The Life Autistic: We are your Workplace Engines – Here’s Why

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I remember getting a interesting compliment from my boss on my work ethic; it was as much his own transparent introspection as it was a testament to my drive:

“I have actually let things slip, knowing that you will catch them.”

(And for the record, this was a manager who did and does get things done!)

I was grateful for the feedback — flattered even!

Despite my troubles in other areas (tact, speaking out of turn, saying too much, being too direct, you get the trend) — in both leadership and in individual contribution, there are some ‘autistic features’ that have really helped me.

And they’re common enough among us autists to where they help you.

We’re great at laser-focusing on tasks.

I ended up building all of my Excel skills purely by taking on the most tedious and taxing items that involved spreadsheets, formulas, all that jazz. While I’ve since moved on to more fun tools (hello, Tableau!), my ability to zero in and grind out arduous work paid off.

We’re honest.

For all of our tactlessness, we are at least forthright about when something is great or not great. Back when I managed supervisors, I wasn’t always the most accommodating, nor the warmest, fuzziest manager. But I was honest, and that brought out the best in my folks – the expectations and feedback were always clear.

We’re good with details.

One of my best career experiences was with a global communication team — I was fortunate to be in a role that allowed me to fight for excellence in even the smallest details: pixel-perfect presentation arrangements, fine-toothed grammatical combing, and punctilious analysis of distribution lists, procedures, and more.

We’re quite good engines: driven, detailed, and dutiful.

Hire more of us, please!

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The Life Autistic: So I Wouldn’t Make It in the Air Force?

IMG_7770.JPGMy wife is fond of joking, “Hunter was a Navy brat. Now he’s just a brat.” I don’t object, as it’s quite true.

As is the case with many military kids, we often consider joining the service ourselves.

But apparently, that would have been a bad fit for me.

Could I make it through basic? Eh, probably not. Could I survive wearing those big goofy glasses? Not likely.

Beyond that, there was something more fundamental and situational.

I remember frustrating my dad to no end growing up. He was quick to point out my skills, but I tended to get in the way of my own potential.

“Hunter,” he said, “you could be just about anything you want! A lawyer, a doctor, an anesthesiologist! But — not an Air Force pilot.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because you always have to ask why.”

He clarified:

“When you’re flying your jet, and you get that order to EJECT, EJECT — you’re not going to have time to say ‘Gee officer, why do I have to eject?’ There’s nothing wr—’ and then BOOM!” he exclaimed, “you’re hit by a missile.” 

It’d be some sweet irony to write this and say, “Well, hah — I’m a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force with over 200 sorties flown—”

No.

It’s always mine to question why.

That mindset doesn’t always fit everywhere.

I’m far from a rebel – I mean, I survived four years of Pensacola Christian College of all places. But I’m not always a rule-follower either.

I’d like to say I’m just unnaturally curious, but I’m too lazy for that.

There’s a different sort of autistic slant.

We’re quick to question logic — we need things to make sense.

I know that’s not the way the world, society, people always work. But the autistic mind rests in understanding, putting pieces together — if they fit, then that helps dispel so much objection, reaction, and question.

There’s a world of difference between “I’m not sold, but I see the logic,” vs. “I don’t even understand the intent here.”

I’m always one to make reply,
And never cease to reason why,
Theirs but to do and (try not to) die (if I don’t have to)

And for what it’s worth, I could always fly commercial airliners. Not like I’d need to rationalize ejecting out of one of those . . .

Describe ALL the Things!

Every adjective needs a noun, but not every noun needs an adjective. Or something. It is indeed not a truth universally acknowledged that a powerful noun, object, thing is in need of some equally powerful, poignant, cheesy modifier.

We’re all guilty.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Dear Writing All Wrong:

I know that you sometimes review writing, and you’re pribably [sic] going to make fun of me for it. That’s OK though, because I don’t think you get a lot of emails because people think you’re too mean. That’s also OK, because you’ll probably point out something I should be working on anyway. Anyway, here’s the first couple of chapters of my book, Unfinished Dawn.

[CHAPTERS REDACTED] (sorry.)

—Jeremy Stark, Westerville, Ohio.

You’re absolutely right. I’ll make fun of you. I am too mean. I don’t get a lot of email. And I’ll point out things you should be working on anyway. Like adjectives and modifiers.

“coiled, razor-sharp, Concertina wire” — Glad you cleared up the confusion here, since Concertina wire comes in a “fluffy bunny” variety.

“smoldering remains and scattered ruins” — Other than ‘and,’ the rest of these words can go.

