I Asked a Neural Network to Help Me Write

I’ve been scrambling to finish the draft of Nahara the last few weeks, which hasn’t left much time or brainpower left for trenchant blog commentary. But it has left time to giggle madly at neural networks.

Meet Transformer, which completes texts one word at a time based on what it learns by reading the Internet. It’s a bit like predictive text, only much, much more well-read (well…it’s read more, anyway).

Being a neural network, however, it’s remarkably bad at some things. In particular, lists.

So of course I asked it to make me some lists. My prompts are in bold.

I Asked a Neural Network to Help Me Write

Birthstones

1. January: Garnet
2. February: Amethyst
3. March: 
 Mauve
4. April: Pearl
5. May: Ruby
6. June: Topaz
7. July: Citrine (if you have it)
8. July 31 – August 4
9. September: Garnet
10. October:  Amethyst
11. November: Pearl
12. December: Ruby
13. January: Topaz
14. February: Garnet
15. March: Citrine
16. April:  Amethyst
17. March 31 – January 9 (2 days after patch – patch is available, but won’t update.)

Nancy Drew Mysteries

1. The Secret of the Old Clock
2. The Hidden Staircase
3. The Bungalow Mystery
4. 
 The Secret of the Big Bottom Beds
5. The Mysterious Black Door in the Clock Tower
6. The Disappearance of a Woman at the Clock Tower
7. The Clock Shop Maniac Who Sold His Wedding Ring to Jack Sparrow
8. The Clock Tower, Where the Clockmaker Has Died
9. The Clock Factory
10. The Clockmaker Who Never Came Back

Every Disney Princess

1. Snow White
2. Cinderella
3. Aurora
4. Ariel
5. Belle

6. Donald
7. Tiana
8. Sleeping Beauty
9. Anna or Olaf
10. Sleeping Beauty

US Cabinet Positions

1. State
2. Defense
3. Treasury
4. Energy
5. 
 Other

So, that’s a complete list of potential threats to the federal government.

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“Happy Birthday” is the Worst Song Ever Written

Folks, there’s something I need to get off my chest.

It’s “Happy Birthday.”

THIS SONG IS A GARBAGE NIGHTMARE DISASTER.

Think about it. If you were writing a song that all kinds of people would be obligated to sing several times a year, regardless of their background in music, wouldn’t you pick something that was, say, easy to sing? Something with notes and intervals that were easy to hear and mimic?

Well, we didn’t get that. We got this monstrosity.

Here’s why “Happy Birthday” is absolutely the worst song ever written.

worstbirthday

First of all, it doesn’t start on do. Try to write this thing down, or accompany it on piano or guitar, based on what you think you know about simple children’s melodies every freaking person in the Western world has known for a century and GET READY FOR THE ACCIDENTALS BECAUSE HOLY CRAP THEY’RE EVERYWHERE.

So the first note: crap.

The second note: also crap. Sol-la is one of the hardest intervals to sing in tune. You can fake your way through “Happy,” but “Birth” is always going to sound like your dog just died. Always.

“Day” is back to sol, but hold onto your cheap paper hat, because “to” jumps all the way up to “do,” and then “you” lands on “ti.” Wanna know what the other hardest interval to sing in tune is? SURPRISE IT’S RIGHT HERE.

We’re four words in and this song is already a nightmare. Not least because the shape of that line puts the emphasis not on any word that ACTUALLY MATTERS. What’s the most important thing about this event? Not happy, birthday, or you. Oh no. It’s TO.

Oh good, at least the lyrics repeat! But wait…

THE MELODY DOES NOT REPEAT EVEN THOUGH THE LYRICS DO.

You think it’s going to. You even get a second try at that crappy sol-la interval. But instead of going back up to “do,” you need to push even higher, to “re.” I hope you practiced your sixths haha just kidding of course you didn’t.

Again, the most important thing in this song, according to the melody, is that it is TO someone. Who they are or what day it is or what kind of day you wish them to have is irrelevant nonsense.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Quick: Name a song that forces you to jump an octave and that is easy to sing. You can’t. But you’re about to do it anyway, because the next leap between “birth” and “day” is one.

Why is this melody so unsingable? Ah well, it’s not like anyone will ever need to sing this in public OH WAIT.

