Through the Looking Glass

The chaotic sounds of the city disappeared, drowned out by the soothing falsetto of synth electronics– my fingers danced along the imaginary piano keys I knew how to play. I was gliding along the sidewalk as if walking along clouds lost in my own space made up from my own imagination – my own soundtrack – this moment lost in time and space WHAM. Someone shoulder checks me drawing me back to the harsh realities of the neuro typical – those without autism or Aspergers.

Why are those on the autistic spectrum drawn to creative expression? Because it is the only time the world makes sense according to us. It is us investing our POV, our headspace and our very ethos and neuro ATYPICAL sense of the world into our chosen medium. For me it’s several; music, art and drawing, and most of all writing. For in that moment it is soothing because to create is to finally be in control. There are no rules or someone else to tell you how to do something. This is your being, your escapism. It is the only time we as autistics feel totally in control or comfortable as ourselves.

While this sort of creative liberty can feel appealing to people off the spectrum as well in a similar sense, it is amplified tenfold for those on it. Additionally the art and writing created by those on the spectrum tends to be much different since it is formed by an atypical sense of the world. It is in a singe world: fantastical. Perhaps even absurd or grounded in the unfamiliar. Some of the greatest original works of all time were created by autistic creatives and those suspected of being on the spectrum; Lewis Caroll, Jim Henson, Tim Burton, Mozart, Kurt Cobain, Stanley Kubrick, HG Wells, Jane Austen, Picasso and Alfred Hitchcock to name a few.

This is not to say that all works of autistic or spectrum disorder people will be on par with those people’s work. It does however indicate that autistic people are inclined to creative fields with a great propensity for talent and a uniqueness about their visions. For those of us who are on the spectrum, our medium becomes our safety blanket. It’s a time for us to be in a very fragile and vulnerable state as we create these worlds, stories and fantastical imageries. When we are removed from the creative process to return to the neuro typical world it can come as brief shock.

Most of my rants on twitter follow a deeply existential state where I have recently written a lot or worked on music or art. It’s sort of like coming down from a creative high, a sort of mania. Similar to those who use speed drugs, it’s a bit like crashing and feeling like shit because all that euphoria is gone. It’s why I don’t do hard drugs, because my mind is complicated enough already.

Once neuro atypical people return to the “normal” world of the neuro typical we are instantly reminded of the fact we are different. We are not in control and we must exist in accordance with their rules and methods. If we are not careful to safeguard ourselves from the shock of quickly going from the high of creative liberty to the mundane of the normal world we can find ourselves in a depressive or anxious state.

Above all else people on the spectrum have unique boundaries and are careful to isolate themselves during periods of artistic and creative expression. We then slowly come back to the neuro typical world. So when people are interrupted or caught off guard, some on the spectrum can seem irascible. I used to be this way myself. I am now less so. However someone like Kubrick was notorious for it. Autistics really need their space to be at their best artistically. So to some in creative fields this comes across as uncooperative or “not a team player.”

Part of this documentary idea I’m working on is to find a way to bridge the divide. How can we allow brilliant creatives a way to exploit their talents and also function within media and entertainment industries still largely run by neuro typical people. It’s a delicate balance which requires a combination of self awareness on both ends and patient mentorship to deliver the talent.

When you’re autistic it can be hard sometimes to consider others POV especially as it concerns your art but you must. We must, or else we’ll always be marginalized by the industries we desire to work in. Comparably we need more mentors and other creatives to help provide structure and encouragement to talented young autistic creatives. Sometimes we’re so overwhelmed by ideas at once that we need to be brought back to focus. It requires patience and understanding but with the right mentorship an autistic artist or writer can adapt just as well to the complexities of the creative industries as the neuro typical. We desire to be understood and truly do want to adapt, we just need some help.

Ultimately it’s about mutual understanding. Currently not enough is understood about how autistic people create, why they’re drawn to do so, what that headspace is like and how they readjust post-creative release. There’s also not enough people helping those on the spectrum to navigate the complex industry politics out of frustration with neuro atypical people (bc we don’t get social cues) and so most just give up, call us weird and despite tremendous talent our sacred outlet becomes little more than hobby.

We must bridge the divide between the two camps. Both must do better to collaborate. It begins with mutual understanding and that is what I hope this documentary can achieve.

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