Insecurities in Writing
Hi, my name is Lannah Marshall. I am a Speculative Fiction writer, focusing on science fantasy. I am also working on my debut novel (whichever one gets published first), author of multiple published short stories and poems, and an artist that has been exhibited near the Turner Contemporary. I am also autistic.
Now, I’m not about to suggest how one should go about writing autistic characters. I’ve already done that: here.
No, instead I am going to discuss a strange feeling that has blossomed in my chest the more I think about actually getting published, particularly with an autistic main character (MC). The sad thing is, this is a story that I am genuinely excited about sharing with the world, because the autism is front and centre of the novel itself. Sure, I have autism in my other works, but it is usually heavily implied in a world that doesn’t have a word for it.
This book is very much my autism, and it is used to explore this world from a perspective that is very much akin to mine (with fantastical elements, of course). Yet, I can picture the feedback coming in, stating that the MC is too cliché in her symptoms, or maybe she isn’t “autistic enough”.
These are responses that I’ve seen to other “own voices” narratives, such as books written by and aimed at LGBT+ individuals. The issue is that the desire for good representation is strong. We don’t want tokenism. We want stories that make us feel seen and wanted and loved, and as though we’re worthy of all the kick-ass stories that other MCs get. Yet, this can result in narratives by own voice authors being put under a much higher scrutiny (not on purpose) with higher expectations.
Yet, and I will be as clear here as I was in my autism research piece: we’re all different. We write what we know and explore what we want to explore. It isn’t the same for everyone, because not everyone is the same. My autism affects me differently than someone else’s autism affects them. I have classic symptoms such as stimming (flapping and biting myself) when I’m over-stimulated. My echolalia (repeating words) has gotten me in trouble before. I have hyper-focus in ‘nerdy’ pursuits and I often take things literally, but on paper that can feel very cliché – at least to me. For all I know that might not be enough for some people, and that makes me nervous because I want to represent people well. Yet, you cannot represent everyone in a spectrum without being cliché, and I’d advise not even trying or it’ll come across as misguided and heavy-handed.
The issue is that, at least for me, I often catch myself wondering if I am autistic enough. Am I masking too well? Ergo, how do I show that a character is good at mask without them seeming to be not autistic?
As I am currently in the middle of this identity crisis, my only advice is to suggest in remembering that you cannot please everyone. We need more people speaking up about their own marginalised voices and their own experiences. I’m happy for what I get, even if I don’t personally experience what they have. Here’s hoping that my work inspires at least one person. That’s all I can hope for really (that and it gets published, of course).
My wonder now is whether I am alone in these insecurities.
Probably not, but here they are.
Best wishes and good luck!
© 2020 Lannah Marshall
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Sometimes she writes. Sometimes she doesn’t. Either way, she’s not doing what she’s supposed to be doing.