Ok, so this blog came a little bit faster than I anticipated. I have big news to share. I have just signed my contract for a non-fiction book with Jessica Kingsley Publisher’s, hopefully in bookshops and online retailers for late Spring/early Summer 2024.
It’s called Feeling Fast and Slow, or, at least, that’s the tentative title. If Farrar, Strauss and Giroux’s lawyers are reading this blog, then I think we’ll have the defence that the Daniel Kahneman book has been out for ages and has already taken a large market share. We’re never going to eat into the profits of their worldwide bestseller – or, at least, I don’t think so.
The book will be an expansion on my blog from November 2021 on Alexithymia and Emotional Porousness. I will be interviewing autistic people, researchers (yes, even a few neurotypical ones) and feature a lot of the familiar combination of horror and stupid jokes that has become fundamental to this blog. Hooray.
Being autistic entails living with a field of prejudice about what we can and can’t do. One particularly pernicious stereotype is that autistic people are unempathetic. Instead, as recent autistic-led research is showing: empathy and sensing the emotions of other people is far greater in autistics than in our neurotypical peers. We feel so much, many of us feel guilty when dropping cuddly toys, musical instruments or even cutlery – we didn’t want to hurt these objects. This explains why many autistic people keep their cuddly toy collections.
Yet, the stereotype of Autistics as loners without an understanding of the outside world has stuck. Many Autistics struggle to read the signals inside their bodies, such as when to eat, shower or use the toilet. We also often struggle to comprehend our own emotions.
So: which is it? Do we feel too much or feel too little? The answer is both. And not even consistently. The challenge is to fit into a society that rigidly defines normality away from our ways of feeling. Written by a long-time autistic activist and fuelled by up-to-date autistic-led research and understanding, Feeling Fast and Slow (working title) seeks to redress the balance and show the profound depths of the autistic heart, in a world that never moves at the pace of our emotions.
Here’s a short example of the writing itself!
I hadn’t expected to have had such a rubbish personal training session. I’d woken up, had breakfast, hugged my partner, who’d had a bad night’s sleep, waking up at 4 and not getting back to sleep. He would come home early, if he could. I gave myself a figurative pat on the back – I’d slept very well indeed. I got on my bike and left for the gym.
When I got in, I changed and said hello to Daniel, my personal trainer. I put my shoes on and started with the exercises. I had no strength in my arms. Something was going on. I didn’t know what. I became more self-conscious, more sensitive, far less confident. I started apologising for everything. I nearly bumped into someone weightlifting. I told Daniel that, if he hadn’t been there, I would have run away in shame.
Yes, after writing this week’s blog the day before, my brain was a bit fried – but nothing too horrible. I was beating myself up for not being able to lift weights I managed easily a week before. I hadn’t done anything wrong. What was going on with my body? Daniel, who’s got ADHD, was getting visibly nervous now – which was new for me. Am I making him uncomfortable now as well? I start apologising even more. I’m visibly shaking now – in public! Shame descends. We end the session early.
When we hide in the storage room, we go through the recent weigh-in and measurements. I beat myself up, seeing negatives in everything. Daniel then stops and says: “I’m sorry mate, I didn’t want to say it earlier because you were not having a good one. But..” Yes? “I’m going to stop doing personal training. I’m starting a new job in June.” Suddenly, my mood shifts. There’s a wave of – something. Relief tinged with sadness. Though it’s not mine – it’s his. “It’s ok mate, it’s ok.” Now I’m the one giving him a hug, letting him cry. He was really nervous and scared to tell me, since we’d had such a great working relationship and that he’ll miss seeing me three times a week. For my part, I feel the same as I did when I came into the gym this morning. The heaviness evaporates and I’m smiling, cracking jokes, cheering up Daniel as best I can.
He is so relieved that I wasn’t upset, but needs a moment to deal with his own feelings. He is also baffled that, somehow, my body felt his nervousness. And I didn’t even know it.Jorik Mol – Feeling Fast and Slow
So what comes next?
I will be writing this book over the next year or so, with a deadline of 30th September 2023. This means I can work a bit less during the week. I will try to blog consistently, twice a month I hope. But my first priority will be to my health and sanity. If I’m not doing well, I can’t write. Fuck being a suffering artist – a boy has to eat.
Does that mean I won’t be working on Teeming anymore? I will still! Though I am going to be very busy, all my autism activism originally came out of doing research for Teeming and its sequels. My research for Feeling Fast and Slow will contribute to the novel and vice-versa. With the house move and my partner’s period of joblessness, I needed to make money for both of us this past year. I no longer have to. I’m still working for Heriot-Watt until late August. I have quite a few autism events in the pipeline. I’ll remain a mentor and a tutor. Things are on the up and up.
If you have any questions, pointers or requests regarding Feeling Fast and Slow, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
I can’t wait to share some of the process with you and, in 2 years, be actually published! I can’t quite explain how excited I am – but, overwhelmingly, the emotion is a huge relief. Finally. I paid my dues, I’ve worked for over 15 years to get to this point. Thanks you for being there on the way, welcome to any new fellow-travellers. Here we go!
Lots of love,