Asperger’s Diagnosis

I don’t usually post about personal things, but I’m breaking that rule today, because I’m trying to process something that happened to me recently.

I was diagnosed with high-functioning autism a few weeks ago.

At first, all I saw was the downsides. How it makes me difficult to work with, how it makes it difficult to understand what is happening in the intensely complex web social interactions around me, how I get overwhelmed when I have to handle social events and after a few phone calls can end up wanting to hide in a cave and never deal with anyone ever again, how I can’t understand conversation if there are other people talking, how being in Walmart makes me physically ill, how it took me twice as long as it should have to finish college because I kept getting overwhelmed, how I can’t enjoy gifts of jewelry and even have difficulty wearing my wedding ring for longer than a few hours because my skin is too sensitive.

But, as I worked away on here, I realized a gigantic upside. As part of my condition, I have the ability to become extremely focused. So focused that I lose touch with the rest of myself, and become nothing but my typing fingers and my brain figuring out what to type next for hours. These trances usually last 4-5 hours, and when I come out of one of them, I’ll have translated thousands of names, or hundreds of phrases. Something that would have taken a normal person much longer. The reason that this website exists and is so successful is because I have Asperger’s. Frack, I wouldn’t even be interested in Tolkien’s languages if it weren’t for my autistic nature to get completely obsessed with some small corner of the world. So, I’m glad to be this way. It means that I’ve carved out a little niche for myself. I’m useful for others, get to have fun, get to relieve stress by playing with languages.

I’ve never really cared much about figuring out how to make a living through this though. I’m more interested in languages and playing with them. But, as the year goes on, and I deal with different financial things… I realize that I should be making money somehow from this all-consuming obsession that I have. Patreon is a great start. Through the monthly donations I’ve gotten more steady money than I ever have before, which is really nice. So. Ideas… how can I help support my wife and I and keep my full-time job playing with languages? Should I be more aggressive with my Patreon account? Should I come up with some sort of product line to sell? Should I make custom translations a paid service? What do you think? It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that this isn’t “just a hobby” for me.

9 comments

  1. I am in no way qualified to say what is the right and wrong thing to do, and I’m not going to pretend I hold all of the answers, but in really the quite selfish way of wanting to keep this going and make it sustainable, I’d like to help.

    I have supported a few creators on Patreon over the years, all in their efforts to create something niche, but to me absolutely must exist. Understandably, creators I have seen have had great difficulty seeing which areas of their work they can and can’t monetize, how to go about it, and often feel guilty about self promotion. I would say, and have seen others say the same, that self-promotion needn’t be forceful or aggressive in order to be successful. In my experience, people will rarely pledge money by means of Patreon or donation before receiving a service; whether that service is a direct bespoke translation request or simply using the website. Then, if the service they receive is good enough to them, such that they feel getting it for free is actually akin to stealing, they will pay for that service. I freely admit that this is how I came to supporting you via Patreon, I felt that I was benefiting from your work far more than you would benefit from me using it, and needed to address that imbalance.

    That said, I think you can afford to be more forward with the option of Patreon support and its benefits to you. Although granted this was before the website update, I found it quite difficult from where I was looking through phrasebooks and lessons, to find details even saying that you have a Patreon page. The persistent side-bar design of the new site I think changes its accessibility, but it never hurts to remind people that it’s there every now and then, and that they can keep your work going by supporting.

    As far as paid-for services go, I believe that translations should really be monetized by size. If someone is asking for a few lines to be translated, or a pre-existing translation checked, I don’t think they would ever expect to pay for it, much less upfront. Additionally, I feel that would run the risk of putting knowledge that should be shared and taught behind a so-called ‘paywall’, which would discourage people from using the site altogether. That said, there are always going to be exceptions, and in cases where an individual requests paragraphs to be translated for free, that would be known in my neck of the woods as ‘taking the piss’; at least some contribution towards the time required to translate it, is required in that circumstance if you ask me. Although whether that would be imposed as a direct fee, or a passive aggressive direction towards your donations page, I couldn’t say.

    Product lines, as an idea I think is an interesting one. As an admittedly niche interest, people that involve themselves in it will find it difficult to find products revolving around it. Sure, you can buy merchandise from the Peter Jackson films, but that is in no way Elvish or language specific. As a result, then, offering products that are specific and unique to the study and speaking of Elvish, I could only imagine to be very popular and something people would be quite happy to buy knowing that they’re supporting you in the process. Even something as simple as a few t-shirts with samples from the phrase books printed on them would be fundamentally unique to the site. If you wanted assurances that people will want the designs you plan on stocking, you have a platform here to talk to the customer and by way of something like a poll or competition, establish the most popular products to stock.

