Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). And today is the 4-Year-Anniversary of this blog. So before I begin, I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who’s continued supporting me. Whether you follow my work regularly or stumble across it by chance, I really do appreciate every one of your views – no matter where you are in the world.
Anyway, for this anniversary, I wanted to talk to you about something personal to me. Many of you already know this, but my biggest ambition in life is to become a published author. Since I was 4-years-old, I’ve had creative ideas swimming in my head, eager to get out. Then one day, I tried writing a mystery novel. I’ve never looked back since.
Admittedly, when I first started out, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I had no idea what I wanted to my writing to achieve and even writing itself proved tedious given my Autism. However, I was keen to hone my craft. That’s why I applied for a Professional Writing course at the North (West) Kent College in Dartford. Since then, I’ve had varying degrees of success in getting my work out there. So, today, I’m going to look back on some of the more significant ones; telling you how they came to be and what I learned from them. This is George Harvey/The Autistic Blogger’s publishing history.
First Publication (The Real Me)
My first publication came about during my first year of college. And how it happened was actually due to a happy accident. It all started when we were given a writing assignment. I can’t remember what it was exactly – it might’ve had something to do with Creative Non-Fiction. Anyway, I decided to write mine based on my Autism; explaining how it affected me, what I thought of other people representing it, and how you can’t understand the condition properly unless you have it yourself. Follow the link below to see it:
After completing the article, I printed it off and left it on the side for later. I was planning to put it in my bag, but then my mum just so happened to be passing by. After noticing the piece and reading it, she came to me and said it was one of the most aspiring things she’d ever read. In fact, she insisted I let her have a copy so she could show her work colleagues the next day. One of these colleagues had connections with the NAS; who then asked if I’d like to feature it in their Communication Magazine. I agreed without hesitation. And after a few edits, it was released in their Summer 2013 Edition.
Looking back on it now, while this was my first publication, it also wasn’t my best-written. I hadn’t taken English as one of my Sixth Form subjects, and it clearly showed in my grammar; I was using dashes rather than commas too often, and some of my sentences could’ve been better structured. However, the NAS didn’t seem to mind. All that mattered to them was having someone like me who was willing to share their opinions and life experiences with Autism. And then it suddenly hit me.
For the longest time, I’d been so unsure how I was going to sell myself as an author. What made me different from the billions of others who wanted to be published? After this article, however, I had my answer. Unlike many of those people, I had experience in a specific field – one that not everybody is willing to talk about. If I could express my Autistic experiences through writing, then those who had the condition could relate to it, and those who didn’t would be given a better understanding of it. At long last, my path in writing was made clear; I would write to raise awareness of Autism and other personal issues.
Second Publication (Successful Studying)
My second publication was more of a group project. And it was released mostly due to my tutors’ involvement. However, it was still satisfying to see my name credited in a real book. Towards the end of my first year, we had the opportunity to write a guidebook called Successful Studying. This would be made available to future students and help them to overcome the difficulties of studying at a university level. For copyright reasons, I can’t post the chapter I wrote here – so I’ll leave you a link to the book:
To summarise, though, I give readers tips on how they can stay focused on their work, even if they have learning difficulties. These tips include: interacting with fellow students, asking for help from their tutors, staying in contact with everyone, not stressing over workloads, studying at home and knowing how to manage their time efficiently. I then ended the chapter by revealing it was written by a student with Autism – assuring them disabilities don’t prevent success.
Compared to the magazine article, this piece was much better-written. There were still some grammar issues, but my structuring and overall presentation had improved since the year began. It was also the first chance I had to make use of my new writing style. Because I was drawing from personal experience (i.e. using studying methods that had worked for me as examples), it made writing the piece that much easier. Plus, the way I conveyed it made things more relatable for the reader – adding something of myself to it brought out its full potential.
Working to my Strengths
As the course continued, I would use this writing strategy wherever I could. It would even be the driving force behind my Overcoming Limitations presentation, which I gave at the end of my second year (see my 1st Anniversary Special: https://georgeharvey2015.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/1st-anniversary-special/).
After that, however, things became more challenging.
My third year of college was, quite literally, make or break for me. I’d moved away from North (West) Kent to Greenwich University (London). And it brought changes that I ultimately wasn’t prepared for. The new workload and deadlines were so tight that I barely had time to relax my mind anymore. It got so stressful that I was actually waking up every morning, shaking and vomiting with anxiety.
