‘Write every day’ is ableist writing advice.
In fact, most writing advice is ableist as hell.
It’s taken me a long time to accept that I live with a disability because I’m Autistic (two if you count the C-PTSD, three if you count the ADHD). But this is only recent news – about 6 months ago. Maybe 8. Who knows. It’s taken even longer to accept that how my mind works, how my body stores trauma, are incompatible with most writing advice I’ve seen.
Show up every day to write or you’re not a writer. Okay? I’m not a writer. But I’m still writing, and arguably writing more than those daily writers – whenever I find the energy.
See, my body doesn’t do what I ask it to do most of the time. I am at the mercy of my body’s tides, like the ocean and the moon. My body is the moon, my writing an ocean. I’ve learned to dive into my special interests and routines, as those are two things Autistic bodies can consistently rely on. A good day, motivation, discipline… those are able-bodied concepts I can never depend on.
I’ve had to learn patience, with my process, with my body. I’m naturally an impatient person, and I have this chip on my shoulder, to always accomplish everything in one fell swoop. My body laughs at those notions right before it breaks down.
Filling out forms breaks me down. Laundry is a monster. Organizing my closet? Forget about it. Most days, my only focus is balancing out my moods. Making sure I get to a decent place.
I always start out low and slow – that’s my ADHD talking. I need caffeine to get me moving. Some good conversations and laughs with my baristas. That’s about 11 am or noon, but I usually wake up around 10 am. Sometimes 1 pm. What is morning anyway?
So, the first two hours of my day are focused on finding even footing. Then I eat lunch. Ride that caffeine high. If it’s sunny, some outside time. Of course, prayer is in the mix too. Gotta get right with Allah, every day, in some way. Prayer is harder in the winters, as is everything else. But we move… and cling to Allah’s Mercy as a guiding light. As hope through the hopelessness I so often find myself mired in. Not because of my mind… but because of my body, and its refusal to do anything easily.
That’s a hard life to life. I spend too much energy on maintaining my emotions and trying to remember everything I constantly forget. Elusive memory… Autism… patterns and routines hold me down.
That midday prayer, evening prayer…. Fajr if I’m lucky enough. Allah is my strength.
And writing? I write all the time. I’m writing right now. I write when I drive – voice notes. Write in my notes app while waiting in line. Write on a notepad, when I don’t have time, when I need that tactile sensation. I write to save my life, because writing has been the one constant in my life since forever. I write all the time, but I don’t write how other writers write. I don’t write every day, but I write when I’m not writing. Everything I do to find balance is writing. Every picture I take, writing.
Every tear I shed, best believe that’s writing.
Writing is dependent on my body. But my body is not something I can depend on.
Allistic research studies tell me that my body will break down, on average, 20 years before my peers. Because Autistic bodies endure so much stress, we’re expected to die much younger than most people. I hope that’s not true, but if it is, I should write as much as I can before I die. Only when my body is able, but write nonetheless.
Most writers, if the ‘staid writing advice’ will have us believe, write even when they don’t want to.
How can I write when I’m having a traumatic flashback that takes my body three days to recover from?
How can I write when emotions convulse through my body? When I feel as run down as a ‘77 Chevelle in a junkyard?
My chassis may say SuperSport, but that engine is sputtering. We sputter our way through life, brotherman.
But this is not a WOE IS ME, DISABILITY story.
This is a story about self-love and acceptance.
This is a story about learning to live with the one body we’re given.
Life is like a dice game, you only get one roll.
Two if you’re lucky.
Seventeen if you’re Said. Can’t even tell you how many times I almost died. But that’s a traumatic story for a never time.
I refuse to write trauma, unless trauma forces me to write it.
Even then, I write around the trauma. I wrote a whole book that way.
Are You Borg Now? Maybe. Maybe not.
Even when I write trauma… I need a long walk, a London fog, a sit by the lake, a 2-hour massage, to bring calm to my traumatized body.
Writing, my dear friend, is not a substitute for anything I do to find balance.
But writing is my balance.
Writing is my saving grace. Writing and Allah.
I never treat this thing which holds me together like a menial task.
Writing is my life.
It is the only place I feel understood. And it is the one thing which makes sense of this world, of this body I was born into.
People would have you believe that the disabled body is less abled. I push back against that. Disability as a concept is wrought with notions of pity.
You hear disability and think “awwww, so sad.” Don’t tell me I’m lying.
But that’s one of the things I’ve been struggling to overcome within myself. Tryna kill my inner ableist. It’s hard work. But necessary. That’s what I hope to do with my writing. Find hope.
But I can only write about the things which bring me peace of mind.
Which bring peace between my body and mind. Synergy. Symbiosis.
Look man, I’m not gonna give you any writing advice. Maybe that’s what you came here for. I’ll give you something better:
Learn to love yourself, however that self is shaped, while you have a chance. Death is coming for us all, brotherman, some sooner than others.
All that matters is what you do with this life, this body, that you are blessed with.
Because every breath we take is a miracle, every heartbeat a symphony orchestra.
Give thanks for your hair, for the alveoli which replenish individual blood cells with oxygen as they pass through your lungs and make their way to every appendage.
Give thanks for every cell in your body. Give thanks for that body. And write about it, whenever your body allows you to write. But don’t push yourself to write.
Write only when it feels right. Sometimes that’s every day.
Sometimes that’s once a year. Give thanks when it does happen.
And for the love of all that is Holy… stop listening to these snake oil salesmen with prescriptive writing advice. Sitting on mountains of privilege, talking about “you can be a writer too… but you must COMMIT to it. Every day you wake up at 4 am, put a coffee pot in one hand, a machine gun in the other, and a pen in your mouth. Then go to war until 8 am. Then go to your day job until 5 pm. Then workout, make a meal, and go to bed by 10 pm. Otherwise, you’re not a writer.”
Yeah, okay bro. I’m not a writer. But I am alive… and I think that’s more than I can say for you.