Neurodivergent Authors: Not Lazy or “Broken”

Neurodivergent, Kristen Lamb

“Neurodivergent” (ND) has been a bit of a buzzword for the past decade, and even more so in the past couple of years. Seems like everyone is “neurodivergent” these days, like we are coming out of the woodwork.

Yes and no (a post for another day).

I’ve been hesitant to talk about this topic for a number of reasons, largely because it puts me in a super vulnerable place. Not easy for most people, and I’m certainly not immune.

Additionally, I “get” I’m not an expert beyond my own experiences, so take the post for what you will. I feel that the qualities that make us “neurodivergent” are what make many of us gravitate to creative professions in the first place—writing included.

Being neurodivergent can give us major advantages.


The challenges that go with being neurodivergent can also hinder many of us from ever seeing meaningful success.

Neurodivergent, autistic, ADD, ADHD

For instance, as a writer, I can tell you I’ve listened to 500+ audiobooks in the past 4 years. Many of those titles I’ve listened to in excess of 20 times.

There is NOTHING “NORMAL” about this.

One of my particular quirks (being autistic) is to learn absolutely everything possible about the topic du jour, which is GREAT. When I write any book, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, I am a veritable encyclopedia of information.

I easily make connections others do not, see patterns others might miss (ADHD). Then, I obsess (the OCD) until it is….SQUIRREL!

Friggin’ ADHD.

Being transparent. Today’s post is longer than usual.

But you and I BOTH know everyone skims, so just roll with it. Pick and choose what might apply to/help YOU.

Or read EVERY word because do you really want to be cleaning right now?

I didn’t think so. So read it twice.

All kidding aside, this post will be divided into two parts. In PART ONE, we will go over what I mean when I say “neurodivergent” and a bit of MY experiences, which you might relate to…or totally want to skip.

No problem.

PART TWO is more “general application.” We’ll cover what it’s like being a neurodivergent author, your strengths, weaknesses, and some tips and tricks to navigate this brave new weird world.

PART ONE: WHAT is “Neurodivergent”?


Being “neurodivergent”—to use super broad strokes—simply means our brains process information…differently. Can this be a “disability” or a “handicap”? Sure. Autism can be so acute the person cannot function outside in the real world (E.g. Rain Man). But not ALL neurodivergent people (or autistic people) are Rain Man.

I explain it to my son this way. For the most part, autistic people are an Apple OS in a Windows OS world. Is it a “disadvantage” to have a Mac OS?

Ask anyone who’s ever tried to find a connector for their Apple laptop so they could do a Power Point presentation….


It can be a hassle, much like my husband’s Android phone fits nicely in the charging cubby in our SUV…whereas my iPhone needs a special “certified” Apple cord, a detailed horoscope, a blood sample, three letters of recommendation, a credit check and a cosigner.

And yes, we will be mixing metaphors more than a 90s DJ today, so just roll with it….

Ice Ice Baby!


Impairment: Tis a FLESH WOUND!

When one claims any impairment due to being neurodivergent, this can be akin to claiming to be visually impaired.

If I am visually impaired, this can mean anything from I need 1.00+ reading glasses to see the directions on a pill bottle to I was born without EYES! It might mean I am colorblind, have nystagmus, macular degeneration, damaged corneas, retinal tears, glaucoma, Sjogren’s Syndrome, etc., etc.

In fact, with visual impairment, I might have a combination of these problems (as well as ancillary, but related issues, such as diabetes or cardiac problems).

When someone says they’re visually impaired, this does not by default, mean they have a seeing eye dog, read only by Braille, and have no lights in their houses…though they might.

Same with being Neurodivergent (or autistic).

The Neurodivergent “Fruit” Salad

My journey to a diagnosis has been a LONG one, for a number of reasons we’ll discuss another time. Suffice to say that a lot of conditions are listed on what is referred to as the Autistic Spectrum. According to Harvard Health:

The word neurodiversity refers to the diversity of all people, but it is often used in the context of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as other neurological or developmental conditions such as ADHD or learning disabilities.

By Nicole Baumer, MD, MEd, Contributor, and Julia Frueh, MD, Guest Contributor

Autism often comes paired with other conditions, such as ADD, ADHD, generalized anxiety disorder, dyslexia, ODC, and so on and so forth. We have a “cluster” of issues.

It is possible to be autistic, and have only say, one comorbidity (E.g. ADD). But, it is just as likely one might have several, or NONE.

There is a saying, “If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.”

We are all a Special Unique Snowflake Fruit Salad, yes. This is a huge part of the challenge many of us face. What combination of weird are you? Still weird, just different weird.


*me clutching pearls* circa 2019

Autism never once crossed my radar. I’d pretty much accepted I was probably ADHD (and most definitely weird). Anyone who’s met me five seconds can see that. But autism? PHSAW!

Then, in 2019, I happened to be the main keynote at a large conference in West Texas. A lovely older author (who was a professional psychiatrist by trade) came up to me after I presented. She told me she thoroughly enjoyed my teaching but she wanted to suggest something, but was worried I’d be offended.

I assured her I had rhino skin.

Her: “Just listening to your anecdotes and watching you, have you ever considered you might be a high-functioning autistic?”

Me: Err? Whah? Pshaw! Seriously?

Her: Autism presents very differently in females and is extremely hard to diagnose because women are better at “masking.”

Me: What’s “masking”?

And thus began a long and painful journey. My entire life, I just thought I was annoying, picky, lazy, high-maintenance, crazy, wasn’t “trying” hard enough, etc. etc.

By about 2022, however, it was becoming painfully obvious I could no longer “outwork” my “disabilities.” I would have to approach things differently unless I wanted to be washing down Oreos with a bottle of tequila.

I go into this more in a previous post Neurodivergent: Being ‘Different’ in Life & Fiction.

My Autism Side

I never really played as a child as much as I “organized” things, whether that was my 10 gazillion stickers, my favorite books, or my Barbie collection (clothes by size, by era, or by color?).