Next up is do-la-do, an absolutely astounding set of intervals. It’s definitely not just close enough to do-sol-do, THE ONE EVERYONE CAN ACTUALLY HEAR, to royally mess with everyone’s feeble attempt to sing it. You can’t even remember who you’re singing to at this point anyway, so mumbling their name wildly out of pitch is for the best.

Also, you are now mumbling a tenth lower than you were forced to sing earlier. Sure. Fine. Whatever. 1000 years of Western music went home drunk four measures ago.

And the chord structure. Dear God, the chord structure.

I’ll accept I-V-V-I, which are the first two lines. Uninspired, but at least it sounds okay.

Then we skip to IV, which is a nice way to indicate that something new is going on. Okay.

But then. BUT THEN.

I. We’re back on I. But it’s not just any I; it’s do-fa-la, not do-mi-sol. And it lasts only two beats before we’re back to IV, aka fa-la-ti.

I would accept this in a normal song, but “Happy Birthday” is not a normal song. It’s a toxic hellbeast bent on making every human with a functioning set of vocal chords sing out of tune. TWO BEATS ON THE ROOT AIN’T GONNA CUT IT.

Now, normal chord structures for simple songs repeat. Does this one? OF COURSE NOT. Have two beats of IV, then V, then I. You haven’t seen this pattern before or since!

HAVE A COMPLETELY BIZARRE AND POINTLESS CHORD STRUCTURE ON THE HOUSE. IT’S SOMEONE’S BIRTHDAY APPARENTLY.

The only good thing – I repeat, the ONLY good thing – about this song is that it resolves on do, in a nice solid I chord, allowing everyone present to clap heartily that this overrated vocal nightmare has finally ended.


Birthday songs are terrible; birthday coffee is awesome.

The Celebration of Mothers and Motherhood and Maternal People Who Mothered Us: A Predictive-Text History of Mother’s Day

It’s that time again, folks. I dumped the top 20 Google search results for “Mother’s Day” into Botnik’s predictive-text app, and here are the results. 

Please enjoy this predictive-text history of Mother’s Day in the US and other countries, brought to you by Botnik.

danialexis.net (3)

The Celebration of Mothers and Motherhood and Maternal People Who Mothered Us: A History of Mother’s Face

Mother’s Day was needed.

Anna Jarvis trademarked the first official mother, who was originally imported from Antwerp. [citation needed] 

Anna resented that mother’s traditional commercialization was celebrated. Women were unsuccessful at being seen as much of anything.  Only women’s golf could reclaim their pawned sewing. 

Motherhood needed to improve. The sacrifices mothers made for the holidays would overwhelm most people.

Political Carnations for Mother’s Day

On the first Mother’s Day, cards were slaughtered by the state governors. Children helped mother give herself an occasion for sales. 

The same day, a special cake resembling a white carnation was held at least four times. The special cake made mothers everywhere organize protests, because it cost too much. 

Advocating peace and freedom, mothers fought hard to prevent businesses from profiting by giving away New York. Unsuccessful control of women led to voters.

President Woodrow Wilson named mother goddesses to the Protestant Church, which consumed much of Lent in 1908. In 1925, November was first ridiculed by President Roosevelt. 

Years later, broadened by continuing enthusiasm, peace became popular again. In 1904, 1948, and April 2017, three children were awarded medals for helping their mothers with breakfast. All three children were notorious attention-seekers.

Anna Jarvis never profited from Mother’s Day. Because of this, Anna resented Nazi control of flowers and other gifts. Anna Jarvis died thousands of years later, denouncing mother’s annual remembrance from her hometown.

Families Gather Together

Children spend approximately $2.6 billion on pampering their mothers. Breakfast is considered mother’s favorite, and plastic flowers are the leading food choice.

Kids peak on this day, so tradition is to give their school a public protest. Or mom can just sleep in. 

Fundraisers outside the home offer roses to families that cannot celebrate the individual.

Today, fathers can also receive gifts, including spa services held in Philadelphia. Fathers can be mothers who died, too.

Father’s Day is celebrated in preschools, but only by children. Mother’s actions and patience for disturbing chores power Mother’s Day guilt.

Celebrating This Special Day

Secular American traditions of Mother’s Day have been created by conflicts around the world. War ended in 1865, years earlier than anyone needed.

