I am asked this question often, and the simple answer is “life.” That is, I cheat. As an independent high end consultant in information technology, my job has me roaming the world, wheeling and dealing with: fortune 500 companies, large government agencies, and secret military projects. At home life has forced me to come to terms with: a wife with a terminal illness and a child with autism as well as two older boys who still need direction and support. Finally, on the community side of things, I started up an instance of NextDoor which last year grew from nothing to 600 members and I became treasurer of the local HOA. In combination: my business, personal, and community life have all provided a fire-hose of ideas and interpersonal conflicts.
For example, this week I am in Beverley Hills working at Cedar Sinai Hospital. In order to get a better taste of the area, I decided to walk the two miles to work. In that short walk I saw the well equipped and funded emergency services fully descend on a private Jewish school due to a pulled fire alarm. As I took a detour to dodge the dozen emergency vehicles that responded, I found a discarded twenty dollar bill on the sidewalk. I stooped to pick it up and a perfectly “constructed” woman frowned as if I was picking through the trash – Yes I was in Beverley Hills. Like people I find locations and organizations have their own personalities, and nothing substitutes for direct experience and immersion into the environment.
On the personal front I am in the process of moving which is greatly complicated by the health issues at home as well as working in Los Angeles this week. Juggling between calls of: agents, title companies, and loan companies for both the existing and new home while somehow appearing focused on work has proved “interesting.” Trying to connect to the family from the hotel amidst all the stress is also a challenge.
Meanwhile I’ve had to burn cycles calming the nerves of the community at large regarding my departure. Again, all this chaos and angst provides wonderful storytelling fodder as I internally struggle to manage myself and keep on top of it all.
However, these answers so far are really superficial. There is a deeper reason why I am here at this juncture in my life and it has little to do with outside events. The true architect of my life isn’t as much where I am now or even my consciousness. It is my subconsciousness and living on the spectrum that has determined my place and role in the universe.
In particular, my autism makes the ordinary extraordinary. Autism means I have a short-circuited brain. My senses are supercharge, my brain overclocked, and my emotions are on a hair-trigger. This can be great in a crisis but becomes a major burden in the normal day-to-day events. In order to cope I am forced to imagine and think outside the box and actively manage myself at all times. This is really where the ideas come from as well as the grounding to the main character and their responses. In life I have to analyze everything as it not only helps to navigate reality but it distances myself from my emotions which can be overpowering.
By itself the autism would be limiting as it would also cause me to dodge stress in general. That is where the ADHD kicks in. ADHD drives me to be extroverted and constantly seeking stimulus. This aspect of my personality is what draws the extraordinary to myself (much to the regret of my autistic side.) It is why I thought simultaneously: moving, working remote in LA, and releasing the book TERMINAL CONNECTION sounded like a good idea at the time. It is also why earlier this year I launched and marketed the NextDoor site for my community and jumped onto the HOA board when there was a SLIGHT lull in work. I simply cannot keep still and have a driving need to be constantly moving and engaged.
As a result, having both autism and ADHD, after 45 years of experience this concoction has resulted in where I am now and why I approach life the way I do today. This approach is what feeds me with a fire-hose of story fodder and causes me to constantly analyze the carnage in order to make semblance of it all and somehow manage the situation. Part of this “digestion process” translates into the act of imagining and penning down novels such as TERMINAL CONNECTION.
This post originally appeared on NMS Guru. Daniel Needles is a friend of Lou Aronica. His novel Terminal Connection was published on Jan. 24, 2014.