From a very early age, I was a “collector” whether that was Barbies, all things Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Pony, series of books, a brand of pen, a certain series of notebooks.

Lisa Frank? I had ALL…THE…THINGS. Stickers, notebooks, spirals, erasers, pens, calendars, backpacks, posters, etc.

GOD HELP anyone who colored in MY coloring books.

If I played pretend, usually it involved forcing younger children to be students while I was the “teacher.”

***For the record, my little brother still has superlative penmanship and is a voracious reader of all the literary classics.

For me, teaching myself Conversational Swahili using Berlitz tapes from the library or making chlorine gas with that new Chemistry set (TOTALLY AN ACCIDENT) was “play” and “fun.”

Whenever I discovered something new, I had to do/learn ALL THE THINGS about whatever. I BINGED.

True, I struggled to make eye contact when I was young. BUT you get smacked and punished enough and you learn really quickly that eye contact is a big deal to adults.

Since I always struggled with social anxiety, I learned to “mask” by being funny. I was terrible at reading social cues but I could (mostly) cover that up by being “clever.” I remember watching all the great comics, studying their timing, their lines and yeah….

People are less judgy if they’re laughing.

Enough said.

Sensory Issues

As a kid, I refused to wear pants, tights, anything with elastic, or itchy zippers. Often, I tore my clothes apart because I hated the tags, any scratchy fabric (when corduroy was all the rage), wouldn’t wear clips in my hair (gave me headaches), refused headbands (gave me headaches), or hats (yes, gave me headaches).

My mom always bought me the exact same brand of shoes. Always. Maybe change the color, but not the brand. Though my grandmother would buy me other shoes, I’d wear the Buster Browns until…they…DIED.

I had the same shampoo (Johnson & Johnson), the same perfume (Baby Soft, duh), and watched the same movies. To this day, I can pretty much recite “Labyrinth” from memory (and “Grease”, “The Holy Grail”, “Stripes” and “Robin Williams at the Met” and WTH were my parents DOING?)


I’ve always preferred dark/dim lighting, and struggled in school with the bright/fluorescent lights. Mom (who we now know is also ND) never minded that I basically read by candle light (in a tutu, upside down surrounded by my favorite sticker books).

Additionally, I have such super sensitive hearing that it’s caused me terrible sleep issues most of my life.

***I now sleep in noise-canceling head phones because YES, I CAN hear spiders fart.

I loved the same records and am rather shocked my mother didn’t murder me for playing the same FIVE records SIX HUNDRED times a day.

Every day, I packed the very same lunch (peanut butter and honey, cut diagonally and an apple). If we went out to eat, I ordered the exact same thing. If my mom cooked the same meal every night? I was in heaven (and she frequently did cook the same meal every night).

I had the same routine, hated any kind of change, and functioned best when everything was clean, orderly, and organized. In school, I believed in following the rules and fell apart when others didn’t follow the rules.

And teachers who felt the need to be clever and “change up” the seating arrangements?

What is WRONG with YOU?

Not Much Has Changed

I still eat the exact same foods and wear the same clothes. If I find a shirt or pair of pants I love? I buy all of them…in all colors…and wear them until they DIE (and maybe a little bit after death).

I don’t want a new perfume, I want my favorite (thought they keep GETTING RID of my favorites and then I need to find a NEW favorite). When I go out to eat, it is always the same couple of places and they already know my order.

I listen to the same songs (or genre of songs) until I burn myself out, then cycle to my next fave and repeat.

Every morning is the same routine and if anything disrupts this? God help us all.

When I used to take hot yoga, I’d get there 30 minutes early to get MY spot. Right in front so I could see the instructor’s face in the mirror. In the far left corner by the windows so I wasn’t hemmed in on all sides by people.

If anyone got in my spot before me? All I could feel was incandescent rage for two hours…

OHMMMMM….you’re in my spoooot… psychopaaaaaath…..I hope you dieeeeeee….

I’m much better now *left eye twitches*


THIS is where things get jiggy, because as anal and rigid as I can be, my brain is ALSO an explosion of ALL THE IDEAS. I see patterns in everything. Chaos is my middle name.

Back to those 500+ Audible titles? I listen while cleaning, cooking, crocheting, painting, and gardening. It is pretty much impossible for me to do ONE thing at a time.

Kid you not. I’ve been learning Mandarin since April, because doesn’t everyone just decide to learn one of the world’s hardest languages solely FOR FUN?

I will literally be doing a Mandarin lesson, while crocheting and watching television and answering my husband’s questions.

And I CAN do all these things at the same time.

Though this is also how my cellphone ended up in the fridge…and we just don’t need to talk about that.

These 500+ audio books are on top of paper books and ebooks and no I don’t have a problem, DO YOU?


I thought not.

Anyway, as obsessive as I am about order, I can never seem to maintain it.

*openly weeps*

I am very much my own worst enemy. For those on WANATribe, we have been doing writing sprints every day all day (M-F) for like nine years. I pay NING $65 a month to basically maintain focus using peer pressure and timers.

If I put items in a box to “organize,” those items (to me) cease to exist once the lid closes. I need shelves or clear boxes. As brilliant as I think I can be, I am also…an idiot.

My mind is a whirlwind of ideas and facts and tangents and plot bunnies and, and….

PART TWO: Neurodivergent Creatives

What Does This Have to Do With Writing?

conspiracy guy meme, motivation

This is a totally unscientific guess, but I imagine many of you reading this blog (who are usually writers) probably were laughing, nodding, or maybe crying at a lot of this post.

As I’ve said many times before, if you are a writer, you are NOT NORMAL. The NORMAL SHIP sailed without us a long time ago. A lot of ND people gravitate to writing, but we might also struggle to be successful at it.

Ironically, the very things that make us ND can also make us superlative authors, which we’ll go over. Take heart.

Neurodivergent Authors: Autism and Writing

For instance, those of us who are on the autistic spectrum? We’ve literally made it our life’s mission studying human behavior. How do humans interact? What is this body language thing (that we clearly keep MISSING)?