But even with the course taking a toll on my health, I was determined to make the most of any opportunity presented to me. That’s why I became a student ambassador; it was another chance to share my experiences and advise younger students on how they could survive university as I had. I also briefly joined the student magazine, before committing to it became impossible. Arguably the best opportunity I had, though, was contributing to another book. This one was called Making Our Mark.
Making Our Mark
Towards the end of the year, a project manager was looking to feature students’ work relating to future ambitions. Although I was up to my neck in deadlines by this point, I didn’t want to let the opportunity pass. Who knew when I’d get another chance to be published? So after attending a briefing on the book, I wrote two pieces of flash-fiction for it. Both of which were included in the final publication. Again, for copyright reasons, I can’t post them on this blog – so here’s a link to the book:
But I will share what each is about.
First of all, although the book says flash-fiction, my pieces were actually based on personal experiences. So they were technically “creative flash-non-fiction“. Not that the editor minded.
Anyway, the first piece was titled Never Judge a Book… and drew inspiration from my time as a checkout operator. The idea was that people who saw me probably thought I had a very easy job; beeping items, sitting down for hours and getting paid for it. However, they couldn’t see how I felt on the inside: the strain of repeating the same actions, the stress of dealing with challenging customers, the overall dissatisfaction I had with the job. They didn’t know it, but I had connections in the world of writing and was fixed to become something greater than they could imagine. Emphasising you should never judge a book by its cover.
Aside from my usual grammar errors, this piece turned out better than I expected. It comes off as insightful, creative and even metaphorical at times. It’s an inspiring piece to anyone who’s striving to become better than what they are.
The second piece, Believing is Achieving, was more of a story. It draws inspiration from two of my past experiences: seeing my work published for the first time and receiving advice from Jacqueline Wilson. It features a boy named James (me), who is surprised to find something he wrote (The Real Me) published in a magazine (Communication). He never intended to show it to anyone because he lacked the confidence and doubted the praise his mother gave him. Realising she submitted it on his behalf, however, he sees the positive effect it has on other people. He then makes the bold move to contact his favourite author, Mrs W (Jaqueline Wilson), who actually replies to him and gives him some advice. From then on, James is more determined and confident to become a successful writer.
Like the first piece, this was intended to be something inspirational. Names and events were changed slightly, but the message was the same. You shouldn’t let your disabilities/confidence prevent you from pushing forward in life. With the right motivation, you can achieve almost anything.
Making Our Mark proved, once again, that writing from experience was my winning formula. However, once I left university, I knew it would be harder finding ways to be published. I wouldn’t have nearly as many resources, contacts or opportunities as I once did. Consequently, this was the last book I contributed to as of 2019. But that doesn’t mean it was my final publication, period.
Ambitious about Autism
Going back to when I was writing for the Student Magazine, I had the opportunity to interview Johnathan Andrews; someone who was heavily involved with promoting Autism. After I graduated, he invited me to join Ambitious about Autism; an organisation that works to improve the livelihood of people with the condition. Some of their previous work includes setting up Treehouse School (http://www.treehouseschool.org.uk/) for severely Autistic children and advising producers on how to represent Autism in the media. During my time there, I took part in several of their projects. Including Know Your Normal, where I was a panellist discussing what normal is for people like me, and Are You Autistic? – a documentary by Channel 4 (see my 3rd Anniversary Special: https://georgeharvey2015.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/are-you-autistic-review-3rd-anniversary-special/).
The most fruitful of these projects, however, was their Employ Autism campaign. Not only did I give a presentation, explaining why employment needed to be improved for adults with Autism. But Ambitious held an event teaching employers what to look out for when recruiting these people. A brochure was made to assist with proceedings, and I wrote an article detailing my own opinions:
Unlike my previous publications, this one didn’t have much creativity. It was just me giving my honest thoughts about what could be done to fix employment procedures. It still came off as professional though; explaining what problems Autistic people face when applying for jobs, and what support they need when starting out. Additionally, the message about not using Autism as an excuse to refuse employment was made abundantly clear.
However, there was one issue this article had in common with my other pieces. It’s limited availability.