    Finally, many are those that have attempted to turn a hobby into a job, and with the dedication you have shown to this work, to teaching, to researching and correcting; I can think of no one more deserving. I dearly hope this site and your work becomes a sustainable means of income and enjoyment.

    1. Yeah, it’s really really hard to ask people for things, especially strangers. I find that really difficult. I always feel like I’m imposing on people or manipulating them. Something that I’m trying to get over.

      Little phrasebooks and t-shirts… I’ve tried t-shirts before, but I don’t think I did a very good job designing them. With the mini-phrasebooks – I’m always worried that the Tolkien Estate will swoop in and shut me down. Maybe if I somehow got in contact with the Tolkien Estate and told them that I’d like to do this project… please don’t squish my pitiful self who can’t afford lawyers! Maybe I should contact David Salo and ask him for advise on it.

      I definitely want to try publishing my textbook. People have been asking me for that for years now.

      Thank you for the words of encouragement!

  2. …You mean you didn’t suspect something of the sort? DreamingFifi, when I was made aware of Asperger’s and autism spectrum from someone guessing I was it too (which I’ve never had confirmed, but I’m pretty confident of it), I started to realise just how many of my friends and people I look up to (put yourself in whichever category you prefer) were almost certainly the same.

    I have always been glad to be Aspie. Well, not quite always, but the times I’m glad of it vastly outnumber the times I’m frustrated with it. Normal people are weird and illogical and hard to understand, and more than a little scary, so I’m glad I’m not one. :)
    I’ve worked with autistic children a little, and I always hate to have to pull them out of their worlds to make them follow the routine of the group, because I know their worlds are much more interesting.

    And you know, or maybe you don’t know fully, how much I have used and appreciated your work. I think I may have forgotten to say thank you, except for specific translations or checking. But I use your website a lot, and I very very glad of the results of those typing trances. Thank you.

    I love your writing too, which is also from the Asperger’s, I believe. I have always wished I could write as well as you.

    As to the money side of things, I would donate with Patreon if I had a regular income myself. :P Apart from that I have nothing but guesses, although I have to admit I always wish I could afford to buy the LotR t-shirts on ThinkGeek and such places – and they’re not even good translations most of the time! (Movieverse! Or bad grammar! Or just odd constructions!) When I do have the money, I’d rather buy something from you. Come to think of it, I’d be more likely to buy a bag of some sort, and I believe it’s not hard to find companies that do t-shirts and bags and a few other options, I think by screen-printing.
    I’d push Patreon, though. This counts as an artistic venture, so I think primarily going by regular donations, if it can be managed, would be best overall, I think.
    Besides, if you try to charge for most translations, too many people just won’t bother. There are low-quality free translation services online, and if they don’t know the difference, they’ll go with anything free.

    Anyway, I’ve gone way past what I really wanted to say, which is embrace the geek worldview! :)

    Lots of love and gratitude,
    Estel / Faerthurin / Gabrielle

    1. Yeah, I’d suspected that I fell on the Autism spectrum for a while now. More specifically, my mom did. A few years back she read an article and noticed a lot of things that lined up with my personality. So, after graduating and failing at keeping a job, I got myself tested, and you know the rest.

      The inner-worlds thing is definitely a benefit of being an Aspie. I know that it comes out in my writing… especially the way that I describe emotions. I like to focus on the symptoms of the emotion, because that’s how I figure them out in myself and the people around me. It’s also why I like to read and write mystery stories so much – that’s how I approach human interaction. I gather data and then attempt to make a deduction about all of the levels of meanings that the person in front of me is trying to get across. When I write, a very similar thing happens to when I’m working on the namelists – the rest of the world just fades away, and I can’t really hear anything except the scene that I’m watching in my head, and carefully rewinding and watching it over and over so that I can find just the right way to describe something. It’s incredibly intense, and a lot more fun than reading other’s people stuff. Probably because I can’t see that in such high detail as I can when writing my own stuff.

      I also don’t like the idea of charging for translations. A lot of people have suggested it, but I remember being a 14 year old girl with no credit card of my own, no access to money online without first begging my parents. I don’t want to make Sindarin inaccessible to people who don’t have access to money online, or to people living overseas. Making a paywall also means that there’d be a lot more piracy, which means inferior or outdated copies wandering around the internet.

