This machine needs a tune-up.

Section from Charles Babbage's Difference Engine No. 2, one of the first automatic computing engines
A section from Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 2

Right now, I’m struggling to overcome autistic inertia in order to write about my struggles with autistic inertia.

It hasn’t escaped the attention of some of my readers/followers/friends that I haven’t written or drawn anything for quite a while. Two whole months in fact. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write things; I’ve had plenty of ideas for topics I’d love to write about. I’ve even heard the words of ready-written blog posts skittering through my head.

I simply haven’t been able to get my brain into a state where I’ve felt physically able to do it.

My last blog post was at the end of The Dreaded Month of April. I needed a month off in May – partly because of overwhelm and burnout from so much Awareness; partly because the rest of my life was also pretty hectic at that time. I also got a hefty whack of bad news early in that month, and then a whole load of work-specific stress, and then we got into June, and I still wasn’t anywhere near ready to write or draw again. And then more life stuff got in the way; I wasn’t ready, and anyway, I didn’t have time.

In some ways, I don’t actually feel ready even as I write this, but I’m desperately trying to break the ‘do nothing – feel awful about it – react to feeling awful by not wanting to do anything – do nothing – feel awful…’ cycle.

Currently my life is in a state of flux. Work-wise, I’ve passed from one state of uncertainty into another. I currently have very little structure to my working day, and I’m finding it harder and harder to contend with this as each day goes by. Having limited structure and routine, and fewer impending demands, actually makes me less resilient to sudden changes or disruptions than I would be if there were more going on. They seem starker somehow than they do when my brain’s computer already has the Responding to Stuff Quickly program already loaded, because I’m having so emphatically to switch my mode of being each time something – anything – happens.

I’m therefore easily startled, horribly irritable, even more fidgety than usual, and my blood pressure’s running a little too high.

I currently have lots of time. So why can’t I get started on the things I love, and that make me feel happy and fulfilled?

I need to be wound back up. Set in motion.

This post wasn’t intended to be a brilliant piece of writing. Apologies for that. I’m merely trying to pull this somewhat cranky machine out of the mud, clean it, oil its mechanisms and somehow get it moving again.

This post is written as much for me as it is for anyone reading. I do so desperately want to be writing again.

And I will.

I just needed to start somewhere.

[PS: I did, however, write an autism-themed blog post for work last week that I was actually very pleased with. I’m sharing it here in case anyone is interested.]


[Image credit: Lars Plougmann]

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#AutismAcceptance/#AutismAppreciation Doodles ‘n’ Scribbles, no. 28: under the sea

Just a pretty picture, really. As usual, parts of it frustrate me – the octopus’s head is far too disproportionately small, for one thing. But it’s still quite pretty.

One of my earlier doodles, inspired by how much my children have at various times loved Octonauts, Finding Nemo, A Turtle’s Tale, and various other under-the-sea adventures.

Sometimes it’s simply nice to draw things that make my two little beasts smile.


[Image description: A brightly coloured underwater scene, drawn in fineliner pen. To the left of the image is a large yellow speckled octopus, floating above some deep red coral. Small fish of various colours swim through the middle of the image, close to a large, wavy-finned pink fish blowing bubbles. A large yellow-and-dark-blue fish hide within the seaweed to the right of the picture. The sea bed is covered in pale sand strewn with rocks, pebbles, a shell and a starfish, and a hermit crab marches along.]

#AutismAcceptance/#AutismAppreciation doodles ‘n’ scribbles, no. 25: Weird Sisters

A full-colour fineliner pen drawing of three green-skinned witches, around a large, ornate and rustic cauldron placed on a bonfire. One witch stirs a potion in the cauldron; another holds a spell book and is about to drop a frog into the mixture. The witch in the middle holds her hands up as if casting a spell. Numerous creatures are running away from the scene, and a cat hides behind the spell-book witch. A broomstick is just in view to the left of the image, and in the background are hills, woodland, bats and a full moon.

