So there’s this 12-year-old kid, and he’s doing his homework in his bedroom one night. Suddenly he notices that there’s a light on in the house opposite. But that’s impossible, the couple who live there are on holiday. He runs downstairs to tell his parents. They are good friends with the couple and have the spare key. They go over to the house and discover that the doors are all locked. The light is now off and there’s no trace of anybody or any disturbance.
Sorry, I better explain that bizarre into. That paragraph is the beginning of a story I formed in my head a few years ago. When I, as is frequently the case, have trouble getting to sleep or are daydreaming, my mind turns to it. Over time I’ve gradually added more and more to it. I’ve almost reached a point when I’ve got the outline of a pretty solid story.
On a few occasions I’ve started to jot down my idea, I’ve got character and setting descriptions and my desired plot structure. But I’ve never taken it further. ‘Why not?’ you might think, I clearly enjoy writing and have a modicum of ability.
There are three answers to that question; two of them merit a lengthy explanation. The one that doesn’t is the simple fact that perhaps it’s not a great idea! But that’s pretty irrelevant to a blog about adult autism, so we’ll concentrate on the other two factors:
It might be a preference to the habitual voyeur of what is known as Parklife, but it’s not something I’m blessed with. I’ve touched on this issue before, when talking about my sporting ‘career’ and my working life, but I’ll now try and explain it more succinctly…
It’s all to do with having a brain that is ‘wired differently’. A neurotypical person with a bit of writing ability and a half-decent concept would do everything they could to run with their idea. I’m pretty sure JK Rowling didn’t know she’d be swimming in bottomless pits of money when she penned the first paragraph of Harry Potter. But she committed to the idea, followed it through and now lives like Scrooge McDuck.
My neurodiverse brain constantly overthinks everything. And when you overthink, you end up focussing on the negatives. Look hard enough for a problem and you’ll find one. I don’t see the glass as being half empty, I think the glass is half full, but almost certainly poisonous, so I’m not going to drink it.
I’m not for a second suggesting that my idea would make a great book. It serves as an example of an issue that applies to the majority of my life. Deep down I know I’m not stupid and I know I’ve got a lot to offer, but having the confidence to make that leap of faith deserts me.
The ‘mystery light’ idea is by no means my only half-baked writing concept. Over the years I’ve had ideas and started writing about (amongst other things) the history of the NFL in the UK, an NFL guide for beginners, a mystery about a couple finding a dead body in their walk-in wardrobe and a diary about completely changing the football team you support. I could talk at great length about any of those topics, but I’ve never fully developed any of them.
Aside from the confidence issue, my main problem is that I often struggle to concentrate for long periods. As I’ve mentioned before, if I’m passionate about a topic then I can concentrate for hours on end. But if I’m not, or I don’t feel like I’m being listened to, or I don’t see it as being important, then my mind wanders and I can’t focus.
That’s by no means an issue exclusive to my writing ideas. Ask my wife about my efforts at cleaning a room or doing the shopping. I’ll have the best intentions in the world, but more often than not my brain will wander off and I’ll end up doing half a job.
I don’t know for certain whether I’ve got ADHD, but when the doctors eventually get round to diagnosing me, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that I have. ADHD is extremely common among people on the autistic spectrum and I display plenty of the symptoms. I have problems focussing, I have a low frustration tolerance, my boredom threshold is very low and I am often restless.
The biggest takeaway from this is that whilst I haven’t invested enough effort or had confidence in the ideas I’ve mentioned in this post, I HAVE fully committed to this blog. Churning out a post every week hasn’t been a problem at all, it’s a pleasure. I often write more than that, but don’t want to bombard people with too many posts. Instead, I’ve stockpiled a fair few for times when I’m too busy to write something new. The best conclusion I can draw is that this blog is a far better and more interesting concept than any of the others I’ve mentioned.
Through writing this blog, doing my day job and discovering more and more about my brain and disability, I’ve concluded that the best way of improving my mental well-being, happiness and working life is to concentrate more and more on writing. I’ve loved writing this blog and my favourite elements of my working life involve writing. It’s great for my mental health and acts as a kind of therapy when I’m not feeling great.
What’s more, it’s what I’m best at. I know that, so what I’d love to do is to ‘take the plunge’ and commit to writing for a living. Either as an employee or self-employed, but just writing blogs, books and web content and copy. Maybe part-time at first, but eventually I’d love to work full time helping small businesses and/or charities with their content (web, social media etc).
I know I could be great at it and I know I’d enjoy it and be passionate. The problem is having the confidence and faith to make the leap, instead of just seeing the potential hurdles such as money and time. But I have at least got a goal now and something I can focus on.
And maybe one day everyone will find out why the light was on in the house across the street!