What’s So Special About That Then?
These days l only have a few very specialised interests, passions and enthusiasms in comparison to all the years before me leading to the days of a youngster when l have held down many. Last year l was seeking a new dedicated focus, which thankfully l found with blogging or writing in a blog as l do now.
I prefer the term ‘dedicated focus’ in consideration to ‘special interest’ personally which is a term coined and known about by many on the spectrum of autism. It was a term l saw in a book authored by Tony Attwood l read a couple of years ago. I like it as much as like seeing puzzle pieces and ribbons when associated with autism – which trust me when l say is NOT a lot!
Special Interest makes me think that in many ways/some ways it is somewhat demeaning to me. So l like my term better as that sums my behaviour up when working with my chosen hobbies. Because ultimately, that is what they start off as ‘hobbies.’ Call them what you will, but for the sake of this post, l shall be referring to them as hobbies just for the very direct familiarity of it.
Since l was a youngster l have held down many, too many in fact to mention, however if they have stayed on in my life, it is because the interest level has never waned for me. Some hobbies will stay with me for ever and become a fixed interest of passion whilst others will flounder in the dust.
Let’s look at hobby as a word though – described as a regular activity frequently engaged in for leisure and or enjoyment. The difference of course to someone like me is down to the level of dedication l award to it with my free time. I often ask if there is a significant distinction between intense hobbyists to a Spectrumites’ intense fixations?
For me, l might start a hobby and if it develops further then it becomes a dedicated focus and from there it can then be accepted into my basic formula of normalcy or it can be elevated into something much higher pending my overall interest. Of course it can be discarded to the wayside.
For instance l love to write, and read and game, watch films and listen to music. These form my basic ‘hobby’ requirements – part of the staple diet of interests. However l don’t just participate like most ordinary people do – no, that is way too easy! I like to write whereas most people like to jot [bloggers exempt from this l hatsten to add], l enjoy rhyming poetry and creating it, but l simply love to put pen to paper or digital to digital!
I don’t just game, l am a hard core gamer l really get into it by immersing my very soul into the life essence of the game itself, l have to live the experience. Anybody can watch a film, but l collect films and have a good many titles and all listed into desk top directories by actor. But l then learn all the films they are in, and can name their co-stars. I have an eclectic musical taste and will happily listen to Arabic and Chinese alongside everything from house to trance and beyond. And l love to read, with a target of around 50 books per year whereas most people struggle to read perhaps 2, if that.
As said l love to game, albeit these days on-line is my passion in consideration to board games or table top gaming as a youngster and a teenager. I have been an ardent Wower since its first launch which is now some 14 years. Equally and sometimes more so l prefer desktop gaming as l can tire of all the so called social interaction requirements of some online communities where as l find most comfort in soloist play.
Everyone has hobbies – this l readily accept – and yet the difference between the autistic hobbyist and others is this one main phrase ‘focus’ and specifically ‘clearly defined intensity’. Anyone can do any hobby, its simple – except most people don’t absorb it into their very life essence. I will ‘do it to death’. I will live, breathe, eat, and shit that hobby to the point that l have at times a complete contempt for it, and then it will be spat out! Of course that falls heavily into the arena of ‘lack of moderation’ as well, another struggle.
If the subject has some real content to it, in so far as diversifications then there is an excellent chance that the interest could remain in my life for years and years – like World of Warcraft did. That’s the difference and trust me when l say, it’s a huge difference to just another having a hobby they love.
As an example: I recently played a ‘standalone’ PC gaming title – The Witcher 3  and it was an absolutely awesome gaming experience. However, as is the way with some titles these days – they have introduced moral decision making. In so far as the player has choices that affect the way the game ends. I played the game, first run through and l felt really shitty at the end. Why? Because l did not know the game series! So in typical Aspie fashion l ordered all the English translated books on the series and the first two games. I cannot play a second play through on the third game UNTIL l have played the first two in sequence and l have read all the current books on the subject. Then l shall be able to make more of an informed judgement as to how the game ends. In other words, l must live, breathe, shit and eat the game.
The other thing that should be remembered is that many a time those on the spectrum are not just content to perform in one interest at a time and tend to focus on the minimum of a half dozen for variation and mental stimulation.
I have looked back at interests that have stayed with me for long periods of time since childhood or as a teenager and have diversified as l have got older. These form the staple to my basic functionality. Some are not as intense as they used to be, but always have a place in my heart.
Playing soldiers to table top war gaming, to military history, to writing about history.
Drawing, to creative art to photography,
Reading, to writing, poetry, rhyme to a love of the written word,
Discovering my sexuality to becoming obsessional about all forms of sex,
Watching films, collecting films to specialising in categorising the genres,
Asperger’s diagnosis, researching to developing business concerning awareness,
Exotic livestock brokerage to political primate husbandry, protocols and administrations
Rodent breeding to genetical inheritance and colour mutations
The Art of the Dandy to the world history of fabrics and textiles
World of Warcraft to specialising in fully understanding multimillion gold earnings in game and to guest writing on gold makers blogs.
Listening to music, to developing bizarre and strange tastes in eclectic genres,
Starting indie businesses to specialising in niche businesses,
The Occult to ghost hunting, X-files and horror, cryptozoology
Novice vegetable gardening to composting and developing mixtures for greater results for harvest.
In the past l have held down numerous other interests, too many to mention in fact, but here is a selection of them. Some of these still hold a place dear to me even now.
Stamps, postcards, matchboxes, coins, comics and fanzine collecting, Yo yo’s, Frisbee’s, Boomerangs, Board Games, Puzzles, Tetris, Rubik’s Cube, Jogging, hockey, ironing, baseball, archery, canoeing, dancing, retro and antique furniture & weaponry, archaeology , bugs, creepy crawlies, sharks, reflections, running water, waterfalls, telephone numbers, Airfix modelling, Thunderbirds, pottery, train spotting, dinosaurs, butterflies, painting, flower pressing, word puzzles, pen pals, theology and philosophy.
Some of the current obsessions can be very time consuming, so much so that l completely lose track of life around me. During the writing of this post, Suzanne came in twice and scared the crap out of me as l was that focused on the screen; with the music playing behind me that l was completely unawares to her presence. You see with a dedicated focus you can easily become hyper focused and that of course can be detrimental. You can easily acquire the title of ‘selfish bastard’ with your interests. I am very lucky; Suzanne doesn’t give me a hard time. However my ex-wife was always referring to me in the most derogatory and colourful language!
Finding a new interest is not that easy, and for me it doesn’t work like that. Suzanne has a few hobbies/leisurely activities, but of those few she loves them all. She enjoys yoga, but that simply doesn’t appeal. She adores walking and luckily Scrappy enjoys it also, so the two of them can happily jaunt off till their hearts are content. I like walking, but l don’t love it. I don’t wake up in the morning and think ‘Oh golly, l could walk 10 miles today!’ and derive a huge buzz from the thought! I am trying to lose some weight and some walking will be enough for me. But that’s the extent of my interest. Although l will happily walk with a camera in my hand for those special moments!
For me, l have found that some of the best dedicated focuses are the ones l can turn into a business, and that way l can combine business and pleasure together.
However, enough of my prattling, how about you, do you have any enthusiasms, motivations or activities you enjoy pursuing? Have you turned a hobby into a money making venture? Do you still have any of your interests from your childhood days that still live with you passionately?