We’ve read books on behavior, read fiction, watched movies, and parsed every tiny interaction. We can be masters at imitation in life and writing, which can be good and bad.

I told jokes for YEARS that had people in stitches, and I had literally NO idea what was even funny…just that people laughed…all the way up until HR talked to me.

So, if you’re autistic, you possibly excel at supreme focus, in depth studying, and understanding/explaining certain subjects in amazing (okay, excruciating) detail.

Just remember that not everyone wants to talk about serial killers, the Black Death, or the evolution of Medieval torture devices at that holiday party.

Unless it’s a holiday party with writers, then you’re probably going to be popular for the first time in your life.

Here are some challenges that I (personally) have found as an autistic writer, so again, I AM NOT A PSYCHIATRIST, I just play one on the internet.

Beware of Too Much Detail

We get SO excited about our world, our technology, or describing the world around us down to the molecular level that we can lose the reader.

Readers want stories about PEOPLE facing adversity. If they want a gazillion pages of pure information, they’re over on Reddit or “correcting/adding to” Wikipedia.

Learn to BEND

Flexibility is your friend. I KNOW you so want to go down that research rabbit hole but STOP. I am here to save you from yourself.

If you are writing your novel and realize you don’t know how to describe, say, a fishing boat, feel free to type INSERT COOL DETAILS ABOUT FISHING BOATS HERE LATER.

Then finish your story (again, that thing about people) and when you are resting after that draft, read all things “commercial fishing” and LAYER those details in later.

I have a writer who started out as a commenter who’s become a lovely friend. He hired me to look at why his sci-fi series wasn’t selling. There was no doubting his work ethic. He had like 15 books at the time.

But, I was only a couple chapters in and saw the problem. Magnificent world-building…but he kind of forgot to focus on the people and their problems (and no shocker, he is ND).

Once his recalibrated his focus? A MILLION TIMES BETTER!

It’s an Outline, Not a Suicide Pact

Many autistic people can fall into being planners and plotters, which is fabulous, unless this rigidity is keeping you from exploring your story in a deeper way.

Stephen King talks about the “boys in the basement.” I can personally attest my subconscious has come up with MUCH cooler stuff than I ever could have planned out ahead of time.

Yet, I will say (largely because I was “overcorrecting” for being ADHD) I’ve had times I refused to change course because I was terrified of being “a flake.” Which is all well and good except when your course is taking you off a CLIFF!

Neurodivergent? Be Mindful of Energy Levels

This actually applies to the autistic as well as other “fruits” in our Special Snowflake Fruit Salad. We can become so engrossed in whatever that we fail to keep in touch with how tired, hungry, or stressed we are.

If you add this on top of the exhausting effort it takes to “appear normal” it is a LOT.

Remember the kind psychiatrist who hinted I “might” be autistic? And how I had no clue what “masking” was?

There was a good reason this took time to discover.

It is because it’s only very recently that the psychiatric community is even admitting ADULTS can be autistic, let alone WOMEN.

*more clutching of pearls*.

Let’s say there just hasn’t been all that much out there until recent years.

But back to masking.

All my life, I struggled with being “fine, fine, fine” then something small/stupid happening—I can’t find my favorite pen—that would absolutely DERAIL me and leave me a hysterical raging mess of tears, snot and apologies.

I had no clue what was causing this (Hint: it’s called an autistic meltdown and applies to most neurodivergent people).

Case in point:

Early this year, I had a professional appointment. No one “mandated” I bring copies of my resume, but why be prepared when you can be OVER-PREPARED?

Suffice to say, my mom had just had surgery, I was trying to get over Whooping Cough, was homeschooling a gifted 8th grader, we’d just had a death in the family, and so I…delegated.

Normally, I would have checked what my husband printed, but I thought, “Kristen! This is you being a control freak. It’s FINE!”


When I opened my leather portfolio in the meeting, to my horror, I realized Hubby had printed all of my pages…crooked.

And in the wrong order.

With the headers cut off.

Good news is Hubby is alive and I am not in jail (or even on bail! Go me!).

I’d yet to learn about the Spoon Theory of Autism (and this also applies to anyone dealing with chronic issues, pain, etc.)

I only have so many spoons of energy until I need to withdraw and regroup…or BOOM!

Now, for Neurodivergent ADD/ADHD Writers

I’ll be the first to admit that I went to extreme lengths to avoid any formal diagnosis. To me, it seemed that too many people were using autism, ADHD/ADD, etc. as an excuse for bad habits, poor character, obnoxious behavior and to be willfully lazy.

***Don’t shout me down, that was MY opinion at the time (and still a little today).

Back in college, I was engaged to a brilliant man who quit halfway through a PhD. He actually quit most things, which was largely why we didn’t work out. Years later, I ran into him and he asked what I was doing. I told him I was a writer.

Him: I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I am way too ADHD.

Me (inside voice): No, you’ve never written a book because you lack the discipline to finish what you start.

***I’m actually much better at the inside words staying inside thing.

If you are ADD/ADHD, you can be a fountain of creativity. You see patterns in everything and make connections others don’t see…until you point them out. Your innovative way of seeing the world can make you a groundbreaking author…

…if you just sit and FINISH.

Remember, if this applies to you, I have one finger pointing at you and the others all pointing at ME.

ADD/ADHD Needs Structure

If you are ADD or ADHD and this doesn’t apply to you? Scroll past or feel free to leave your way of handling things in the comments. For me? I was a hot mess. I had a terrible habit of starting things and never finishing. Did I fail to finish because I was lazy?


***Okay, maybe sometimes.

I failed to finish because I lacked the discipline to stay the course and I followed every single plot bunny…and their babies…and their babies’ babies.

This was HOW I ended up with my first “novel” being 187,000 word romantic-mystery-thriller-suspense-religious-comedy-self-help.

I started blogging back in 2007 (on MySpace) then blogging here in 2008 (???). The main reason I forced myself to blog was to learn to SHIP. It created a space that trained me to get butt IN chair until the work was COMPLETE.

