Today we’re joined by Jacob, who is known on social media as Jacob’s Jottings. Jacob is a phenomenal author who writes both original fiction, nonfiction, and fanfiction. For nonfiction, he writes about autism and mental health for the site “The Mighty.” For fiction, he has mostly written fanfiction and original short stories, but has recently taken on two large projects. One involves a detective in post-war Britain and the other is about an autistic wizard (which is something i would absolutely love to read because it sounds fantastic). It’s clear he’s a dedicated and passionate writer, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I’m a writer, and I’ve really started to come out of my shell in the last few years. I’ve always written short stories and never shown them to anyone before, but that changed when my friends started writing fan-fiction, and my English teacher at college told me to attend a creative writing club.
Though I’m still very private about my larger projects, I started publishing articles for mental health site The Mighty, one of those articles received 32,000 hearts on the site, and got shared a lot on social media, so I started to say to myself ‘what if people would like my creative work too?’ and here I am now, writing two large scale projects, one about an autistic wizard, the other about a detective in post-war Britain. Not just that, but I published some fan-fiction of my own, and I found once that was out there, I found it a lot easier to write without much self-doubt.
I’ve recently finished college, and I’ve been accepted onto the Creative Writing BA course at a university I’ve dreamed about going to for years. I’m hoping this will really make my dream of being a full-time writer a reality, even if it takes years to take off.
As well as writing, I also do a bit of photography, and some digital design. I make all my own covers for my projects, as well as posters for events, and I love going out and taking pictures. I often use the pictures for reference for my writing, and it’s a great skill to have alongside.
What inspires you?
I find inspiration in many things, mainly everyday life. But I often find myself looking into what I loved as a child, certainly what comforted me. Sometimes this is in the form of stories by other authors, such as J. K Rowling, or Terry Pratchett, but other times its films and music, or most importantly to me: knowledge. Plants, animals, and space particularly always have heavy presence in my stories, and that’s because I love to learn new things.
I’ve always written to escape the real world, so I suppose it is natural that my other methods of escape blend well with this, I often find that going to a museum or exhibition particularly fuels my writing, it often ends in me trying to fit a lot into one box- my wizarding story contains as much knowledge of the natural world as it does fictional magic for example.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always been creative, and I was sure I wanted to utilise that in some way, but could never find an exact form that suited me. I tried art, and drama, and found myself not ever truly comfortable. I mainly thank books, films, and television, for getting me into writing. The idea of making my own stories was irresistible! I cannot pinpoint when it exactly started happening, probably about five years ago, but I finally found that writing (alongside reading and watching) was the most enjoyable thing to do. Then it all fell into place, and I find myself writing all the time, even if it never gets added to again- it’s fun.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
Oh definitely! The infinity symbol finds its way into most of the stuff I write, not just because of its use by the autistic rights movement, but because of my fascination with the concept behind the symbol. I also always incorporate types of birds as symbolism- usually owls, or penguins, as they’re my favourite, penguins especially.
Playing with colour is something I’ve recently moved into, I don’t have a single character that does not heavily associate themselves with colours and their meanings, even if it is just a subtle inclusion. Blue for my protagonists usually, a colour I use not only to create a cold atmosphere, but also to show the presence of intelligence, imagination, and peace. Reds and oranges meanwhile shows up my more passionate and instinctual characters, with purple showing a combination of the two.
I also love playing with imagery, with many of my characters having ‘hair the colour of fertile soil’ or the ‘great spurts of an ancient wine, hemorrhaging profusely’- it can feel a bit forced sometimes, but it often pays off, and I find it a great way of illustrating the worlds I’ve made.
I’m also told I tell stories in a unique way, my friend recently commented that when she reads my writing, I am clearly telling the story, rather than just creating it. I’ve never quite understood this evaluation, but I’ve heard it quite a few times in several forms.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
It sounds cliché- but I would say just do whatever you love! I spent far too long worrying about what others think, and though that matters if you want to make a career out of it, the initial starting of a new art is a solo-activity. If painting makes you happy- paint! Everyone I know who does something creative for a living started off doing it to just kill time, or to help them with another activity, and it grew from there.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I use the label asexual as standard, to me, this means not feeling sexual attraction. I’m confident in identifying as a sex positive asexual, but I’m yet to 100% settle on my romantic orientation.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I think one of the strangest encounters in my life was when I first explained asexuality to someone, without attaching the label to myself. I was told its ‘unnatural’- for this reason, in my private life, I don’t talk about my sexuality until prompted.
I also find that some in my age group is often sex-obsessed, I’ve often been labelled prudish just for not wanting to talk about sex, and I find it very hard to try and express my frustration with that. I am not at all prudish, I just think about it completely differently to they do!
I incorporate it into my work- I actually find it harder to write allosexual characters, and therefore many of my characters are asexual by accident! And I do worry that some people won’t understand the representation if they haven’t experienced it first-hand, but I do my best to write characters that educate as well as represent now.
Outside of my field, I see prejudice and ignorance regularly, insults such as ‘frigid’ and so on, I also see the constant discourse present on sites such as Tumblr, and though I do my best to keep out, I sometimes worry for our community, I hate the idea that anyone who identifies as asexual will feel like it isn’t valid or can’t talk about it in case they’re verbally attacked.
As an autistic person, I also find that some people think my asexuality is part of that. I don’t think it is- and it’s quite insulting to assume that someone’s sexuality is part of their sensory issues for example. The two often overlap for me, and I also know autistics that do feel sexual attraction and have those sensory issues anyway. Some people in both communities would even say their sensory difficulties enhance their sexual experiences.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
Personally, I find that the definition of asexual is often mis-identified. It means lacking sexual attraction. But I know people who are completely convinced it simply means ‘won’t have sex, or won’t masturbate’- it is often a pain to try and debate it with them, and I find myself bringing up articles from the community to back my side up.
I don’t like discussing the personal details of my own asexuality in too much depth with people who might not understand, and therefore I think the extra labels of ‘sex positive’ are really useful when discussing asexuality, as well as the other identities within the spectrum.
At the end of the day though, the only person other than me who has a right to that deeper information is a partner, and I don’t think asexuals should ever feel pressured to dissect their identities for another person’s curiosity or because of an ignorant person’s misconceptions.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Firstly, it is okay to struggle! I found it incredibly hard to find the orientation that best described me. I still think sexual orientation is a fluid concept, and I think people who are struggling should remember that. If something doesn’t feel right, find the label that does feel right, and don’t feel guilty if that changes. Some asexuals might not find that identity for a long time.
I myself often find myself wondering if I might be aromantic as well as asexual, or demisexual instead of asexual, this is a natural part of development. Just as sexuality in all its forms is natural. A lot of people go through that internal debate. And nobody should ever be afraid of using the label that best suits them.
I would also repeat that the only person who needs to be happy is you. Come out at your own pace. Experience your sexuality at your own pace. Some people don’t find the identity they’re most comfortable with until they’re halfway through life, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
There’s a thriving asexual and LGBT+ community waiting to help you through it all, and the right people within it are not going to judge you for struggling.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
As well as this there’s my new Facebook page, also called Jacob’s Jottings, and my user page on The Mighty, under my full name- Jacob Durn. If anyone is curious, my photography can be found easily on Instagram, where my username is identical to my AO3 one.
My blog has a bit of everything (including personal posts, and lots of reblogs), my AO3 some fanfiction, and soon some original works, whilst the last two focus on my non-creative work.
Thank you, Jacob, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.