or Samuel Delany can be considered writers who were African American and gay. It didn’t mean that they wrote exclusively on those topics, even if they were expected to in some quarters. They wrote what they felt about writing, and that was that.

Presumably, writers with Asperger’s should have that same luxury. But it’s hard just telling people that you make your living as a writer, let alone being one with Asperger’s. And, if you’re prone to having arcane and obsessive interests, as a great majority of people with Asperger’s do, well, that just makes it a bit worse.

I should probably explain a little more about that.

I have always been a very laborious writer, constantly writing and re-writing in my head to make sure it works before I put things on paper (yes, there are people who still write in longhand!)  or a screen.  And I want things to work for whomever I’m writing for, which is why rejection is such a big deal for me, particularly my stories. Longer works can be a pain as well. I finally published my history book on American television animation last year, and the first draft of my first novel around the same time. Both of which were over ten years in gestation. Norman Mailer once said that the process of writing and publishing is the closest thing a man can experience that resembles childbirth. Given how long it’s taken me to get a lot of my projects done, I believe him.

Of course, it might all have been done sooner if I wasn’t as timid as I was and am. I want to be accepted, not offend, so, more often than not, I tend more to use my characters as voices rather than commit some of these things to paper as myself. And sometimes it’s hard to admit things that might make you seem unpopular or weird, which is a carry-over from high school, I suppose. Would I really like to let people know that I’m a thirty-something year old man who has a deep affection for nearly every animated television program, in the past and now? Or a white guy who has an equally passionate affection for nearly all types and forms of African American music? And is it still feasible to admit that you’re a Bill Cosby fan when it seems that the rest of the world has turned against him for things he might or might not have done a long time ago?

My answer: yes.

But there are ways and means to do it. Don’t do it on social media, because anything you say there can be held against you if it’s bad enough or not viewed in contest. The best thing to do if you are an aspiring writer with Asperger’s is to do it legitimately, like I did. Get your university degrees in an area of interest that your Asperger’s makes you not want to live without, and then you’ll get the credentials to let people know you’re serious about this and not one of those nutty, oddball “fans” who ruin that label for the rest of us. Or, if you’re more about fiction, keep writing and submitting your stuff until you find at least one editor or publisher who’s willing to support you. Then you’ll gain the confidence you’ll need to keep going, which, I’ve learned, is all you really need to be truly successful in that particular business.

Hopefully, my words can convince other people with Asperger’s that writing is a valuable way for us to contribute to society as a whole. Because, when it comes to molding and shaping a positive image of ourselves, we need all the help we can get!

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