Then LET GO.

And commit to a schedule.

Perfect is the enemy of the finished.

If you are struggling to finish a novel, then maybe do a blog or do a flash fiction every day, week, whatever. Train those writing muscles. More importantly, train those finishing muscles.

For instance, I taught myself to crochet. I am NOT ALLOWED to begin anything new, until what I am working on is finished.

***Reading books? Totally doesn’t count. I usually have like 5 going at any given time.

Neurodivergent: Did I Mention Structure?

description, writing description, Kristen Lamb

This is where we can part ways with those who are autistic (or go to war with our “autistic” side). I believe a lot of pansters likely are ADHD. We actually need to start telling the story to figure OUT the story.

To be blunt? This is a highly inefficient way to write. No shade if it works for you! If you are a panster and finishing novels faster than Mortal KOMBAT? Then don’t change. Duh.

But, if you keep getting off track, then try getting your idea at least into ONE SENTENCE.

I even have to do this with NF.

When I helped write The Trap: Sex, Social Media, and Surveillance Capitalism I HAD to write a small paragraph describing what the book was about. When writing about the dark depths of the digital adult entertainment industry, there were SO MANY tangents.

Jewels and I simply couldn’t cover them ALL in one book. We needed essentially a log-line.

Even for fiction. If you’re neurodivergent (or even if you aren’t) this is GOLD. In ONE sentence, what is your story ABOUT? Even if it is something simple like what I am doing now: My story is about a ghost ship in the derby days of crabbing.

NOT a lot of details, but if I start going down too many trails that suddenly make my story NOT about a ghost ship in the derby days of crabbing…there is a problem.

Neurodivergent to Neuro-DIVERTED: NO to the Bunnies

Again, us ADHD people see patterns and new ways of seeing and doing and thinking and, and, and, and….


IF you are writing your novel, you can take a trick from what I do with my autism. Should you think there is a thread you need to pursue, try writing WHAT IF THEY GO X DIRECTION INSTEAD? Then let your brain sit on it.

At least try to keep moving forward. If that detour, however, does not serve the overall story you are currently working on?

Put it in a folder.

Go to that blog I linked to about log-lines. See if your “plot bunny idea” might have enough meat to stand on its own. Write a log-line and maybe a little synopsis. Then when you FINISH the current idea, your bunny(ies) will be waiting…and likely breeding.

Here is how to write a synopsis, no salt circle necessary. This will keep you from smashing fifteen story ideas into ONE BOOK.

Conversely, IF you are unsure because, like I said, we often talk through/work through to FIND the story, then I highly recommend Google Docs. Break up your story with HEADINGS you can easily shift through (I think Word and Scrivener can do this too).

This will help you trim all that FAT when you get to the end.

For instance, my ghost ship story? My main character needs to be a land-lover greenhorn. So how does he end up on a boat in the Arctic circle? I literally have sections that read Probably NOT Part of Main Story but WTH, WHY NOT? Maybe I will keep it, ditch it. I don’t yet KNOW.

But the header function keeps me from having a bazillion separate documents and allows me to zip through what I already know is a hellaciously over-bloated document.


Neurodivergent, NOT Lazy or “a Flake

Merely different.

The writing profession has never been easy and we now face challenges no writer in this history of PLANET EARTH has ever faced.

A.I. anyone?

We have enough odds stacked against our success without self-sabotaging. This said, before I realized “being neurodivergent” was a thing, and that I might actually BE neurodivergent? I was harder on myself than anyone.

BUT, I also gave myself slack where I shouldn’t have.

To this day, I wear a rubber band on my wrist (to lightly snap) to keep me present so I don’t talk over people. Apparently, people get annoyed when you keep finishing their sentences.

Who knew?

I know I get enthusiastic and I certainly don’t mean to be rude. But that doesn’t mean it is okay for me to be Tigger and bounce through all the conversational crockery making a mess.

Additionally, when I give my word, I strive very hard to keep it and not take on any more work. I ran an editing special back in October, then everything decided it needed to update…so it could then CRASH.

Not kidding.

Word crashed, wiping out over 100 pages of edits. Then WP coughed up a digital hairball. Event Espresso (what I use to “sell” services) decided to toss all messages into the ABYSS and even WANATribe was 404 and took a week to fix.

Edits that normally should have been easy-peasy turned into a month-long nightmare (because of technology; the writing samples were unusually brilliant).

The old me would have just refunded the money out of sheer overwhelm.

But I’ve matured. I let people know what the tech issues were, and figured most people actually are not nearly as hard on me as I am.

Embracing Being Neurodivergent

When my mom sent me to be tested in August (I am NOT joking)…

Yes, my mother had me tested…

Anyway, she asked me what I hoped to gain from an “official” diagnosis. Which, was a fair question.

I wanted to know what are called “critical nodes.” Whenever a company hires a security specialist (like, say for building a DAM in Venezuela), that specialist should point out unique areas of weakness that are inherent to the design.

For instance, if the company is aware that rebel groups might want to sabotage their dam, they don’t want to pay for security everywhere, just the most likely points of attack or system failure.

Same with being neurodivergent.

Was I autistic? Or just wanting an excuse for being controlling? Or was I being over-controlling because of being autistic? Was I ADHD or just undisciplined? A combination of both?

So on and so forth.

For me, since getting a diagnosis, life is MUCH easier (mostly because I can plan and also give myself grace). I no longer feel guilty because I never wear the stunning dress I paid a fortune for, because NOW I know I’m never going wear it because of the seams and type of fabric.

***This also informs me of what to buy/not buy in the future.

Yes, I am swimming in 9,000 different hair clips (which I will donate at the beginning of the year). I kept believing I just had the wrong clip and didn’t put 2 and 2 together that it was a sensory issue.

I’m more mindful that I can be much too loud. People think I am upset or yelling at them. No, my hearing is stupid sensitive. The world (to me) is very, VERY loud.

I hear the AC cutting on and off, the computer processor humming, the traffic, the kids playing outside, the GUY WITH THE LEAF BLOWER, WHAT IS WITH THAT AND HOW IS HE EVERYWHERE?