  3. I recommend pursuing Meditation. There are many types/approaches to meditation, but two may be of immediate use to offset the downsides to aspergers: one is to learn to detach – to observe, but let thoughts and feelings go by like clouds you watch in the sky. That practice transfers to daily life and lets you avoid various mental traps such as going down various focused analytical rabbit-holes. It also helps you avoid being flustered by any circumstance. Another useful meditation approach is a kind of Mindfulness; to observe the external world in entirety without attaching or being diverted to one thing. This practice again helps you avoid getting into mental traps/boxes while being more connected to all aspects of the world. You can learn to apply these methods to daily life such as walking in an open field, a meadow, or other natural surroundings. You can also extend this approach to social settings whether personal or business. Over time you will turn your autistic tendencies from flaws to useful features. It’s a process, not a goal as life is a process of continuous improvement. That’s what I and many others have done and do. Good luck!

    1. I already use some meditation techniques when I’m panicking… I actually learned them as a musician. Most of the time, my anxiety isn’t very bad. It gets a lot worse when I’m depressed though. I do prefer to spend a few hours every day in quiet introspection. So, I’ve kinda naturally already started meditating as a coping mechanism.

      I’ve already started finding ways to look at the diagnosis in a positive light – as I said in my post, because I’m Autistic I am able to run this website. No idea how I could turn my sensory sensitivity into something positive other than being able to smell that something is molding before anyone else can.

  4. I have Aspergers. One of the first children diagnosed in this era when it was still but a blip in obscure textbooks some many years ago.

    Each person handles it differently. I have medication as well as occasional therapy. You use what is best for you. Anyone online who tells you ‘oh you should do this’ or ‘oh you should do that’ really do not know what they are talking about, UNLESS they are just saying to go to trained professionals. It is with them that you might figure out what methods work best for you.

    As for payments– the Tolkien Estate might take issue with someone making money translating Tolkien’s language. I honestly don’t know. What you SHOULD do is make the donate button a good deal more prominent. It’s just a small, itty bitty link. Should be a big button that does not blend in with the color scheme. Patreon is a great service for such a thing, too. YouTubers use it frequently.

    PS. Want a Sindarin name list that has EVERY name on one page and not just in thematic categories :)

    1. Medication and therapy is how I’m dealing with the anxiety and depression that comes with it.

      Since I put the donation page link up at the top of the navigation, I’ve been getting a lot more donations.

      An all in one page for the namelists? Hm… I’ll see what I can do!

  5. I’m on the spectrum too, I’ve been diagnosed since before I can remember. Having that sprung upon you as an adult, I can’t even imagine (and the neuropsych testing alone is ridiculously expensive too). Honestly, I think Tolkien himself displayed a lot of stereotypical markings of the spectrum. He had ridiculously specialized interests in linguistics that were present ever since he was a child. He also tended to isolate himself because his focus in these special interests was so intense. He was a self confessed biblo baggins, very shy, and quite agoraphobic. He was very attached to routine and consistancy, so much that leaving his house is difficult, and was known to have very strict writing habits which he adhered too seen as eccentric by the larger literary and linguistic community. If we analyze bilbo baggins, we see a man who gets very nervous when his schedule is disturbed (repeats the same small talk with gandalf, insists on having food at certain times) , displays some obsessive-compulsive tendencies (panicking about the plates,food, ect) , and is frustrated by people who lack order (again, the plates), is fascinated by intricate detail (love of maps and moon runes). Tolkien also was overwhelmed by too much going on socially( started retreating once he became famous), and created entire speakable langauges in the process of retreating into the inner worlds he created. He also confessed that he disliked society in general, as well as the changes that technological developments brought, and longed for the world to return to the way it once was before the world wars. If we look into the works themselves of J.R.R Tolkien and disregard characteristics of the man, they’re almost perfectly suited to people on the spectrum. There is such a sheer volume of information that people on the spectrum can literally forever pursue this special interest without having to switch gears. Beyond that, the information is largely factual and concrete. Knowing tolkien largely involves sheer rote memorization of massive quantities of material, instead of say something like harry potter, where knowing the intricacies of how one component or character relates to another is much more crucial to comprehension then memorizing facts about the characters themselves. One can memorize every fact and line about severus snape, and yet still not understand his motivations and emotions and personality, and end up with a fairly shallow understanding of the character. However learning every fact and accomplishment about say, Gil-galad, will give you a very deep understanding.Tolkien’s reliance on concrete in world facts instead of relationships and personalities make his works ideal for people on the spectrum.

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