Sunday, November 27, 2016
Autism Answer: About Writing
What I love most about writing:
Those moments when somehow, through struggle and a painful desire to do so, I discover a cadence and the words that say exactly what I'm trying to say. When I write a sentence or a phrase that brings forth the specific feeling and meaning I'm trying to uncover. It's like discovering a rare and perfect gem, one you imagined in a dream, on a never-ending length of beach. Except you didn't just discover it; because of your seeking, you are part of it's creation. What a fantastic and addictive feeling!
My mom is renowned international mental health expert Lynette Louise (aka The Brain Broad). Her journey and unique skills have grown organically from the soil of her unusual mind. As a little girl she was consistently misdiagnosed and considered a brilliant challenge to the grown ups in her world. As a woman she adopted and adored several cognitively challenged children; together they healed and progressed in creative yet consistently authentic to themselves ways. As a woman, she is a powerful passionate advocate and healer. Because I am her daughter, this should have all come pretty naturally and easily to me as well. Right? Well, nope! I pushed her strangeness away and then tried to understand it and then pushed it away again. Until I became a mom myself. It was with mother motivation that I found the ability to nurture what is already there while working my butt of to hone, reveal, and coax it until it shines. It was with writing that understanding filled me even more. It was writing and honing sentences and trimming ideas to their authentic selves that gave me the gift of openly exploring my mom's teachings, customizing them, and making them my very own.
My biggest dream as a writer:
Before I actually began writing in public I dreamed of having a shelf full of novels penned by me while I imagined enough of an audience to be considered by the world a real writer. Now, though, my biggest dream has shifted. I was surprised to discover, as I was writing for a possible audience, that being a writer in my own opinion is enough for me, so the audience no longer plays such a significant role in my dream as a writer; although, I adore and imagine them always. My biggest dream now is to have a shelf full of novels that I know are worthy of the stories they tell penned by me. Stories I can honestly say I gave my best service and ability to as a writer.
I watched my mom teach my brothers skills while she nourished and explored their habits and interests. I watched as she celebrated successes that I could hardly see. Until, as a sister, I tried really hard. She didn't seem to be molding them into "normal" people but instead encouraging them to become who they were; while insisting and believing they could gain seemingly impossible-for-them skills along the way. She believed in them and they showed her they could stand on their own, confident in their true selves. As a mom and writer I learned to do this as well. My sons aren't successful only when they make the progression from school to job to living on their own to raising a family to retirement. Nope! They are successful when they are comfortable, confident, and creating their lives in a thoughtful way that matches who they are. Success is kindness and confidence in their true selves. My writing isn't meant to fit into a cookie cutter neighborhood of stories but rather to become what it was meant to be. Still, it is important for me to learn the skills necessary to encourage it stand on it's own. To be confident in it's true self.
What I wish I had known about writing starting out:
Well, this is one of those questions, isn't it? I mean, I had been told most of the things I wish I knew, but without actually diving in and writing I couldn't quite know them for myself. I was told that writing is not only about the story and not only about the mechanics. But I had to dive into the world of writing myself to truly know the importance of punctuation and format in tandem with story and inspired thought. I was told that every writer writes for different reasons and in different ways, but I had to write for different reasons and in different ways myself before I knew the truth that my way was valid and right; so long as I was writing. Writers told me the importance of completion; to write and write and write but to, also, come to the end. But it wasn't until I finally finished my first piece of writing (just before my 30th birthday!) that I understood the valuable writing-skill of tying it up and giving it away to the world. Of knowing you've done it; you've written that screenplay, that story, that novel. You're always going to be "writing" but now, also, you've "written". There are so many more things I sort of wish I knew before I began, but in truth I really couldn't know. Not until I knew from doing. Although there is one thing I wish I had believed before I began writing. One thing that might have made a difference for me is: Be friends with other artists. Ideally, with other writers. There is so much they can do for you! They can understand without it needing to be said. They can pull you out of that vulnerable, lonely place that writing often leads us to. They can suggest publications and tell you what to expect. And you can do all of that for them, giving you the ever-valuable feeling of knowing you are valuable.
Autism Answer (What I Wish I Had Known):
Well, this is the thing, isn't it? I just shared the truth that my mom told and showed and exampled for me so many things about parenting, autism, differences, and disability. Yet, until I began parenting, I couldn't quite know it for myself. I had been taught that people aren't only about their uniqueness or their ability to fit in; there is a necessary relationship between the two. Yet until I began parenting my own four sons with challenges and differences, until I was diving deep into the waters of wanting them to be who they are while wanting to show them how to be part of the world, I couldn't quite grasp the truth of it. It had been said to me that different parents can parent well in different ways and for different reasons. But I had to be a parent myself, I had to struggle through the need to do it "right" only to discover that I had to do it my way, and differently even day to day, situation to situation, child to child, with a consistency that remained always at the base of things, before I could grasp and know the validity of different parenting styles. I had been told and shown that one day I would have to let go. I had seen my mom let my brothers move away, gently pushing some of them and promising them they were ready. I was there, helping and scared, as they practiced their skills and grew their abilities in the outside world. I saw as mom loved them while they failed and while they succeeded. Yet it wasn't until my own sons grew older and I had to begin the process of letting go that I truly understood. You are never not parenting, but you have to believe that they are able to become who they were meant to be without you, too. Indeed, they must. It is the only way. And, as with writing, I think it is helpful to find a few friends who get it. Who have been there. Who can understand without words. I have those friends. They are few, but they are more than enough. They give me the gift of their understanding while asking me to do the same.
Autism Answer: About Writing
My brothers, my mother, my sons, my friends; autism has shown itself in a variety of ways in my life. So I have grown to see people in a variety of ways. Interestingly, it has helped me shed the desire for labels. The variety is just too much. Outliers are my world and though they do fit into groups in a lot of ways (which can be a wonderful way to be understood) they don't fit only into specific spaces and can't be filed under restrictive labels. In this way my writing had been blessed. I don't feel a need to be an autism blogger or a fiction writer or an opinion peddler. I write to explore and share my authentic self while I keep the audience in mind. My mom taught my brothers to be themselves while caring about the world. I ask my sons (and myself) to do the same. But because autism has made so much of that harder and even painful, I've opened myself up to see that caring about the world often means showing it how it can change. Giving it stories that will ask it to shift.
I don't always do this well - as a sibling, parent, or writer - but I hope always to be brave enough to do it.
Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)
RANDOM: My book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up, is not one of those novels I dream of writing. Instead it's a collection of mostly true stories, a book that was an important step for me. I needed to have a book published to push myself past the fear of my first book being published. I'm now working on my first novel. With excitement and far less fear, largely because it isn't going to be my first book!