So, to me, I am talking over a very noisy world.

Again, I use the rubber band. A quick snap on my wrist to remind me to slow down (the ADHD) and assess if the world is really that loud, or if I’m overexcited/overstimulated. Before my diagnosis, I had NO CLUE why I’d get so loud I was irritating people.

Now? I know hurdles I might encounter.

A diagnosis has given me tools to better communicate. For instance, my husband likes getting everywhere at the last minute, whereas I need to be places a half hour early.

We’ve come to an agreement.

IF he wants me to sit still and be quiet, he THEN must get me there early enough to center myself and calm my anxiety (or no kicking me under the pew).

What Are Your Thoughts?

We can talk on this topic again if there is any interest. I just know I felt unbelievably alone until I became a writer…then I DISCOVERED MY PEOPLE!

Trust me, I know that not every writer is ND, but I think many of us are. Additionally, I think a lot of us don’t KNOW we are ND and we beat ourselves up feeling like freaks, weirdos and failures.

I firmly stick by my theory that what can make us brilliant artists is also linked to why we struggle to finish, get/remain organized, have a hard time being able to stick-and-move and change with all the trends…

***OR we are SO good at sticking-and-moving with the trends we forget to WRITE BOOKS.

Did you relate to any of this? Maybe have a friend? A family member? Obviously I know today was a lot, but in the future I’d like to break this all into smaller pieces we can explore.

Do you see yourself in this? Or do you have something to add? I’m totally new to all this so I’m exploring ALL THE THINGS!

Are you ND, but maybe in a different way? A Tropical Fruit Salad (papaya hypoactive, mango dyscalculia, and banana ADD) instead of that North American (apple autism, walnuts OCD, and pear ADHD)?

I LOVE hearing from you! What are your stories, struggles, tips, tricks, links, epiphanies?


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    • Carrie Kwiatkowski on November 22, 2023 at 5:57 pm
    • Reply

    This spoke to me. And yes, recently coming to terms with my ADHD, anxiety, and neurodivergency! All the pieces are settling into place and I’m finally understanding myself after 50 years! Go us! 🙂

    1. I think it’s been so liberating just to know that I have a REAL “issue” in how I think and process. I am not “broken” as much as I have to do things differently and that’s okay.

      And THANK YOU for being patient with the chaos that ensued with all the tech meltdowns. I was practically curled in the fetal position by the time WANATribe 404ed on me. Your writing was TRULY remarkable and I am so happy you were patient with me! I would have hated to miss out on your writing.

    2. I was in my 50s when I was finally diagnosed with ADD.

    • Nancy Rue on November 22, 2023 at 6:08 pm
    • Reply

    I’m not ND — I have other challenges! — but as a writing mentor, I have been so enlightened by what you’ve given us here, I want to go to about 75% of my clients and apologizing for not getting them. Seriously, this is so, so helpful. And also humbling. And a hoot to read!

    1. Well, if y’all like this, then I will probably dedicate more posts to unpacking this (as opposed to drinking from the firehose like today). There was SO MUCH I beat myself up over for years and I really was fine…just needed to understand my brain worked differently. Grasping that? WHOLE NEW WORLD.

      You seem like you really care about your clients, and odds are good they might not know they are ND. MY road to get a good diagnosis was NOT easy and this is in large part because many people who are even in the mental health system are operating off information that is 20 years out of date.

        • Cheryl on November 23, 2023 at 1:01 pm
        • Reply

        Yes. More firehose, please.
        This was a vaguely emotional epiphany mixed with excited intermittent yes – no – yes – yes – kind-of – no – no….
        I guess I didn’t have a good understanding, so thank you (AS ALWAYS) for being so transparent and revealing (if they aren’t contradictory).
        I don’t know how to feel about ‘I have a thing(s)’ vs. ‘I am just a certain way’. After numerous decades and experiences I’ve happily become somewhat more comfortable and accepting of myself. Again — your post here explains much.
        PS: Sounds like *learning* is a big thing, yes? On the Clifton Strengths I’m #1 Context and #2 Learning.

    • Lanette Harris on November 22, 2023 at 6:53 pm
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    About 20 years ago, I read a book about Non-Verbal Learning Disorder while standing in the bookstore. Even though it is not an ASD because ASD is not a learning disorder, the symptoms sound like ASD coupled with hyperlexia. I showed the book to my then-husband and had him read a page. He started laughing and said, “That explains so much about you.” Seriously, the book could have been written about me.

    As you, Kristen, know well that I tried to be a novelist, but I have this problem with sounding too clinical. This might be caused by the fact that I see in words, not pictures, and have poor spatial awareness. It comes out in both my verbal and written communication. And walking through a room. So, I wandered back into school and discovered I’m pretty good at academic writing. While many neuro-divergents are good at spinning stories, I have found my niche in making connections across non-fiction. The problem is when I make connections only I see and my supervisor in his thick Irish accent, asks, “Are we sure about this?” ROFL!

  1. Never diagnosed, but I can easily identify with most everything you just wrote. I great at starting a project, getting 7/8 of the way through it, and then setting it aside to start something new. And never finishing the other 1/8 of the project.

    And you sound like a carbon copy of my daughter.

    Best of luck, and thanks for pointing this out. I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do it yet.

    1. Well, SO GLAD you ASKED! As I am learning and making this journey, I figure I can pass the tips and tricks on to you guys. Seriously, me just RECOGNIZING my limitations was a HUGE deal. You don’t know what you don’t know and I will share more resources as we go.

      1. Have you ever tried being a 9-1-1 dispatcher? Being able to do several things at once is a necessity. Now that I’m just dispatching for the university my skills have atrophied. But there was a time I could hold two different conversations at the same time, while following three other conversations, and typing.

        1. Actually I HAVE! I almost worked for FWPD dispatch out of college, but then I ended up in the tech world which later dovetailed into being a tech writer then a writer and now I am auditing an AI and Machine Learning class (Python) because you know, why NOT? It really is a lot of fun wrangling in my ferret-brain. Can be good sometimes? Other times? Mucho not appreciated-o.

