Like many writers of the post-internet era, I can point to fanfiction as the thing that made me writer.
Some people stay in fanfiction all their lives, doing it for the love of writing and the love of fandom. Some people move from fanfiction to original fiction. While it used to be embarrassing or a secret, more and more writers embrace their fannish roots.
This is not a story about that.
This much is true. I discovered fanfiction around 8th grade after a recommendation from a friend. (It was Harry Potter related because with was 2003-2004, so of course it was.) I read it. A few months later I started to write and post. I haven't stopped since.
In 2008, I graduated from high school and started my undergraduate studies, in which I was majoring in Creative Writing. So, yeah, I fanficion got me pretty serious about writing. I had to actively apply for this major, along with the school, with a portfolio of my work. In 2012 I graduated with that degree, and even won an award for the best portfolio amongst my graduating seniors in my major. (Humble brag.) A few of my short stories had been published in the lowest entry barrier online magazines.
I'm zooming past all that, although I want you to know the context. I was serious about writing. I got a degree in it. A degree that involved loans to pay for tuition, knowing it wasn't a job secure degree, and graduating into a recession economy just scraping its way back.
During that time, I had told myself more than once it was time to give up on fanfiction and focus on original writing. I said that when I started college... of course, I made an exception for my ongoing fic. Had to finish. It was be cruel to my readers not to. (It was for Gilmore Girls, because Rory and Jess were made for each other, dammit).
And the exceptions just kept coming. I mean, why deny inspiration when it hits?
Of course, I was serious when I was going to quit fanfiction when I graduated college. I needed to write original work. It needed to be literary and important. I needed to get published.
Of course, fic writing crept in around the edges. (A lot of it was for Glee, because Klaine for life.) (Please stop judging my fandom tastes now. No regrets.) It wasn't serious, but it was fun. People were reading it. At least I was writing something.
I had sort of a different experience of shame, guilt, and writing fanfiction at this time in my life than the traditional narrative. I wasn't ashamed to write it from the get go. Geek chic, baby.
It wasn't that writing fanfiction was anyway bad, it was just that it wasn't what I was supposed to write at this point in time. I was supposed to be starting my writing career. And as many people feel in their post-college early twenties, the clock was ticking. I had landmarks I wanted to hit. I needed to get short stories published and, more important, I needed to write a novel.
I struggled to write and struggled to write and struggled to write.
I lost my passion. I had definitely lost my vision. I hadn't even yet to truly discover my voice. I was trying to write to the vague shape of an idea of what I was "supposed to write" as judged by my fiction writing education from college. My complex feelings about my college writing education is another post all together.
During this rough patch, a weird dispassionate and extended writer's block of sorts, fanfiction kept me writing. It was fanfiction that gave me inspiration for some of my original pieces that had ended up being accepted for publication in literary magazines in the next few years. It was fanfiction, which I finally embraced, and wrote a lot of, and wrote to completion, that helped me hone my style, practice storytelling, figure out my genres, and just enjoy writing. Fall in love with writing again, like I had been as a teen -- uninhibited and fun.
I have since embraced fanfiction as part of my writing diet. No shame or 'I should be doing this instead of that' attitude about it.
There are other steps in my writing journey that has gotten me to the place I am today, but I think this is important and not to be overlooked. Fanfiction made me a writer and saved my writing. In between there and now, it has honed my abilities.
Maybe fanfiction was for you or maybe it wasn’t or maybe it was for just a short while. That’s not the takeaway here.
Here it is: if it feels right, if you’re passionate about it, if you’re excited about it… then write it. That sort of artistic joy is a sign. It’s intuition. Go with it.
Insights from the life of an aspiring, struggling writer; a passionate reader, and a working librarian.
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