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What does it mean to be a neuro-divergent writer? (Part 1) by Luke Matthews

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Luke Matthews

Luke Matthews

Luke Matthews is a contributor to a stunning new collection of short stories by autistic authors, In Other Words.

We asked Luke the above question – what does it mean to be a neuro-divergent writer? – and we thought the form of his reply was as informative as the content. As his editor Miranda says: ‘this is the way a neurodivergent writer has responded to the question, and to edit it into a form that fits our neurotypical standards would dilute its inherent neurodivergence’. So we are publishing Luke’s reply over a series of three articles: here is Part 1, with Part 2 here and Part 3 here.


What does it mean to be a neuro-divergent writer?

Unless glibly regarded as self-evidently self-answering (possibly with a dictionary: not included) it is an important question and one deserving a serious answer which – it seems only fair to assume – would be only appropriately provided by an individual identifying as such.

If the perspective available to me is of value (which apparently it is, and to some significant degree; given all the effort certain people (somewhat behind the scenes of the ‘paged’ (not like that) (web and other) words ‘inked’ (or equivalent) before your eyes (not like that) here have put into achieving that very same) then there seems to be a serious burden of responsibility accompanying the power inherent to having such a valuable perspective to offer in the first place.

That is, being given the opportunity to definitively define – if you’ll excuse what might be described as a ‘shunting’ incident along these lines; a hyphenation backlog jamming up a word-pile of track linkages carrying on ((as) if you wood) – ‘neuro-divergent-writer-hood’ (still a giant level up from losing control in an actual literal incident, and helplessly observing the resulting carnage and wreck so that’s one very good thing at least, even though it could be said that such incidents do generally tend to be relegated to the mid-distance at closest for most mostly (on the side-lines – hardly having a ball – positioning being important).

Considering firstly that neuro-divergence is identified through observing ‘inappropriate’ behaviour, look at it this way: I’ve been told I’m different. That we are (we all are). After they told me I’m different I still felt exactly the same. But there was a difference. The difference was being able to see my different difference differently. Categorically. I don’t feel different. Only like anybody wouldn’t feel if they were in my position: regarding a label.

I’m not a psychiatrist. All the Same. You can act in accord. The difference is: I didn’t know. Do I now? Are we sure?

In other words; everybody else isn’t an identical clone of each other. Why don’t you expect me to be exactly the same (as everybody else)? I’m no more or less more or less different from anybody as everybody is more or less more or less different from any( given )body and/or everybody else. More or less. Ex(/Ac?)cept me. I’m different. Exactly. Like it. Was before. This paragraph began in that(:??) respect.

Unfortunately (predictably) that’s just not me. (And it might not just be me (who’s somebody else? (you and yours)?)) It might be somebody else. It could even be you. How would I know (you would though)? What do I know about that? All I know is whoever somebody else is I’m not them. If I was then I wouldn’t be.

It’s true.

It could be you!

Well that’s not true. That isn’t anyway.

After all, if it seems like some-responsible-body should be taking this more seriously, some-serious-body being more responsible (like they could) as is only appropriate hopefully we can agree that I might be behaving deeply inappropriately in-spite of there being nobody else more appropriate to be behaving so deeply inappropriately in the first place – presumably – before (typically?) they were ever even asked about it?


I think being inappropriate is pure silliness(!!).

If you’re hopeful for my happiness; that makes it. Nothing more(!!!).

Again, having some further words; if there were anybody more appropriate to be writing this (although it seems unlikely to be somebody at least as silly) then they would – without a doubt – be less ‘me’; – and while there may be discussion to be had in terms of subtle difference(s), nuanced distinctions and even stark contrast(s) in terms of the level, the depth, the severity – or even the sincerity – of my silliness (a discussion I eagerly anticipate participating in) and so on I think that even at this quite early stage there is ever-increasing already ample evidence – which will become incontrovertible in due course – of the undeniable existence of this silliness as well as the core defining qualities and traits that distinguish the condition: the essential ‘silliness’ of this very silliness itself, as it were, or it seems (and like it should).

I don’t think it necessary to point out or ask that if I am being silly then ‘Am I?’ – or stop why I should. (Why did I even bother?)

Anyway one thing I’ve found out in life myself (and seeing as how you’re reading this in an actual magazine and as a result of that I’m actually – from a certain perspective at least (yours) – a very tiny little bit actually famous in fact (relief at such long last; feels like I’ve been waiting my whole life for that little thing!