          BUT! I am much better at assessing my strengths and weaknesses.

          Literally the only reason I wouldn’t do that job is I would CARE way too much and adopt everyone and have to make sure they were cared for. I’d turn into dispatcher/social worker/ counselor/BFF.

    • Maria D'Marco on November 22, 2023 at 7:11 pm
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    oh my god — the cackling you’ve created!! The guy and his leaf blower!! I swear he thinks it’s a replacement johnson… ‘i can shoot stuff 20 feet!!’ Then the giant LOUD riding mower comes out… talk about screaming into a pillow until the fluffy wiener dog barks and runs in circles!

    I only know/knew I tested out as an INFP personality–which was bad enough — after this post I suspect everything I do. My most consistent feedback from my editing clients is: I never would have seen what you’ve seen – thank you for so many brand new perspectives/perceptions. It’s nice to hear any positive feedback, of course, but sheeeesh! Am I really that weird?

    I wrote my first short story at 13. Got paid for it. Wrote my first play (a blend of several nursery rhymes into songs, dancing, etc. — this was in the 50s) and acted it out for the entire neighborhood in my friend’s garage, plus my teacher. I was fearless speaking in front of the class/school/any gathering and remained so for the rest of my weird life.
    You made me consider that I just might be just a bit ‘divergent’ — too many points in your post where I seemed to laugh a bit too hard. Hiccups invaded once…

    I’m still cackling about the guy and his relationship with his leaf blower… my neighbor is finally quiet and has gone inside… it’s been fully dark for over an hour. :O)))

    Thanks Kristen — you’re the best!

    • Maria D'Marco on November 22, 2023 at 8:07 pm
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    to Kamas716 and Kristen: another 911 operator here… 3 years, Waco TXPD, then promoted to city/county manager of new 911 center >6 years. During the time of the Branch Davidian tragedy…
    I learned from that experience that I thrived in chaos — when everyone was screaming, I could and did disassociate and remain calm.
    and yes, juggling 7+ things was the ‘norm’ — hard to ratchet down from this kind of overload.

    (My comments aren’t updating, so reading from email alerts)

    • Michelle on November 22, 2023 at 8:39 pm
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    Thanks so much for sharing your story in regards to this part of your life. I can relate to so much of what you said. I was very recently diagnosed with autism, at the age of 53, and it’s answered so many questions about myself. I always thought it was just my introversion that made me who I am. Also, I have sensory issues – I don’t like being touched unless it’s by someone I know really well and trust. I have to know the source of a noise or else it really bugs me. There are certain noises that also really bother me. Light sensitivity is also a big problem for me, but that’s also part of me having light coloured eyes. It’s been scientifically proven that people with lighter coloured eyes are more prone to being sensitive to light, but we can see a lot better in dimmer light, like cats.

    There are so many other things you said to which I relate that it was sort of like reading about myself. Of course this isn’t about me – it’s about you since you wrote it – but it’s great to relate to someone else with similar experiences. Thank-you again for sharing.

    1. Oh SWEETIE! It is about ALL of us! And YES you are correct. I am ALL VIKING. Science has PROVEN we have more cones than rods, meaning we have AMAZING night-vision, but light? Not so much. I am SO HAPPY you connected to this post and I hope to blog a lot more that might be of help. THANK YOU for taking the time to comment!

        • Michelle on November 22, 2023 at 9:35 pm
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  2. Oh wow! I relate to SO much you’ve written! I have about half of the same issues (and am restraining myself from writing all the stories), but the other ones are unique to me. I went to professional counseling in my forties for a year and a half, but we only got through my undiagnosed PTSD from childhood and from my present situation … my other “quirks” were mild in comparison.

    I can only be myself, so I’ve come to terms with that. Over time I’ve learned how to use my unique qualities to my advantage, and how to work around them when I don’t fit in the “real world.” I struggle with things I won’t verbalize to anyone, but I remind myself that everyone struggles with something.

    I appreciate you writing about this topic, and I’d love to read more. It truly helps. Thank you!

    • Roger L Nay on November 22, 2023 at 9:35 pm
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    Interesting and revealing, I read every word, no skimming, but only once. Have a happy, well organized Thanksgiving.

    • Jan on November 22, 2023 at 9:42 pm
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    Kristin, in my neighborhood it’s a young woman with the leaf blower, and she dresses up like she is tending the bee hives. But she is still everywhere, all the time. I laughed and shook my head throughout your post. You are not alone and those of us who are neurodivergent to any degree enjoy each other’s company, and particularly each other’s writing. Love yours.

  3. Some ND traits I think yes! my goodness! that’s me! and other’s I’m like um, no, clearly not the right diagnosis. So…. I dunno. But if you need an in-depth breakdown of the three forms of Black Death (Yersinia pestis) I can totally help you out with that!

    1. Again…FRUIT SALAD. You might have some of these and not others. I STRONGLY suspect creatives have at least one of these, but hey I am no expert on this. Regardless, I think some of the tips I will be sharing might help most people in the modern world because if you’re not (YET) crazy? It will make you that way.

    • Jean Lamb on November 23, 2023 at 12:00 am
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    I pass for neurotypical (shhh sound/visceral synesthesia, this blog is not about dancing! Well, maybe later?) but even I have learned not to talk about 1930’s methods of execution in the Midwest at restaurants (unless I’m talking to an expert whom I want information from, so sue me). And have learned to add ‘in my story’ in a slightly louder tone of voice when a friend of mine and I are discussing how to dispose of a character’s body. Well, mostly.

    But I am so passing this column onto a friend of mine who was diagnosed late and I suspect will recognize herself here.