“He peered grimly through the charcoal ichor of foglike black ephemera.” — This sounds like what a chimney sweep would write about himself to make his work seem interesting.

“He was heavily armed with an AA-12 Automatic shotgun, a potent pair of Glock G26 9mm subcompact pistols, M67 fragmentations grenades strung together like cloves of garlic on his sash, and a custom-designed IMI Tavor TAR-21 assault rifle.” — Too many numbers, clumsy mixed metaphors, weak modifiers (“custom-designed?”).  Are you writing gun-owner fanfic here, or are you going to include a copy of Solider of Fortune for reference?

“The now-cool black clouds of night’s closing pages were turned by the warm, gentle fingers of amberlike dawn’s eager arrival.” — There’s a word for this: sunrise. Use that.

If you’re doing more describing than you are writing, you’re doing it wrong.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

Writing for the YouTube Generation

The attention span of our YouTube Generation – 30 seconds or less.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

In today’s world of mass media consumption, how do I make my writing stand out?
—Nelly Bridget, Waltham, Pa. 

If you plan to get your reader for the next thirty minutes, get them in the first thirty seconds.

Why?

You’re dealing with internetizens that, on average, don’t watch a YouTube video for longer than 30 seconds. People watch slow, and they read slower.

What’s catching them and keeping them?

Short paragraphs.

Enticing lead-ins — “Advanced healing and regenerative procedures offered to disabled veterans. The cost? Mandatory reenlistment, first in line for combat.”

Narrow questions — “Who consumes the most science fiction today?”

Distilled answers — “The one reason you can’t write a science fiction novel anymore.”

Unresolved solutions —

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

Five Reasons You Should Quit Writing

I love writing. It’s as if you’re staring at an empty pan, only to realize you know how to cook, and you have bacon on hand. Thus, creation and consumption are born.

Not everyone who writes loves writing. Ask a technical writer. And not everyone who loves writing writes. Ask a reader.

Then you have that not-rare-enough breed, those who love writing more than they love to write

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What do I need to do to make my writing as good as the writers I interact with online (Facebook, Twitter)? What kinds of questions or things should I talk about with them, so I have some more productive conversations?
—Jameson Cory, Pembroke Pines, Florida. 

Unless you have some existing, established creative outlet of your own, this is why I don’t recommend befriending writers. (And because I’m crotchety and mean, so there.) Writers write. They talk about writing. They joke about writing. They tell others how they can write better. They write about people reading their writing.

So if you’re not writing, what do you feel guilted into doing? Writing. 

Here’s five warning signs you might want to quit writing.

You love reading.

You read one book a day, minimum. The pleasures and machinations of the written word fulfill your soul. To you, the epitome of eros is that evening where you cozy up to the fireplace and snuggle with a good book. You’re the type who will eat dinner out without bothering to care to cook. You don’t need to write if reading makes you happy. Writers need readers.

You love fun.

Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of the “fun ban” for writers? Let’s put it this way: if you’re big on travel, clubbing, filling the void with parties, friends, alcohol, cruises, and material pleasures, then you live a fun life. Writing is insular. You can’t do it at all the fancy restaurants you Instagram. Livetweeting your awesome third European vacation isn’t considered flash fiction. Face it, you live for the thrills for consumption. Read a book on one of your expensive cruises, and we’ll call it even.

You love the myth.

There’s some idiosyncratic appeal to the tortured artists, the pre-hipster hipster who labored over each stroke of the typewriter, every nuance of the pen. The feverish all-nighters, the race to slip under the descending portcullis of deadlines, and the dashing esteem these artisans acclaim. Quit you’re writing while you can keep that myth intact.

You love company.

Nothing wrong with people. Ok, there’s plenty wrong with people, but that notwithstanding, people take time. Effort. Money. Let’s say you’re given the option to spend the night out with friends. And they’re paying. Most everyone says ‘Yes’ to that. Every time. Unless you’re a writer. There’s always something to be written. Sure, there’s the occasional luau here and there, but there’s always the writing now and now.

You love writers.

Most writers/bloggers/content creators can’t get away with being Henry James. There’s a modicum of humor, verve, and interaction they’re obligated to deliver. It’s their job to draw you into their personality and their persona. That’s how they get their prose to sing. It’s nice that you like these folks, but if you like writers for their works and personality, you’re a fan. And not every fan needs to be a writer. Sitting in a garage won’t make you a car. Neither will keeping company with writers make you a writer as well.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

Keeping Writing Resolutions

Christmas has been conquered. The holidays, defeated.

