It may seem strange, but the day my daughter was diagnosed with autism was the day my life became something I wanted to write about. Sometimes the actual life experiences I go through with her make for good stories. Like the time she loudly told an old man he was “going to die soon,” because he looked as old as her great-grandmother who had recently passed away. Or the time she decided to admire herself in our neighbor’s one-way reflective window…completely naked! But more often than not, the reason I write is because having a child with autism has made me desire for my daughter the same experiences I took for granted with my first born son.
This longing made me aware of the beauty, and even pain, in the everyday moments with my kids. The same ordinary moments that came so easily with my son are now so significant to me that I am unable to go on until they are recorded in a journal, blog or even on a scrap piece of paper. Moments such as the first time my daughter looked me in the eye after years of avoidance, the day she made a friend or when she finally chose to say, “I love you, Mom.” All of these everyday experiences are meant to be felt, not passed by without pause. Writing about them makes what happened feel more real; the words on the screen are proof that I stopped to enjoy what I once rushed through.
“You should publish your stories!” exclaimed Aunt Marcia. “I wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to begin,” I protested. But I did the research and learned as I went along.
My very first submission, a short story, was picked up by a well-known book series. I was ecstatic! “That was easy,” I thought. Then my story was thrown out days before publication, and I realized maybe it wasn’t so easy after all. This rejection stirred a familiar feeling of desire for something I had taken for granted.
I began to write with a boldness and determination that can only be brought on by experiencing a perceived failure. I wrote more often and brought others into the process to critique my work. Similar to the way autism changed the way I viewed everyday life with my kids, rejection changed the way I looked at writing. It was no longer something to coast through without much thought. I took the time to dot the i’s, cross the t’s and find the perfect word for each sentence.
Six months later, another one of my short stories was accepted. This time, I held my breath until the book came out. When I saw my words printed in black and white for first time, and my name in the byline, I knew what I had to do: I flipped open my laptop and began to write about it.