A full-colour fineliner pen drawing of three green-skinned witches, around a large, ornate and rustic cauldron placed on a bonfire. One witch stirs a potion in the cauldron; another holds a spell book and is about to drop a frog into the mixture. The witch in the middle holds her hands up as if casting a spell. Numerous creatures are running away from the scene, and a cat hides behind the spell-book witch. A broomstick is just in view to the left of the image, and in the background are hills, woodland, bats and a full moon.

Another one from my little Moleskine book. Yet more horror/spooky connections, plus a nod to the literary.

Fineliner drawing of an ornate, rather rustic cauldron, placed on a bonfire. This is part of the witches drawing. It’s drawn on the page of a small plain-paged Moleskine journal.I refer to a lot of these fineliner pen drawings as “doodles” because other than having a vague idea on my head about what I’m going to draw, I don’t really plan them, or sketch anything out beforehand. And I usually begin by drawing one area of the picture in detail, and “completing” this, before I move to the next. This started with a cauldron, and progressed from there.

I much prefer working in detail over a period of time to dashing things off quickly, but as per a couple of recent digital paintings and some of the more cartoon-based work, I’m having a go at doing things quickly as a way of honing certain skills. Painting and drawing quickly is still somewhat outside of my comfort zone.

Early stages of a full-colour fineliner drawing of witches around a cauldron. The cauldron on the bonfire is complete, and there are two partially-completed witches either side of the picture. The faulty foreshortenening/positioning of left arm of the witch holding the frog annoys me intensely. But never mind.

[Main image description: A full-colour fineliner pen drawing of three green-skinned witches, around a large, ornate and rustic cauldron placed on a bonfire. One witch stirs a potion in the cauldron; another holds a spell book and is about to drop a frog into the mixture. The witch in the middle holds her hands up as if casting a spell. Numerous creatures are running away from the scene, and a cat hides behind the spell-book witch. A broomstick is just in view to the left of the image, and in the background are hills, woodland, bats and a full moon.

Second and third images depict the same picture in earlier stages of development – firstly the cauldron, then with the addition of two of the witches.]

#AutismAcceptance/#AutismAppreciation doodles ‘n’ scribbles, no 24: another 20-minute mindful paint in the park

A full colour, landscape orientation digital painting of a wooded area of an urban park in springtime. The sky is blue, and there is a red-brick building in the background, and a path to the right of the picture. The painting style is rudimentary and impressionistic. The composition is not ideal, with rather too much grass in the foreground.

I stopped for 20 minutes painted this on the iPad on the way home from work last Thursday. It’s a good exercise in discipline to try and do art work within a tight timeframe — I prefer obsessing over detail, but I think it’s helpful to hone my skills of observation and composition, in particular, by dashing some stuff off very quickly. I also feel somewhat as if I’m laying myself bare by posting something so “imperfect”, but that doing so helps me agonise less over others’ perceptions of me.

Detail is beautiful, but for my own self-care I’m occasionally trying to let it go, as a way of addressing some aspects of my anxiety.

I still have so much to learn.


[Image description: A full colour, landscape orientation digital painting of a wooded area of an urban park in springtime. The sky is blue, and there is a red-brick building in the background, and a path to the right of the picture. The painting style is rudimentary and impressionistic. The composition is not ideal, with rather too much grass in the foreground.]

#AutismAcceptance/#AutismAppreciation doodles ‘n’ scribbles, no. 21: I stopped for 20 minutes on the way to work and painted a cherry tree.

A digital painting of an ornamental cherry tree in full blossom

I deliberately lengthen my walk to work these days so I can take myself through a couple of parks and get a little bit of nature before I set foot in the office. And I’ve resolved to use painting and drawing as a method for mindfulness, given that I’m the kind of person who struggles to keep still long enough to do a seated meditation – to stop off and try and capture something in the moment, as well as giving me a good way of practising both technique and skills of observation.

I’m still messing about, really, when it comes to digital painting. I have a lot to learn!

At the moment I’m aware I use too many different media/brush styles in one picture. But it’s fun to play around with the tools.


[Image description: a digital painting of an ornamental cherry tree in full blossom.]