New Year’s euphoria continues to run on liquor, rocket feel, and imagined vibes, anticipating a slow crash back into reality. The coma subsides. Here we are, back to the new struggles in 2013, same as the old ones in 2012.

For many, that’s reality. For some, it’s a choice not taken.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

I don’t really want any more New Year’s resolutions to keep. How do I keep the ones I have?
—Moira Bartlett, Peterborough, Ontario. 

(Editor’s Note: The resolutions/revolutions for 2012 still pack a wallop for 2013: http://writingallwrong.com/2012/01/02/new-years-revolutions/)

That is the trick, isn’t it? All the brainpower goes into resolution making, but it’s the willpower that goes into resolution keeping. If you’re looking to turn your writing resolutions into reality, here are a few New Yearly helps to do just that.

Keep it small and steady.

Unless you’re unemployed, it’s a stretch to set a stretched wordcount goal. “I’m going to write OVER 9000 words PER DAY!” isn’t only stupid, it misses the point of building a habit. If you happen to hold a job, kids, or jobkids, it’s more impressive to build a muscle of writing every day. It’s never the amount that counts. It’s the mounts that amount. Or something.

Look just down the road, not into the future. 

Become best-selling author. Get all the royalties, book deals, chicks, booze, and followers on Twitter to fund my Kickstarter island awesome paradise.” — WRONG (on so many levels).

Find your “down the road.” If you haven’t finished your novel, short story, novella, then finish it off in 2013. If it’s done, then get it represented (or self-pubbed, if that’s your inclination.) If it’s represented, work on a next book. You can build that “island awesome paradise” on the backs of years of finished resolutions.

Take less giant leaps and more small steps.

The time will come when you need to make that big splash. The big publishing break. The joint venture. The cross-collaborative blogging initiative-a-palooza. But don’t be afraid to keep moving forward. Whether it’s more fictions here, more writing snippets there. Keep taking forward strides, maybe even more than the giant leaps. Often will you miss a leap, but rarely will you miss a step.

Look back to look back.

What all did you accomplish in 2012? Maybe it’s not so much doing things different, but better.

In Writing All Wrong City, I kept my audience of nine or ten plodding along with blog posts. Didn’t quit, even though I had the hat ready to hang each week.

I broke off some unnecessary connections and made new ones. Influence is profound, and chose those who’d help my writing, not hinder it with distraction (plugging, advertising, backscratching, pandering).

I finished my second book. This time, I resolved to refashion a plan that would get it off the agency slush pile and into representation. I queried plenty (and smarter) in 2012 than I did in 2011. I won’t say where things stand just yet, but stay tuned.

2013 is a year of reaping what you sow and sowing anew. Make a little, keep a lot.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

NaNoWriMo: Coping with Defeat

Five more days. NaNoWriMo is about done, and yep, you’re still more than 10,000 words short? Tried writing during the turkey cooking, and both ended up in flames?

Great news! You’re done for, and it’s about time you celebrate!

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Writing A. Wrong:

Pretend its the beginning of the month. What do I tell myself since I didnt make 50,000 this year for NaNo.
—Caryn Lefevers, Dothan, Ala. 

(Note: NaNoWriMo is short for Narcissistic Nonsense Writing Motivation or something like that. Simple premise: write a “novel” of fifty-thousand words within the month of November. The prize? Fifty-thousand dollars. In the competition’s 197-year history, only five writers have claimed the prize.)

Since it’s the beginning of the month, here’s how you should plan when you come short of the goal. Planning the coping ahead of time — it helps.

—Use the material for writing your Christmas cards.

—Solicit some readership and see what kick they get from the “truncated ending.”

—Your unfinished NaNoWriMo opus: free wrapping paper.

—Shred and re-arrange: three month’s worth of beat poetry reading.

—Long-form status updates.

—Many, many, many Tweets.

—Condense into a short story.

—Condense again into a haiku.

Those cute little fridge magnets that you can shape into Dadaist interpretations of failed NaNoWriMo novels.

—Black hat SEO for your blog.

—Platonic sexting.

—Messages in bottles.

—Make an ePub and read it on your “Incomplete Works of Me” eReader.

—Print “NaNoWriMo Winner 2012” shirts, send to Africa.

—Start some cheesy “one line at a time” contest to see your story to completion.

—Send the last paragraph to WritingAllWrong@me.com to see what’s recommended for continuation, should you choose to continue.

—Print your work and use the pages to light yourself on fire.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).