According to Hallmark, mortality is widely associated with revering mothers. Cards remain the most important choices honoring motherhood. Letters honoring spa packages have withered, but anyone can pick up the phone. Vacuums put mother in a sanitarium.

Honor mothers and humans by spending most of your own money on women. Motherhood can feel bad, so feminist groups are encouraged.

To make Mother’s Day special, practice mother’s favorite ethics. Improve mom with different forms of $, and try to lower your wallet. Society will enjoy the idea.

 

How I Became a Writer

In my Quora inbox there are, as we speak, no fewer than nine different answer requests for variations on the same question: “How did you become a writer?”

Gather round, and ye shall hear my tale.

howwriter.jpg

I Discover Chapter Books

About a month into kindergarten, in ye fabled year 1987, we went to the school library for the first time. We were read a story by one of the school librarians and then turned loose onto the two rows of children’s books at the front of the room.

I didn’t even make it to the shelves, however, before the school librarian stopped me. “Are you Danielle?”

I said I was.

“I want to show you something,” she said, and led me to one of the tall shelves full of “big kid books” that we’d passed on the way into the library. And that’s how I met Ramona Quimby.

Ramona the Pest was the first chapter book I ever read. It took me a little less than a week to read, on my own, in between kindergarten activities like playing with clay and trying to trace my name. And I was hooked.

I knew what books were long before that first library day. I’d grown up surrounded by them, and I was reading fluently when I started kindergarten. But something about Beverly Cleary’s work made me realize, at age five, that books didn’t appear out of thin air. They existed because somebody wrote them.

I wanted to be that person. I wanted to be a writer.

I Become a Master of Plot

Fast-forward to the spring of 1990. I’m now in second grade, where reading Beverly Cleary is pretty common (I’ve moved on to The Boxcar Children, Agatha Christie, and the Baby-sitters Club). My teacher announces that we’re all going to write our own stories.

Over the course of several weeks, we write stories, edit them, draw the accompanying pictures, and paste everything into those little blue booklets I wouldn’t see again until 2005, when I had to write law school exams in them.

My book was called The Violet That Played the Violin. That was also the entire plot.

That book was the moment that I realized that not only did books exist because people wrote them, but that I had now written a book. That meant I was a writer.

Writers Write

The Violet That Played the Violin had rocketed me to the pinnacle of writerdom. Suddenly, I was no longer a kid who wanted to be a writer; I was a writer.

And writers write. So I wrote.

I acquired the first of a truly staggering collection of blank books and wrote a short story, “The Cat Who Made a Quilt.” In the interests of full disclosure and also total self-embarrassment, here’s the full text:

Once upon a time in the old city of Swanland, which is now Paris, there was a cat. She loved to sew patchwork quilts. Almost everyone in Swanland had a quilt made by the cat.

Everyone except Old Barney, the bulldog.

The cat’s name was Kitten. Kitten said one say, “I want to make a special quilt, but I don’t have an idea.” So she set out to find an idea.

First she tried to think of an idea. All that popped into Kitten’s head were the ideas for her old quilts. So she asked her friends. They didn’t have any ideas either. So she went to the fabric store, where she usually got her patterns and fabric.

First she decided to make a quilt for Old Barney, to make him feel better. There was only one problem. Old Barney was her enemy, not her friend.

But she found a pattern. She found a pattern just right for a dog. It had dogs doing almost anything a dog can do outside.

Kitten sewed it together and then asked Anne, the prettiest poodle in town, to deliver it to Old Barney. Anne did, and Old Barney fell in love with her, and Kitten’s troubles were over.

So she went back to the pattern store, and got a new pattern. This one was beautiful. It had all sorts of different things on it. Kitten sewed it together and kept it in her family forever.

The End.

One can see the rapid evolution of my craft in this piece. It has a plot!

Starting at this point (May 1990), I was never without a working notebook again. Sometimes that notebook was the same notebook as the one I used for schoolwork, and sometimes it wasn’t. But I always, always had a notebook with me, and I got extremely itchy when I was separated from it.

And I wrote. Daily. Because writers write.