If I was going to continue producing content, I needed a proper outlet; somewhere to showcase my work to as many people as possible. That’s when somebody introduced me to WordPress.
Like many things, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to achieve with my blog at first. I didn’t even give much thought to the title, hence why I called it the least-searched Google term in history: georgeharvey2015. Over time, however, I got a better idea of it’s identity. It started off small, with short pieces about Autism and how it affected me. They weren’t anything special, just samples to show everyone the kind of person I was and what I wanted to achieve. It later grew to include reviews – like the ones I’d been writing on Amazon for years:
But these had an emphasis on disabilities and personal issues. If I felt something touched on a subject like Autism (Lesson Zero), child neglect (Lily Alone), or living independently (Kiki’s Delivery Service) very well, then I’d feature it on the blog. Hence its tagline: “Home of Reviews and Autism Advocacy“. I also started a second blog to show off my older Amazon reviews, but regularly updating it proved too difficult; I was torn between fixing old pieces and writing new ones, and the latter required more attention.
As time went by, my ideas got bigger. And my Autism pieces got longer. I knew I couldn’t keep writing something every fortnight. So I decided to pace myself and write new content only when I had the mindset for it. This would evolve into the once-every-other-month schedule I have now.
Today, blogging continues to challenge me. But the benefits have been invaluable. My presence on the internet has put me in contact with many new people. Including those who’ve asked me for advice, and others who’ve listed my site on their own. In 2016, I even got in contact with somebody who ran after-school clubs for Autistic children. After showing her my posts and giving my Overcoming Limitations presentation, she invited me to become a volunteer myself. This would mark the beginning of a new ambition for me.
Until now, all of my future goals had been writing-based. But working with Autistic children made me realise something. The best people you can confide in with your problems are those who’ve experienced them personally. What made me such a valuable asset was being the only volunteer who also had Autism. This made it easier for me to relate to those children and understand their behaviours (shyness, isolation, lack of motivation, etc.). I also remembered something else. Some of the best support I’d had was during my school years. Without my various TAs keeping me on track, I never would’ve made it through school – let alone attended university. From this point on, I wanted to try becoming a teaching assistant. And that brings me to where I am today.
Hopes for the Future
Currently, I’m 25-years-old and have been taking courses in Special Educational Needs. I’ve also had chances to go into schools and get experience, but they haven’t lead to anything permanent so far. I still get notifications about positions today, but applying for them isn’t as simple as it used to be. Why? Because like most people, life has caught up to me.
I now live in my own studio flat; paying bills, going to work and occasionally meeting with friends and family. Additionally, the job I have is full-time with the hours and days varying from week to week. This makes it difficult for me to plan anything long-term, as I never know my rota until a month in advance. Even if I wanted to quit my job and become a full-time TA, I’ve been made aware of several money issues I could face – it’s tricky paying my rent even now. However, I don’t want to give up on being a TA. Because if I become one, it will be a two-way benefit; I can help children overcome their Autistic problems and learn what life is like for them in primary school. The latter of which would be essential to my most ambitious project.
Ever since my first year of college, I’ve wanted to write a children’s book series that raises awareness of disabilities and personal issues. In recent months, I’ve been brainstorming more solid ideas for it, but I still have a long way to go before writing the first story. And that’s not considering the time I’d need to finish the thing and refresh my memory of the publishing process. It might sound easy. But there’s a lot that eats into my spare time; work, socialising, drama, relaxing. Even blogging.
One reason I keep writing is to maintain my profile. I don’t want people to think I’m some random person who wants to get published. I want them to know how devoted I am and what I want to achieve. But like I said, blogging takes time for me. Sometimes I wonder whether I should even hold back writing longer pieces and push forward with my personal projects. My book series might be a long ways off, but I still have other ideas that could work. There was even one that came close to being a reality – before the organisation said they couldn’t provide what I was after.
I think maybe I should set a goal for myself. For the 5th Anniversary special, I should get something of a finished project completed and share it with you on this blog. Even if it’s not published at that point, a sample will show the progress I’ve made, and keep me motivated for the future.
Anyway, that’s all I have to say for this post. Again, I want to say a special thank you to everyone who’s continued supporting me. It really helps to know that my work is being shared and enjoyed by many people. If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, or have any questions, then please leave me a comment – I’ll be more than happy to answer them. And, until next time, stay tuned.