The Life Autistic: Why We Don’t Do ‘Resolutions’

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It’s New Year’s Eve, and if you haven’t started your parties yet, you should do those and come back to this.

But if you’re here: we autistic folks are not ones for ‘cheap, tacky, trendy resolutions.’

“Gee, that’s odd,” you might think. “I thought you all loved routine!”

We do. At least I do.

Which is why we’re pretty much set in our ways, and resolving to do things differently is a carefully measured choice and long-term effort.

For us, resolution is not a “thing to do” to ring in the New Year.

I’ve carried out two major, life changing actions as an autist, and neither of them could wait until some popular, traditional point in time.

See, we like being unique.

Undergoing (and often failing) some annual ritual of life change is too mainstream, popular, and the wrong kind of normal. For me, I need more successes, and a New Year’s Resolution isn’t giving me good odds on one.

When I resolved to cut down from being a whale to a moderate walrus, I needed to make it personal, not popular – and I needed it on my terms.

By New Year’s, I had something better than a resolution.

I had a habit.

If you’re the type for resolutions, good on you. Maybe you’ve done well. If so, awesome.

But if not, take a page from the autistic playbook:

Snap. Change. Continue. Forget about when and just go with what. Be different, personal, private, but purposeful.

Happy New Year. 

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Gifts for Writers

Writing. Holidays. Good luck.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What gifts do you recommend giving writers for Christmas?
—Leonard Ankeny, Marquette, Iowa. 

Great question! Folks, you have it easy when shopping for most writers. Most of us plan ahead, think forward, keep things unsuspenseful in general. There are works to be written. Christmastime isn’t a guessing game. Just ask; they’ll tell you. And hey, you’ll be right on the money with what you get for that brooding writer in your life. Isn’t that easy?

1) Notebooks

Boring, but by golly-geeze, they’re effective. It’s a little rude to whip out one’s smartphone or portable and start writing in the middle of something. “Hey, this is church! You should be listening!” But a notebook? Elegant. Sly. It’s gotten me out of the forefront of a few awkward social gatherings. I recommend the products at Moleskine.

2) Restaurant gift cards

Writing and cooking. They’re great, but they’re mutually exclusive. Anytime you hand that writer a potential “Get out of the Kitchen Free” card, you’ve bestowed freedom. Doesn’t freedom taste awesome? Plenty to find at Restaurant.com

3) Caffeine

Since I can’t quite recommend a bevy of intoxicants and hallucinogens, I’ll recommend legal stimulants. There’s always that person who’s going to run a writer ragged with “real-world” issues, chores, and whatnot. Give back by offering goodies that’ll recharge and supercharge that writing mind. Thinkgeek has some awesome novelties in the caffeine arena, and if you’re looking for excellent caffeine supply by way of coffee, Writing All Wrong chooses Camano Island Coffee Roasters.

4) Software

Really? Why not the ol’ parchment and quill? If you want to write for the market of 1612, be my guest. If you want to write for the market of today, perhaps you should ping that writer in your life, see what his keystrokes are going to. Scrivener has a good following, with a decent feature set that aids the planning and organizing as much as it does writing. If you’re into more minimal tools, I’ve found my writing doing most of its work in Pages (Mac-only, which you should be).

5) Time

Talk about the one thing we could all use more of. In writing, time is a premium. Why not cut your writer friend/spouse/significant other some slack? Maybe they can take the night off of Christmas card writing, extraneous partying, and other such things they’re too polite to decline. Anything you can do that gets time back in a writer’s day: that’s a gift indeed.

Plenty of options: go to. It’s what writers want. And writers, feel free to add to the wish list as you see fit.

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

Time Travel: DOs and DON’Ts

Travel writing? Why, yes, I’m fond of the sort. Evocative, painterly, introspective, resplendent. Taking my couch-planted duff off to places I’m not spending money to travel.

Oh, you’re talking time travel? Get in line.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Greetings Curator of Blog [designation Writing All Wrong]:

I am Citizen #306765899. You may list me as “Brent Staples.” I inquire after the state of time travel in the writings of YEAR 2012. Thank you.

—”Brent Staples,” City NA9083

Hey 306765899, perhaps I should be the one asking you about how things “are cracking” in 2086 or whenever. Is redheadedness a crime where you live? I do worry about that.

I’m going to forgo opinions and instead offer sorely-needed dos and don’ts for this round of time travel.