Stealth Writing and What I Learned from Fanfic

Nearly all of the “note taking” I did in high school was actually writing fan fiction. A friend and I had a joint X-Files fanfic that we’d pass back and forth between classes, each of us writing a paragraph or two instead of actually doing our schoolwork. I wrote the equivalent of two or three novels’ worth of fanfiction every year between tenth grade and the end of law school (ca. 1997-2007).

I had help from my dad as well. He and I wrote several stories and poems together when I was in elementary and middle school. There was Snow, the Christmas Horse, a novella about a poor family that sells its beloved horse and gets her back just in time for Christmas, and a 24-installment mystery in which the original American Girls (Kirsten, Samantha and Molly) search for a missing silver cup, which was probably the first piece of fan fiction I ever wrote.

Fan fiction was absolutely essential to my eventual career in which I actually write in exchange for actual cash moneys. Fan fiction taught me a lot about characterization, pacing and scene development. It also taught me why Shift+F7 is not your friend and why words ending in -ly will not in fact make your story better.

Where Ideas Come From

I honestly don’t remember having been troubled by “where ideas come from” when I was a kid. The point of being a writer was to write, not necessarily to have ideas for The Great American Novel or whatever.

So I didn’t always try to write fiction. Sometimes writing consisted of copying entire poems out of my dad’s Oxford anthologies. Sometimes it involved character assassinations of whichever classmate had treated me crappily that day. For two weeks in eighth grade, it consisted of trying to translate the US Constitution into ordinary middle-school English.

The point was to fill a notebook a month. I didn’t matter what I filled it with.

All that copying, translating and character assassination taught me a lot about writing, too. By copying, I started to see how other writers had constructed sentences and paragraphs. Character assassination taught me how to build characters convincingly, making their flaws and position within the story clear without sounding too melodramatic or unreliable as a narrator. Translation taught me how to state clearly what I meant.

By the time I left high school, the basic structure of my writing skills was already in place. My writing has improved dramatically during that time, but the fundamentals I fall back on today were all things I learned between the ages of seven and 17.

I learned them by writing. Because that’s what writers do.

History of Jesus Day: A Predictive Text Guide to Holiday Fun

It’s time once again for holiday joy brought to you by Botnik‘s predictive-text writer.

One of the most bemusing parts of building a predictive text bank for several US holidays is that these holidays are both highly religious and highly commercial in nature. We saw a hint of this with the St. Patrick’s Day post, but it gets even weirder with Easter – arguably the most important day in the Christian calendar and also in the chocolate bunny sales calendar.

I dropped the top 20 search results for “Easter” into Botnik. Here’s everything you need for a “hoppy” holiday.

DANIALEXIS.NET (2)

History of Jesus Day

(a predictive-text guide to Easter by Botnik)

Easter, or White Sparkly Easter, celebrates the resurrection of Jesus’s crochet skills. Consequently, it’s the tutorial we love giving and getting.

Lent: A Great Treat

Easter begins with Lent, a small piece of tape, and a pipe cleaner through the eye. Lent is believed to bring health over the next year, when bunnies lay fertility leaves across your chair. Lent astounds me.

God foam just makes Lent immediately more fun. Special ideas for activities include going to visit church and taking pictures of the foam on the Christian agenda. This is called “Palm Sunday” and serves as the start of Jesus Week.

Passover: Feasts for Everyone

Easter is also associated with the hexagonal corners of Passover, in which one takes less than a second to create this adorable woodland creature. Historians question Easter bunnies’ creativity, but by cutting cupcakes out of Passover feasts, you can probably change everything they know.

Passover feasts are as easy as human sized traditions to share. Crackers and icing make an omelet, or you can eat real food. Some households even let kids get their own template!

 Pagan Origins in Pagan Celebrations

Jesus celebrated fertility and mud pies. In pagan times before Jesus, branches of Christianity had such an awesome handmade craft!

Pagans claimed to create Easter over 25+ years in a DIY plastic egg. Decorating Easter quietly, or turning kids into makeshift stamps, can help historians question this story.

Pagan traditions include salmon crafting, afternoon bunny slime, and recipes for more creativity. Pagans do not be edible, but after Mass, rolling eggs downhill can make even the most popular kids suffer. These sufferings are viewed as an agricultural victory.

