haleskarth: A purple flower. (Purple bouquet.)
Noël ([personal profile] haleskarth) wrote2011-05-08 03:51 pm

Nonlinear thoughts, writing, and "latency."

I am honestly surprised that there is not an autistic-spectrum FONSFAQ for 3 Weeks for Dreamwidth, and I do not think I have the time or energy to host one myself.

I do, though, want to discuss how nonlinear thinking affects the way in which I write, and how the process of translating conceptual, vaguely verbal ideas into coherent written structures works, at least for me. In some ways, this applies to everyone; in others, it does not. Some people tend to be able to convert the ideas more quickly than others; for others, the translation time is quite slow, and there can sometimes be a significant "latency period."

When I have something to write, I start off with concepts that are connected in my mind, like "selfhood," "plurality," and "gender identity." (I use these examples, because that is the content of the paper I am working on, at least in a broader sense.) It is a whole being filled in with its parts: general to specific. The concepts are there; it is a matter of translation, reinterpretation, and conversion to change "Noëlese" to coherent, readable thoughts to share with others. The thoughts exist in cognitive groupings that make sense to me, and can be organised into an essay, but they would be more difficult to follow for someone other than me (or some of my headmates) unless I reorganise them. For instance, the paper that Kerry and I are writing has already been "finished," conceptually, in our head, but there has been a significant amount of "latency" involved.

When actually writing, I often write these concepts in an order that reflects the way I see them, rather than writing the article, essay, or entry in sequential order. For instance, I will write a few sentences or paragraphs about one person's experiences, and then I will move further up in the document to write about the universal experience which relates to the person about whom I am talking. Even journal entries, at least longer ones, are written this way. For instance, this entry is like that: I was also writing the paper, and I thought about how nonlinear thought processes affect the way in which I write them; I conceptualised how these processes work; and I settled down to write this, writing pieces out of order, and organised them as I continued.

For works that are written in a nonplural context, there is also the mental process of modifying certain forms of personal expression, which increases the level of latency that I experience. "Personal" writing is by far the worst: the multithreaded experiences of a "we" become a singular, fictionalised "I," and I find myself writing about things I never experienced. It is a matter of dancing about topics, barely skimming the surface. It is easiest to write papers in which "I" do not come into it, because I can use my own authorial voice without much modification. (Really, the only changes I make are using American spellings rather than British ones; my natural writing voice is suited for writing formally, I think.)

Sequencing comes later, near the end of the project: it consists of connecting the paragraphs with joining sentences and paragraphs to improve flow, and reordering things to be in a logical order that readers will see as more understandable than the original one in which the text was set. Sometimes I reorder sentences, but this is generally at the paragraph level, rather than words, phrases, and sentences. It is quite difficult to write a paper in the standard "beginning, middle, and end" fashion: that is just not the way I conceptualise ideas. Because of that, I strongly dislike in-class, handwritten essays, because it practically forces that writing style. In those cases, those of us who are writing tend to conceptualise what we are supposed to write beforehand. Using a computer to write has been a boon: with word processors, you can write out of order without having to plan out spacing on a written sheet of paper.

Because of the nonsequential fashion in which I write, it is impossible to produce a traditional paper outline as a preliminary step when writing papers for classes. Rather, I start on the actual writing well before the deadline, and produce the outline to satisfy the grade requirements. So far, this system seems to be working for Kerry and me when we are working on papers. (More than working, actually: we consistently earn high grades on our essays.)

Even though this is decidedly a nonlinear process, it is still fundamentally bottom-up: concepts are written out in portions, and are joined up later, even though they are tied by a holistic concept that exists in the brain, and not on paper.

Kerry's process is similar to mine, although she has a shorter "latency" period than mine. Hess's is longer than either of ours, and he avoids writing papers and other things for this reason.

[personal profile] amethystfirefly 2011-05-09 10:46 am (UTC)(link)
This is a really interesting post. Thanks for sharing it. :)