    • Charlotte Firbank-King on November 23, 2023 at 1:22 am
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    It’s been a long time since I laughed so hard at a blog–any blog. Hate to break it to ya, Kristen, you, Are. Funny. Suck it up.
    I always knew I was OCD, now I’m wondering if I’m more and need a padded room. My son asked me once if it was hard to live with my brain. Didn’t know what to make of that. I like my brain–most times. But I definitely need to get some of those irons out the fire, but my “NO” button is broken.

  4. I hate to admit this, but after reading your post I am rather sorry that I’m not neurodiverse… or am I?

    1. It is a BIG fruit salad. Who knows?

      1. There are worse things to be, Kristen…

    • Mike Clayton on November 23, 2023 at 12:30 pm
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    So, you traitor, you choose Mandarin instead of Croatian?
    SHAME 😀
    I’m ADHD, recently diagnosed, and the same thing happened to me – a nice person approached me and mentioned autism… and the rest is history, because of course I learned everything I could about autism and also got tested. My numbers are sky high, but it’s also my masking. Of course.
    Thank you for this post <3

    • Larry Atchley Jr on November 23, 2023 at 2:34 pm
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    Thank you for addressing this topic. I’ve suspected that I might have some degree of autism and be neurodivergent for awhile. I relate to a lot of what you talked about. Your breaking down these traits and habits and ways to manage them to stay functional and not annoy everyone around me are helpful. I think that ND can both be a benefit and hindrance to my writing, as you mentioned. I just need to figure out ways to channel it in a positive and productive direction more often.

    • Therese on November 23, 2023 at 4:19 pm
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    I just self diagnosed as apple (autistic) after 4 family members were officially diagnosed (at only 64). WHAT a relief! This is one of the best takes on discovery I’ve read—not angry, just real. A great attitude. Thank you. I’ve been subscribed a long time as a writer, and now am looking forward to going on this journey with you.

    • Lauri Meyers on November 25, 2023 at 9:41 am
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    Thank you for this! Before taking my teen for analysis this spring, I did lots of reading and easily saw her in the lists of symptoms. I also had a lot of “oh that’s me” and “is that why I…” moments. We both said “facts” to the same memes in your article. There are so many ways to get lost on this journey, but thank you for pointing out it’s not blatant laziness, but it can be fear, frustration, uncertainty, energy renewal time that happens to occur on the couch binge watching Black Mirror and can look a lot like lazy.

  5. Great piece. Explains so much.

    • Harshi S on November 27, 2023 at 7:03 am
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    I like your article. A lot of your advice for writing applies to school. The idea for writing down plot bunnies is great for school essays and independent projects as well as creative writing.

    • Libby on November 27, 2023 at 1:26 pm
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    Kristen, thank you so much for this article. I come from a family of NDs – autism, ADD, OCD. Though mom was “quirky”, it wasn’t until she passed and my youngest was diagnosed with autism, that I realized I was, my other two children are as well as others on one side of my family. This really hit a lot of buttons for me and I have been feeling rather overwhelmed the past year and it will be at least another another six months before we are settled in a new area. Yet…I berate myself for not finishing my script, for not finishing a draft, an outline, an article. But the truth is I am currently overwhelmed and I have to know that I need to just chill and not feel like I’m failing because of it. This was a wonderful article…SQUIRREL!

    1. A LOT of the diagnosis for me has been understanding my limitations and then working around those. For instance, I love doing NaNoWriMo. But I also have a day job WRITING and I homeschool a gifted 9th grader and because I have a crap ton of food sensitivities, I do ALL the cooking. That’s a LOT. But maybe I finish NaNO, maybe I don’t. I won’t see it as a failure because having a great time making memories with my family was more important than a self-imposed deadline.

      I am learning it is okay to NOT be okay. That I might just need a break, a nap, or to take some irons out of the fire.

      But I am really happy that a lot of people got some validation out of this. Sometimes it is really that simple. Would you hate your iPhone because the Android didn’t fit, or overloaded your device? OR would you simply recognize an obvious fact. THAT charger doesn’t FIT/WORK on THAT phone…then get the right way to charge it.

      The world keeps telling us we are broken because we can’t do things just like them, and that is about as intelligent as being angry at an iPhone because the android charger doesn’t fit. Or US feeling “less than” because why? We are a bit different?

      Take the break and enjoy the SQUIRRELS!

    • Libby on November 27, 2023 at 1:29 pm
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    I work in emergency management as my day job. The routine is well…routine. But when there’s an emergency…”I’ve trained my whole life for this moment.”

  6. “It’s an Outline, Not a Suicide Pact”

    I laughed way too hard and long at this … are you sure? X)

    I’ve always wanted to be a published author, but for most of my life I could never finish any of the books I started. Then in 2014 or so I heard about pantsing vs plotting and realized I’ve been a lifelong plotter. Planning out every detail, weeks of research, world building to the heavens … check. But character building, making problems to solve, a plot? – you know, all that fluff other people like in their stories? – I lost interest when it came time to write those things. But after hearing what pantsing is, I tried it and actually finished my first book! (Ok, it ended To be continued … and I never bothered to write the second book because I knew how the story would end, so why bother? but I did finish one! Huzzah!)

    I keep telling myself I should be an author, but it’s just too overwhelming to have to write all that stuff I normally fast forward through in shows and movies. It never occurred to me to blame it on being autistic because I only found out for sure that’s what I am about 4 or 5 years ago. Who knew? But it least now I know why I don’t find all that life stuff like dating or plotting revenge or planning a party even remotely interesting. Why are you wasting time kissing in the lab?? Tell me how they built the hadron collider; give me all the details!

    I don’t think I’m lazy. I just lack interest in what others love. I don’t know how to fix that either. I do love writing, but I don’t know how to write anything that would actually sell. If I knew how to build video games, I’d create worlds I could play in, which is all I really want to do when I’m writing. Just meander. I did try blogging for about a year, but I had a hard time finding topics to write about that interested me enough to say something on it. I like daydreaming of worlds unseen, but I don’t know that I’ll ever make any money off of it.