Easter Services That Pop

At an Easter service, females with flowers sit on top of the Gospels, while essentially ignoring their own death. Men may dump cold water on potato halves, making handprints on Ash Wednesday to keep in Eastern Orthodox countries. Children run about their rooms, holding onto salvation and flossing with God.

Are crafty things perfect for your perfect kiddos? Make adorable art for your favorite death by crucifixion! Easy peasy fun ideas for making all religions Easter include attaching googly eyes on your family to share salvation.

Surprise the tutorial by cutting eggs into tiny craft balls. Glue gun instructions to Pontius Pilate and wrap a ribbon around the season.  Don’t forget blood!


Whether your Easter involves celebrating the Resurrection or stuffing your face with chocolate – or both – you can share the spirit by buying me a coffee or sharing this post.

A Day in the Life of This Freelance Writer

Yesterday, I stumbled across this article at Wait But Why, proposing a new way to think about the value of our time and how we use it. It works like this:

If you sleep about eight hours a night, that leaves about 1,000 minutes a day in which you’re awake. Think of these 1,000 minutes as 100 ten-minute blocks of time.

What do you do with each of your 100 blocks? Is what you’re currently doing worth the number of blocks out of 100 that gets devoted to it each day?

While neither the author of the piece nor I recommend trying to schedule every block every day (it’s an exercise in hair-tearing), it has provided me a useful way to consider exactly where my time goes.

So Where Does It Go, Exactly?

The 100 Blocks method is especially intriguing to me in the context of one of the most commonly-asked questions I receive on Quora: “What do freelance writers do all day?” “What does a day in the life of a freelance writer look like?”

While I won’t subject you to a list of where my 100 ten-minute day-chunks go, here’s what an average day in my freelance life looks like.

A Day in the Life of this freelance writer

Morning

6:30 am: I roll out of bed, because if I don’t, I’ll miss a chance to get a hug from my husband when he leaves for work. If I don’t get a hug, I am cranky the rest of the day.

6:40 am: I feed the cats before the sheer force of their STARVACEOUS YOWLING tears me to pieces. The cats wish it to be known that they WILL DIE if they are not given canned food at 6:40 am. No, the bowl of kibble is NOT SUFFICIENT. THEY WILL STARVE. I AM A TERRIBLE CAT PARENT.

7:00 am: The yowling has subsided. I sit down with my toast and tea to read the Internet. If the Internet is terrible, I read a book instead. The Internet is usually terrible.

8:00 am: I decide I should probably do something useful with my life. I load the dishwasher and clean the litter boxes in order to avoid selling my labor for money.

8:30 am: I sell labor for money. I may also blog, work on things for rehearsals (see “Evening”), send invoices, and so on.

12:00 pmish: I am done selling labor for money, unless it is Tuesday. On Tuesdays I get done at 1:00 pm, because 12-1 pm Tuesday is the Holy Hour of Client Meetings.

Not-Morning

12:30 or 1:00 pm: Having eaten whatever tasty glop was leftover in the fridge from the previous evening (or microwaved some chicken nuggets), I proceed to the gym for a hot date with the elliptical, weight room and/or pool. On nice days, I go into my backyard and throw things.

2:30 or 3:00 pm: I get home from the gym, or I run some errands, depending on which needs doing. When I have to schedule appointments, they’re nearly always between 2:30 and 5:00 pm. If I’m not running errands, I might do some composing, or photography, or spend 12 of my daily 100 timechunks murdering werebears in Skyrim.

Evening

5:00 pmish: Usually, the husband is home by this time. He makes food. We eat food. While watching Netflix. This is literally the only time we spend watching television at all, so I have no guilt whatsoever about abandoning the upper-middle-class manners of my youth to cram nachos into my face on the couch in front of the boob tube.

6:00 pmish: Time to go to rehearsal. Which rehearsal it is depends on the time of year and the day of the week. Candidates include marching band, wind symphony, drum ensemble, colorguard, and winterguard. Sometimes I perform in these ensembles and sometimes I yell at them.

8:30 pm: I feed the cats, because once again, they will STARVE without canned food, even though kibble magically appears in their bowl on the regular. Then I write fiction.

10:30 pm: I sleep.

On Wednesdays, I clean the house instead of selling my labor for money. Otherwise, things are pretty much the same.  A few times a year I go on vacation, during which I might spend an hour or two working in the mornings.