DON’T reinvent the wheel.

Science has proven that every writer has given at least one consideration to writing time travel fiction. And many have. You’re following in the sunken footsteps of many who’ve done this before: Wells’s The Time Machine, Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, and God’s The Bible. Don’t shoot for a better wheel. Just make a good one.

DO your research.

If you’re sending characters back in time, then you’d better give a proper picture of what it was like back in the day. I’m not falling for a wooden-toothed Washington or a dragon-less court of King Canute. Same goes for future travels. It’s not guesswork: find future editions of Popular Science or postdated tech blogs that cover the science of your target era.

DON’T delve too deep into how time travel works.

If you’re not strapping on the suspenders of disbelief, then you’re in the wrong business. It’s nice to have some working knowledge of the intricacies, sure, but I’m not reading your book to find out how the heck I can warp back to 2nd grade on my own and duck when that stupidface kid punched me. Unless you’re writing a fictional textbook. That’s an idea.

DO exaggerate.

“But you said—” I know what I said, but if I wanted a history book, I’d read that. Get the facts right (Abe Lincoln was the 16th President, Hitler was a Nazi) before you take the necessary liberties (Abe Lincoln whooped his debate opponents in fencing, Hitler had plans for a Jew-seeking missile [soon thwarted].)

DON’T go gimmick.

Time travel is a common fascination, but an uncommon art. Before you sit down to write time traveling fiction, make sure that this is the best possible idea you have. Avoid using time travel as a novelty. It’s like a rocket. Pretty nift in and of itself, but not when you’re buckling it to the roof of a car. I know you want to “drive faster,” but there’s a better way of going about it.

DO write a good story, no matter what.

Great fiction wins. When your book’s pages meet the fire, burned in punitive pyres of creative purgation, may its mourners not say “This was a good time travel story,but “This was a good story.”

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

Putting Off Procrastination

Procrastination. It’s like the alcoholism of the weak-minded writer; the bane of upstarts. It’s nature’s way of weeding out the pretenders.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

I wanted to write and see what advice you might have about procrastination. I’ve got one page written, and I can’t bring myself to write any more. As an aspiring writer, I know I can’t just let it sit there. What’s your advice on putting off procrastination?

—Jered Gillen, Dallas, Tx.

Shakespeare kicks Milton in the nether regions every time someone mentions the phrase “aspiring writer” in anything but a negative sense. Stop that. You, that is. Not Shakespeare. He does what he wants.

Procrastination can be helpful; it keeps you doing a whole bunch of stuff that doesn’t matter. These may not be the most “writerly” solutions, but you need something to start building the better habit of productivity. We can work on your crap writing some other time.

Tips on putting off writing procrastination:

1: Writing Fast

Padlock the fridge, freezer, and pantries. Mail the key to an editor. Only when you have fifty or so pages of a decent submission, have them mail the key back to you. Better hope he/she likes your stuff, or else you’ll be eating out until you get that writing in shape.

2: Face the Failure

Buy paper. Buy a printer. Print copies of the pittance of words you’ve mustered. Hang them everywhere. When your family complains about “all these blank pieces of paper,” I can only hope a little dagger was twisted within your heart.

3: Chart your Creative Consumption

When it comes to creative endeavors, you create, or you consume. All those hours on the TV, the Blu-Ray binging, the Tweeting, the blogrolling: you’re making yourself fat and useless. How many hours do you spend taking and taking and taking? And no, you don’t have to “give back,” just “do something!” Make a chart, let it show you how obese you’ve gotten in the creative consumption cesspool.

4: Refocus the Mismanagement

If you’re a procrastinator with something, you are not a procrastinator with everything. Complain about not picking up writing all you want, but you are picking up things that you could leave to the jaws of procrastinations. You’re always in the gym, I’m sure, trying to show off your awesome bod. You run x amount of miles so you can #humblebrag about it on Facebook. You’ll always make time to watch trite sitcoms, scripted reality TV, or other mindgum garbage. Give those things a rest for one. Put ‘em off.

5: Bite Sizing

Write a sentence a day. Yeah, that does make sense. Whether you have to keep your work in progress next to the loo, the shower, somewhere you park each day, it’ll remind you to get something done daily. And that’s a start.

Baby steps here, folks. Doing it “later” is “never doing it at all.” Or else you’d have done it already.

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