    Anyway, this was really fun to read, so I thought I’d let you know. Thanks for the laughs! 🙂

    1. THANK YOU for the awesome comment and I totally get what you are saying. The thing is, if we are autistic, so is a lot of our audience. This is WHY there actually IS a market for techno-thrillers, or super detailed space operas, or Tolkien-esque fantasy. What I would recommend is that yes create that world but just remember there are timeless themes all humans love.

      For instance, I could never write “A Game of Thrones” (books ASoIaF) or the series. Why? My brains doesn’t work that way. I cannot layer all this human intricacy. I can possibly watch and appreciate it, but for me it is way too many moving parts.

      But guess what?

      “Predator” was a timeless movie for a reason. Simple premise. What is good and bad? Who is the hunter and who is the hunted? Not a seriously “emotional” plot but it took timeless human values of nobility, the warrior, testing yourself, and HONOR.

      Why do we remember the movie? Not for the special effects (which were all COOL). We (fans) remember when, at the end, the Predator takes off his armor for the simple reason that the human EARNED his RESPECT. It was no longer HONORABLE for him to use all the high-tech space gadgetry to hunt the human.

      I don’t know if this answer helps you that much but there are massive audiences who love all the detailed world and the gadgets. The writer’s JOB, however, is to give them a human connection so they can see themselves as a hero of a (YOUR) story.

      Even if you look at a lot of Asimov, LOTS of tech…but asks BIG questions. “You humans create AI, but at WHAT POINT do we (as GOD) have a moral responsibility to our creation?”

      Crichton did this, too. I was a voracious Crichton reader and again, a LOT of world-building, a lot of detail…BUT we have to remember the human connection. We ALL remember that line from “Jurassic Park.”

      Totally paraphrasing…

      “Your scientists were so busy thinking if they COULD, they didn’t stop to think if they SHOULD.”

      Thus, the WHOLE BOOK was a crap ton of details, science, paleontology. The movie was a ton of CGI and robotic dinosaurs….

      BUT, the story took time to ask the very HUMAN question.

      A long way to say that I do think those of us who can be ND in that way. That said, Crichton and those like him proved there totally IS a place for us. We just have to recognize we can get so immersed in the world and the details we might forget to install the outlets where humans (code for “readers”) can plug in.

      And, in fairness, nothing wrong with writing video game fan fiction. I love the HALO books and would love to write fan fiction for “Gears of War.” That might be a great outlet for you. Ultimately, we CAN write because it is fun and for no other reason. That is an option.

      Just if you want to SELL books, look to WHO your audience IS and write for THEM. Give them a place to be the hero.

    • Harshi S on November 29, 2023 at 10:49 am
    • Reply

    I’ve been suspecting some fruit salad for awhile and this might propel me to ask my mom to find a psychologist. Thanks for this post. I also relate to being type A+ (I’m an 8th grade homeschooler, for context) and used to track how long I spent sleeping by the minute when I was 9 to make sure I didn’t sleep more than 8 hours on a school night, since that’s the average for an adult and I wanted to be an adult so I could by potato chips and do math, read, or draw until 1 am. Napping once every couple weeks can be fun and helpful.

  7. WOW! I knew there were other reasons that I liked your posts so much (besides your cleverly hilarious remarks at just the right moment)! I was diagnosed with ASD about a year ago while my grandson was getting diagnosed. Two for one. I love to multi-task. Thanks for this post. I actually discovered that I like ASD people better. No offense to the neurotypicals out there. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

  8. I’ve thought for quite a while that I have ADD or some version of it. I saw bits and pieces of myself in what you wrote. Thanks!

    • Kit on December 4, 2023 at 8:59 pm
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    This post was super insightful and helpful. It explains so much of what my unnamed family member is going through right now. I have the super hearing, and she doesn’t, but otherwise, you described her perfectly. The ADHD meds no longer work well, and even the ADHD was never officially diagnosed. We’ll definitely look into other diagnoses.
    This post was also helpful in understanding character development. I always learn so much about writing from your blog. Thank you! If we can get our house in order (ADHD for over 40 together has taken its toll), I’ll get my writing back on track. (Okay, I shouldn’t blame her, but having space to write and breathe would be helpful.)

    • Anne Hagan on December 6, 2023 at 12:00 pm
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    I’ve known people diagnosed as autistic most of my 57 years. When we had a 2 1/2 year old foster child placed with us it became quickly apparent to both of us that he was both brilliant and on the spectrum and we fought for over a year to get him diagnosed – because no one will attempt it before a child is 3. We’re still fighting to get him a specific type of therapy he needs now that he’s 5 (today) and we’re a couple of weeks away from adoption. Through all of our struggles to help him, I started to suspect many things about myself. The OCD. The ability to start but never complete the last 1/10th of major tasks until faced with a deadline. The superhuman hearing that never lets me sleep. Being loud myself and often not realizing it until someone points it out. It goes on and on. Your post was like looking in a mirror. I imagine I should get tested.

    1. Yeah…probably. I am going to blog a LOT more because I think there are so many of us out there they’ve missed. That will be next post, “Why are there ‘suddenly’ so many ND people?”

    • adriana gillander on January 29, 2024 at 4:13 pm
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    Whoaaa! and WOWWWW! and Woo HOOOO!
    1. Thank you for your descriptions, your vulnerability and your frankness!
    2. Your memes are absolutely perfect! (also I cannot thank you enough for none of them being animated- i cannot handle that. )
    3. I’m exploring my own neurodivergence now and possible misdiagnosis. So many of the points you referred to are exceptionally helpful with my own ongoing testing as a 40 plus female, that keeps burning out:)
    4. I’ll look more on your site, as I’m guessing you’ve probably covered it but I’ve really been struggling with the editing phase of writing – as your meme regarding the emotion of writing vs. editing the first draft was spot on (angels vs. chaos) – however I tend to squirrel about the process from plot, to character, to historical word choice, and it is all overwhelming! Then when I read editing books – their specific formula- while appreciated, doesn’t seem to align to with ND nuances. And I am left spinning plates on the Ed Sullivan Show, Overwhelmed and “unproductive”.

I LOVE hearing your thoughts!

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