Your schedule as a freelancer may, of course, vary. My work time is scheduled with two major constraints in mind:

  1. When do I have the focus to do this work most efficiently?
  2. How can I get my work done in the handful of hours I have allotted per day to do so, which I cannot exceed because addiction?

As For the Blocks….

It’s interesting to me how quickly things fall into perspective when I analyze them in terms of the 100 blocks of time.

For instance: The gym costs me 120 minutes, or 12 of my 100 timechunks every day.

Prior to thinking of it as 12/100 timechunks, I struggled to go to the gym. It felt like recreation. It felt like “wasting time” or “ignoring my responsibilities” (because I wasn’t checking the clock every five minutes to make sure I hadn’t dissociated into some frivolous project, because ADHD means I have no idea what time is).

Now, however, 12/100 timechunks feels like a total steal. That time I spend at the gym manages my chronic pain, alleviates my anxiety, provides the only workable method for me to meditate, lets me catch up with my best friend by snarkily texting her between sets, and enables me to kick people twice my size through windows should I ever wake up in an action film.

I get all that for twelve percent of my day. That’s what we call “good value.”

It’s also made it easier to stop hating myself for things like scrolling Twitter, while simultaneously helping me put limits on things like scrolling Twitter. Yes, sometimes I just need to sit and scroll Twitter for 1/100 timechunks. That’s okay.

But I rarely need to do it for 3/100 timechunks. That’s when I start getting restless. So I can allot 1 timechunk to it totally guilt-free, then go do something else, again totally guilt-free.

For the record, I have allotted 11 timechunks today to selling my labor for money and 3.6 timechunks to the writing of this blog post. Now I will go devote about 2 timechunks to eating food and a few to preparing for this week’s Holy Hour of Client Meetings. Happy Tuesday.

Autistic Community, Crabs and the State of My Cardiovascular Health

A friend of mine recently posted a tongue-in-cheek list of the various stages of autistic advocacy. The penultimate stage was “I am avoiding my own community for the sake of my cardiovascular health.”

In my case, it’s funny because it’s true.

I made the decisions to step away from the autistic activist community about a year ago. In that time, I’ve gained some perspective on why I made that choice – and why the number of us avoiding our own community for health reasons keeps increasing.

crabs a year later

1. Teaching 101 classes is exhausting.

My friend’s tongue-in-cheek first stage was utter outrage at regularly recurring events – in this case, at the autistic character cast as a puppet in the stage play All in a Row. A fair number of the responses to said puppet can be summarized as “Nothing this outrageous has happened to us in the history of humanity!”

It has, of course. Dehumanizing portrayals of autistic people in media are ancient hat. They’ve been deconstructed over and over again by members of the community and by allies.

When I started writing on autism, I did so optimistically and enthusiastically. Here was a field in which so much work hadn’t been done, and I was convinced that my doing it would lend itself to genuine progress.

I overestimated how quickly change occurs. But I also overestimated the extent to which my own community would orient itself to its own body of work.

Today, there are dozens of masterposts on nearly every autism-related topic imaginable. A Google search for “autism masterpost” turns up literally dozens, on topics ranging from autistic vocabulary to ABA to how to write fictional autistic characters.

I appreciate people who donate their time and effort to compiling resources. Masterposts are a lot of work. Academic journal articles are a lot of work. In-depth discussions of any topic are work. I know, I’ve written them.

I am not a fan of repeated 101 requests from folks who clearly haven’t Googled – they just perceive me standing there and demand I answer their questions. And it happens a lot.

I have trouble faulting neurotypical people for it anymore when the autistic community has been an equal source of culprits.

2. Trauma is a reason but not an excuse.

Autistic people are, on the whole, a traumatized bunch – and for good reason. We’re born into a world that isn’t designed for our neurology (in fact, it often seems designed to exacerbate our discomfort), and we’re expected to figure out how to survive in it, often while being “treated” with methods that directly impair our survival skills.

So when we first find Autistic community, our trauma often spills over. Which makes sense! For the first time in our lives, we’re surrounded by people who get it! Who have been through similarly traumatizing experiences! Who can affirm that yes, that was traumatizing and you are not weird, bad, weak or wrong for experiencing it as traumatic!

