Ableism? Maybe…

Mpepper/ April 28, 2021/ Think Pieces

I recently was made aware of a publishing conversation that occurred on Twitter last month. (I know, I’m so out of the loop.) It was about ableism in publishing and there not being space for neurodivergent (ND) authors. I don’t know if that’s true; I’ve never really thought about it until now, when it was brought to my attention. I have so many privileges that I seldom think about things working against me. BUT… on at least some level, this idea made sense to me. Because agents tell me that I’m a great writer, but then also sat my books don’t quite fit the mold or formula or whatever they and publishers are looking for. And I think that may be because of my ASD and the weird way my brain is wired. (I did a YT video about my Asperger’s if you’re curious.)

I’ve tried, really tried, to change the way I write to better suit agents and the market, but… I just can’t seem to do it. And to agents it must look like I’m being difficult or intractable, like I’m so set on telling the story “my way,” and refusing to compromise. But that’s truly not the case. If someone were to give me detailed instructions about what to change or how, I think maybe I could do it? But the R&Rs I’ve received have never been that specific. They’ll say something like: “The pacing is off.” And so I flail about a bit, trying to “fix” the manuscript without really understanding what they want from me. Maybe because we literally don’t think the same way?

Agents have suggested I read books on how to outline. Again, I’ve tried. I can’t write any other way than the way I do. That’s a flaw in me, I guess, but it does kind of irritate me that it’s being used against me. In that sense, publishing really doesn’t accommodate ND authors. If we can’t write a certain way, or our workflow is odd… Too bad. There’s no place for us.

As for the books themselves… I know my books are a little bit wonky. Again, I never thought about it until now, but maybe my ideal readers are the ones whose thought processes are a little wonky. Like mine. Maybe my books aren’t for the NT. Which, I suppose, is one more reason for agents and publishers to reject me and my work. I can’t seem to appeal to the masses, but I’ve come to terms with that.

I’ve quit trying to find an agent. I’ve decided my time and energy are better spent devoted to the actual writing and publishing and [sigh] marketing. Also, it’s just better for my mental health not to set myself up for repeated rejection and heartbreak. I’m not giving them what they want, and they can’t seem to help me get to where I want to be either, so it’s a bad fit all around.

Maybe someday the industry will adjust, but I think we all know that publishing moves very slowly. It doesn’t change in an instant, even when it swears it wants to do better. Lucky for people like me, independent [self-] publishing is an option. We don’t have to wait for things within the industry to get better; we can work outside the system. Don’t get me wrong, we shouldn’t have to, but… For now, it’s the best I can do and the most I can hope for.

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