Faking Normal: How I Mask My Writing Disorder… to Bring You Autistic Joy

"The Masked Author," original digital illustration. An elderly author's hand holds a quill pen. The hand hovers over a journal, about to write. On the desk, a costume mask & muzzle stare at the author. The hand and journal are in bright light. Author's robe is gold-colored. Background is deeply shadowed in blue & verdigris.

Writing while autistic? Blogs, tweets, articles…?

For me… every bit as hard as autistic masking… faking “normal.” But it has payoffs…

Johnny Profane Âû, original illustration. A graphic-novel influenced illustration of an elderly gentleman wearing a fedora hat & black sunglasses. It appears he is wearing a mask of himself, the lower half torn off. Mask in warm tons of gold & sepia. Underying face in coll tones of bue & verdigris.
Johnny Profane Âû, original illustration.

NOTE: Some autistic & ADHD folks process reading better, some listening… some both at once. So I include a transcript, podcast, and “pretty” captioned video below. #InclusionMatters.


I call this one, “Faking Normal… Writing, Masking, Autism & Me.”

Writing while autistic? Blogs, tweets, articles…?

For me… every bit as hard as autistic masking… faking “normal.”

In fact, I’d say I have a writing disability.

How about you? Hang in there with me. Cuz I’m a 70-year old #AutisticElder. And I just now found the words. 

Article continues below…

YouTube (6:41, with captions)

Captioned to aid audio processing.

TikTok (6:41), if you prefer.

Got me an email this morning. From one of my 2… make that 3… high school buddies. 

We’re both retired. Talked about maybe getting together. Next time he drove this way. 

He mentions… as he does… that I haven’t written back much. And I try to explain… as I do… in my reply.


Writing is really difficult for me. I think of writing you often… but haven’t been able to pull it off.

My other high school friend, Bill, has been disappointed in me for years.

It’s some weird quirk of mine. I can rip my heart out… in detail… in a blog post. I can’t write a personal note.

But I sure appreciate you trying to keep in touch with me.


Did I really just write, “Difficult?”

NO… That’s not even close to how it is. Even with the adverb. 

Damn… Truth is, I can’t get this right…

If you’re with me so far? You probably know about autistic masking in social situations.

Trying to blend in… look legit… for the public, employers… family, friends. 

Folks may have heard it’s exhausting for most autistics.

I struggle to find words…
  swim up from details to get to the point… 
  then rehearse what I’m going to say…
  before I try to talk…
  to make sure I’m clear.

Without offending ANYone. Allowing 10 feet for my booming voice.

Then, rehearsing it all over again. Coupla times…

To. Make. Sure.

Mockery, doxxing, divorce… toxic disappointment. I’ve spent an autistic lifetime one poor word choice away from my worst fears.

But me masking as a writer? It’s harder. It’s… cray-cray.

And like so many problems I had in straight society… for decades, I had no clue.

Til head stopped banging against wall…

Many autistic folks report they never knew they “masked.” Mimicking & adopting character traits that let them pass. Their entire lives. Until they read about it… Or from a pro diagnosis.

Some like me, practicing… straight-up cosplay… in the mirror.

And pretty much that’s how I learned to write for teachers, employers, you…

The thing is… writing is permanent. And any writing? Potentially public.

Think stalkers, bosses, cops. That’s where my head goes…

You better believe… every word I write is heavily masked. Like a grade school composition.

Not to please Teacher… anymore. To communicate clearly. As best as I can… without causing pain. 

Then there are all the rules. Heads. Subheads. Word choice. Context. Grammar? Paragraphs? Topic sentences……!?

My autistic & ADHD brain? Wired for about 30 amps of executive functioning… ya know… prioritizing, deciding, making choices.

Composing a note? Blows right by 400 amps… 

For me, writing IS a disability. And without assistive devices, not possible. 

Subscribe free to the email newsletter… never miss a post!

Know what an AAC keyboard is?

An Augementive & Assistive Communication device. Frees nonspeaking folks to give voice to their thoughts… by typing.

Like that I can’t write without a word processor, grammar checkers, computer-assisted editing.

I want to help you experience my autistic & ADHD thinking… So I write in a certain style.
  Bursts of images.
  Short, direct thoughts.
  Loose associations.
  Streams of what I laughingly call consciousness…

But if I couldn’t cut-and-paste my unpredictable, random bursts? Creating a sort of speaking flow… I couldn’t *communicate.

At least not new… or complex thoughts. Not in real-time conversation. Not in quick, scrawled notes…

It’s like this… I’m a guitarist. Some musicians can improvise. Some mostly memorize. Me? I get on a stage with a song I don’t know? I panic.

I need to “compose” every word I speak… and write. To feel safe.

Now, a lotta people write in their life. A lotta autistic people. In jobs. Academic papers. Applications. Emails. Freaking social media…

And some of my autistic friends have the opposite problem. It’s too EASY for them to type their thoughts. Their struggle is controlling the flood of words.

I should be so lucky…

I don’t know how you do it. If the effort to mask your writing… “composing” every sentence to blend in…? Doesn’t exhaust some of you?

Color me surprised.

Like masking during party chitchat. But the stakes are a lot higher for permanent, public text.

But for me, there are huge payoffs. Communicating’s a challenge worth the effort.

  1. Paying back the other autistic voices who helped me make sense of my life. And I hope to make a difference in some children’s & parents’ lives.
  2. A few personal bonus points. Like recognition for a skill I dreamed I had… Even when teacher after teacher assured me I had no talent for topic sentences.

Conquering my challenges as a writer is one of my greatest autistic joys.

A last thought. Masking isn’t a deficit. Not something wrong with me. Or you…

It’s a survival skill. We’re still here, aren’t we?

And it can be much more… A skillful means toward autistic joy.

I get down with my grandson in the garden dirt…
flashback on the first green shoots of my own 2nd spring…
and hunt for my simplest words, one-by-one-by-one…
to paint the joy waiting for him…
each & every April for at least his next 70 years… or so….
And I’m suddenly thankful…
for every agonizing decade it took me to conquer telling stories…
because today I feel exactly like Johnny Profane…
wearing the best damn Papaw mask… in history.

Subscribe free to the email newsletter… never miss a post!

Authentic Autistic Life: 4 Short Stories Fearless, Joyful and Chaotic, s3e2 #AutisticAF Out Loud

  1. Authentic Autistic Life: 4 Short Stories Fearless, Joyful and Chaotic, s3e2
  2. Love, Politics & Faking Normal: 3 New Autistic Myths s03e01
  3. #AutisticRave: Group Processing Disorder. It's a Thing.
Subscribe to hear new episodes when they publish…
AppleSpotifyPocketCastsAmazon/AlexaAudibleAll Platforms

Support AutisticAF.me here: Paypal · Ko-Fi · Facebook Pay “Johnny Knapp Âû

Ko-Fi Sub Button

Published by

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: