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Writers Just Wanna Have Fun

Updated: Feb 7, 2023

I had intended to write about Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria and how it affects neurodiverse writers, but some random guy on Facebook changed my mind.

Ironically, this is kind of about RSD anyway, much as I hate to admit it, but from a much earthier place — instead of the lofty heights I had envisaged. Not to worry. If I have learned anything about writing, it’s that you have to roll with whatever gets you going.

I held a beginner’s writing class recently, in my hometown, aimed at absolute beginners. People who struggle with spelling or break out in hives at the mention of adverbial phrases; the ones who probably had a bad experience at school. Writing for the terrified, if you will. I opened this up to anyone with a desire to write, anticipating that 10% or so would be neurodiverse, and the ones least likely to experience criticism as water off a duck’s back.

The ND brain is wired up in such a way that even the tiniest, gentlest “Hmm, this is good but maybe you could be more descriptive” can bruise us more than it would the average budding Hemingway.

I put off writing for years, because of fear of what people might think or say, and even now, a thanks-but-this-isn’t-the-right-fit-for-us email can result in days of wound-licking and dramatic vows to never write again.

The fledgling ND writer needs an extra layer of support; environments that are safe to write in, people who are interested in our work and who don’t give a toss about the rules.

Enter my class.

My whole thing was about getting people on the page. Sod the spelling. Sod grammar. And most of all, sod being dictated to about what kind of writing is valid, and what isn’t.

So I posted an ad, and boosted it (I don’t like giving Zuckerberg my hard earned dosh but what’s a girl with no marketing experience to do?)

I was pretty happy with it. The tone was warm, informal and contains a friendly touch of the vernacular:

And then I waited for the comments.

I mean, we all know that social media brings out the mean-spiritedness in people, but check out this guy:

Oh dear, David. And his buddy Christine who bigged up this searing, intellectual take-down. A mic-drop moment to be proud of, I’m sure.

Of course, my immediate reaction as an ADHDer with rejection sensitivity was to go into a shame spiral, as in: “Oh Christ, what have I done? This entire advert might as well say “Come and work with me and let me ruin your chances of being a writer with my cavalier use of colloquialisms.”

And then I calmed down and realised that David and his cackling cheerleader were unwittingly illustrating better than I ever could why the class was necessary.

Apart from being disorganised and highly distractible, the ND writer fears judgement. Our work won’t be good enough. We’ll be ridiculed for being unable to identify a dangling preposition, and surely, this deprives us of the right to make marks on paper, doesn’t it? If our writing doesn’t match up to the rules we were meant to learn in airless, soulless classrooms in the seventies, we might as well not bother, right?

Well folks I have news for you.

None of that shit matters.

I feel compelled to quote Gertrude Stein, who decided that “Punctuation is necessary only for the feeble-minded.” She also believed that commas were stupid, on the grounds that people know when to breathe and don’t need to be told.

Have a look at Joyce. Or Beckett.

Yeah, I know. You have to know the rules in the first place to be able to mess around with them. I suppose it depends on how badly you want your audience to understand what you’re trying to say.

But this is missing the point, which is this: how many beautiful pieces of work have not come into the world due to fear of not meeting some arbitrarily decided standard?

I’m guessing enough to choke a Blackpool donkey, as my Father would have said.

Writing doesn’t have to be perfect, especially if you are writing for the good of your health, or your own entertainment. It’s better to write badly than not to write at all. I believe this in my very core, and it’s what gets me on the page every time.

Keep writing, my friends. Ignore the grammar police and the spelling fascists and keep unleashing your badly spelled, idiomatic, imperfect writing into the world.

And do it however ya wanna.

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