…The problem, which not all autistic people manage to avoid, is that having that trauma affirmed can feel like sufficient reason to avoid the hard work of processing it.

The result are members of the community who do things like:

  • Demand that others mediate their trauma. Seeking help once or twice in a particularly bad situation isn’t a problem; it’s the folks who demand others pay attention to their problems multiple times a day.
  • Maintain that they’re constantly the target of persecution – a stance that gets even more damaging once the person starts accumulating flying monkeys.
  • Develop a sense of entitlement to autistic-run spaces, resources and platforms.

The longer one processes one’s own trauma, the more clearly these patterns emerge, and the easier it becomes to distinguish people who are working on their demons and people who aren’t. It’s easier to see the cost in fucks that the latter impose on the community as a whole – and to go bankrupt.

Trauma explains a lot of these approaches and attitudes. But it does not excuse them.

3. It only took a few people to ruin me for the rest of you.

There’s a version of the trauma/persecution problem that leads to a profound sense of entitlement to autistic-run spaces, resources, and platforms. The rest of the world is against “us” but these things are “us,” so why can’t I just take them? It’s for the good of the community!

I have seen this dynamic play out several times in the handful of years I’ve occupied Autistic spaces.

I’ve seen autistic students blithely poach the work of autistic scholars and pass it off as their own.

I’ve had to file C&Ds as autistic bloggers have reprinted my writing wholesale on their blogs, then dragged me for having the audacity to ask them to stop profiting off my work – or even for asking to be cited as its author.

I’ve seen autistic authors and artists leave the community entirely, pulling all their own work from publication, after being worked to the point of total disability by another autistic person who had an idea but demanded everybody else put in the effort to realize it.

I’ve been publicly dragged by an autistic activist, along with everyone else at Autonomous Press, based on mere hearsay that the activist’s work might not be automatically accepted for publication, and I’ve seen dozens of other community members take that activist’s side without even asking for clarification.

I’ve had autistic writers throw fits in my AutPress email at the news that we do not, in fact, auto-publish your work because you tell us you’re autistic.

There is a small but incredibly loud contingent of the Autistic community that treats the work of other autistic people as theirs for the taking. But when we’re talking about such labor-intensive tasks as writing academic articles, maintaining a blog, or starting an entire publishing company, it only takes a few of these people to burn out and destroy the very resources they’re trying to leverage.

4. Boundaries remain a problem.

Building culture is an exhilarating thing. But without boundaries, culture-building can easily suck you dry. And the same people who insist that your boundaries are hurting them will tell you your inevitable collapse was all your fault for not having boundaries in the first place.

This is the lesson on boundaries a lot of autistic people grew up hearing, especially if we were subjected to ABA or equivalent “therapy.” When you learn very early in life, upon threat of survival, that you are not allowed to have boundaries, acting as if you have none is a very difficult behavior to uproot. For many autistic people, it’s made worse by our own overweening empathy. We want to help, and we have never been taught how to do so without killing ourselves.

Unhealthy behaviors around boundaries are rife in the Autistic community. They’re difficult to uproot. They keep reasserting themselves in different forms throughout our lives without a consistent and dedicated effort to their eradication. And mental health treatment being what it is(n’t), many of us never learn effective tools to combat them.

Boundaries are a huge deal in the Autistic community precisely because we don’t have enough of them. We have a lot of people without them, a lot who drop them because “I found my people so I don’t need boundaries!”, and many who ignore them out of a desire to help, save and protect others from the same trauma they themselves suffered.

As a result, having boundaries can open one up to excoriation in Autistic spaces. I’ve been rebuked for it more than once. How dare I not drop everything and help (with a project, with trauma, with repeating for the 500th time to some parent on Facebook that vaccines do not cause autism) right now (and always, always for free)?! You’re just as bad as the neurotypicals!

There’s a reason the final stage of autistic activism is “lol puppetize me already, maybe I’ll find the energy to fight this shit with a hand up my ass.”

There are extraordinary people in the autistic community. I’ve found lifelong friends, family, colleagues and mentors here. But those relationships only grow when everyone involved in them maintains a commitment to listening, learning, growth, balance, and boundaries.

Without them, this community will continue to burn out its own members, and both its activism and its culture will suffer.