Inner worlds vs outer worlds
What links climate change, neurodivergence and creativity?
This is the Writers’ Executive Lounge, a series for neurodivergent writers, or writers with executive function challenges, or anyone who’s just fucken knackered but still wants to write or create cool stuff. Subscribe here for updates and all that jazz
I’ve spent a while trying to find a neat way of marrying my two big obsessions: the way we tell stories about climate change, and neurodivergence - specifically the ‘getting stuff done without imploding’ angle on neurodivergence and executive function. And I keep coming up blank. There’s just not a neat way to package all of this in one theme, or at least not an immediately obvious one.
I’m not really interested in the ’neurodivergent thinking can save the world’ kind of vibe, because I don’t think that’s true (stay tuned for why!), and I’m also not here for ‘neurodivergence wouldn’t exist if we didn’t do capitalism’ because that’s also not true (stay tuned etc etc).
What makes my hyperfixation twang is that the inner world of the creative (the writer, in my case) and the external world of the environment struggle for the same reasons.
The same problems that cause climate change cause us as individuals to burnout and struggle to function and subsequently to pathalogise what are otherwise perfectly rational reactions to living in a world wholly unsuited to our actual needs, and one that is rapidly ending at that.
So look. None of this is controversial. We already know all this stuff. Climate change is driven by the economic myth of infinite growth in a place of finite resources, and to uphold this paradigm we find ourselves trapped doing work none of us want to do that in turn destroys the only planet we have to live on. The act of forcing ourselves to do that work, and the act of upholding that system, makes us sick, physically, mentally, and causes huge problems for everyone, especially for people with certain brain types.
We can just call the problem capitalism, of course, because, well, you know, broadly speaking that’s the problem. But it’s too easy in a way; it doesn’t quite capture the spirit of the thing. Plus it’s hard to keep talking about capitalism as the problem without sounding like an overexcited undergraduate who just discovered that Karl Marx said some things, and more importantly it doesn’t get us any closer to tangible action or change. It’s also worth pointing out that I’m not anti-productivity as an idea. I’m very pro productivity, if the things we’re producing are art and food and music and healthcare and stories and very soft blankets (ok and maybe some NSFW stuff too shhhhh).
I don’t actually have the answer to the question I started with. It’s just something I think about a lot. But I do see the whole thing as interconnected systems and microcosms and macrocosms and cycles of behaviour from the barely consequential to the earth shatteringly vast. There is a common narrative in some environmental circles that to heal the world we must first heal ourselves, and broadly speaking I subscribe to that. We can’t possibly have the deep, meaningful, authentic relationships we need with each other and our communities if we are struggling with our own existence as a human person. We need to work on our personal traumas and pathologies alongside creating horizontal networks of mutual aid to strengthen the grassroots against the onslaught of the billionaire class. We can’t do one without the other. We can’t work closely enough with each other when we’re filled with maladaptive behaviours and self-hatred, but equally we can’t lock ourselves away while we try to become perfect before we exist in community.
So maybe the question I’m actually asking isn’t actually how climate change and neurodivergence are linked, but how can we live more connected, more creative lives, not just individually, but globally?
If that’s the case, then the only place we can start is here, with me, with you, one by one, with our own creative work, and whatever we learn from that can only ever ripple outwards and impact everything around us. It’s that well worn therapy thing: change yourself and everything else changes around you. If those of us who have been completely broken by the machinery of this dystopian hellscape of a world can find our way back to the creative work we always knew we had in us in the first place, well, then I reckon something profound might just happen.
The next newsletter in the Writers’ Executive Lounge series will consider the utter futility of being told to write a list and how to begin on the important creative work without dying of burnout. Make sure you don’t miss it…