Actually, while I can neither confirm nor deny this entirely accurate fact personally myself as I state the fact in an objective statement, some people – to use a (dubious? (7), potentially misleading? (11, 10)) turn of phrase – around my parts say that I have, actually, been literally literally screaming, literally literally, for literally literal attention literally literally since (etc.) the literally literal moment literally of literally literally my (I did share it though I believe) literally literal birth (although I specifically don’t specifically recall specifically any specific mention specifically of (etc.) the specifically specific screams specifically specifically involved specifically specifically being specifically of specifically a specifically specifically literary variety, specifically.

Not specifically anyway: literally.

All of which I can only respond to (by screaming)):

No comment.

So nobody’s mentioned it that I’m aware of until now but now I am doing, mentioning it, so somebody has now somebody has mentioned it, me, the thing I mentioned already I was going to mention that I am doing that I’ve already done that I mentioned that nobody mentioned except me but, except me (as mentioned), nobody else except me mentioned it except me yet that I’m aware of as I mentioned…

You know that bracket that was left so lazily dangling loosely hanging potentially dangerously (well hardly) open from a little way back (not) now when I said: ‘One thing that I’ve found out in life myself’ before then opening the bracket that broke that sentence that’s still broken actually: I don’t know if you’ve noticed I may have closed the bracket but the sentence remains broken still?

(Did you even notice that bracket?

[Are you even reading what I’m righting hear write now at the moment (your moment not mine although potentially that too)?

{I’d imagine so but ultimately there’s nothing to verify that right ear write now momentarily flexible here)}])

I don’t know if you noticed it open there for so long not even letting a draft [sic] in to the broken sentence where it was opened there so long; maybe you weren’t even aware of that open bracket at that point until I mentioned it earlier at this point in which case I’d be surprised if you noticed I’d closed it until (after) I mentioned it, I’d be surprised; I’d very surprised by the surprise. It shouldn’t be surprising it would surprise me to say the least (not like me that).

Anyway the brackets closed now let’s move on.

We need to move on.

Going back, looking again at the broken sentence (well I thought it worked) the bracket was breaking; my first sentence (not the first sentence in my life, not the first sentence in my story in the book you should buy I’m going to begin mentioning from now on I might not have mentioned yet until now? Just the first (broken) sentence in that (broken) paragraph a little bit back I was on about a little bit back [sigh] some or all of which you may have noticed in the magazine you started reading (seems so long ago now)) of that paragraph with the sentence-breaking opening bracket that only recently closed, I’ve been saying that a little while now and about how we need to move on elsewhere; it’s closed, it’s closed, we need to move on.

Move on, we need to move on.

(c) Luke Matthews

About In Other Words:

In Other Words is a stunning new collection of short stories by autistic authors. Eight writers took part in our 2016-17 creative writing opportunity Square Peg Stories, and each produced an original short story with mentoring from a wonderful team of published authors.

A shift in the nature of light reveals an eighth colour in the visible spectrum. A boy befriends the last tree in the natural world. A single mother receives help at the darkest point of her life. A young man finds himself trapped in a university overrun by crows.

These stories and more form In Other Words, an anthology as varied as the writers themselves. Some cover trauma, societal issues and stigma; others offer fragments of hope and light. Some reach back in time while others transport us to another dimension altogether. There is heartbreak, wit, humour, poignancy and above all a mastery of the imagination.

What these transcendent stories share is that they were created by autistic writers, people often thought of as unimaginative or incapable of creativity – a myth that has persisted for generations. This collection shatters those stereotypes, misconceptions and misunderstandings, and gives autistic voices the platform they deserve.

The collection has an introduction by autistic author and poet Joanne Limburg, and a foreword by the novelist David Mitchell. It is beautiful, hilarious, heart-breaking, mind-bending and above all it showcases the enormous talent and creativity of a group of people who are often stereotyped as being unimaginative.

In Other Words is out now! The paperback is available from all the usual bookshops, or you can order the special edition hardback directly from Mainspring Arts.

About the author

Luke went through mainstream schooling and completed a BA in Creative Writing at Bretton Hall College, University of Leeds in 2004, and an MA in Screenwriting at Leeds Metropolitan (now Beckett) University in 2007, before health complications necessitated a formal autism assessment in 2008 (turns out he was a born natural). Besides being a writing struggler he similarly attempts music and film, as well as enjoying walking: (all three) mostly in and around Bradford.

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