In the late 1990’s I discovered the internet and found a place for my nerdiness to come out. I was a proud member of The Sliders Fandom on the Scifi Channel’s bulletin board dedicated to that show. I came to the party a couple of seasons in, so the roles of advocate, villain, bad writer, good writer, and fan were all filled by multiple people. Nonetheless, I carved a niche for myself. I wish I’d read through every post and story before hitting submit, because my dyslexia and typing issues did me no favors. I learned so much though about people and writing. I’m in no way proud of anything I wrote during that time; I am so proud of the fact that I tried. My failures in establishing and following through on plot were embedded into my psyche and slowly addressed. I miss the people I liked and the people I didn’t like even though I only knew their handles and general locations.
Since the advent of the early pulp magazines, fandom has brought disparate individuals together by creating a community as real as anything we deal with in our lives outside fandom and the internet. I saw a great fandom self-destruct due to petty pranks, flame wars, and personality conflicts. A few years later, I saw the Farscape fandom lead the way for the Browncoats and Nutters to win more episodes or min-series (even a feature-length film) from the networks their shows were housed in. Recently, I’ve seen beloved shows revived on AmazonPrime and Netflix.
My dirty little secret is how much I love reading trashy fan fiction now. I get to watch people who aren’t my students, people who care so much about certain characters and worlds grow as writers. I get to read the work of the truly talented and the less talented. It is so special that places like LiveJournal and ArchiveOfOurOwn exist for today’s fans. I may not do more than push the kudos button or bookmark stories, but I so appreciate the risk these people are taking.
Writing is a difficult passion. At times writers just want a little love, acknowledgement of their ideas and the time it took to put them into words. Once writers get a little more comfortable with writing for public consumption, constructive criticism is valuable. Writers who really want to improve get to the point where they need someone to say “Hey, you misused defiantly” or “What happened to this plot thread?” Constructive criticism can be overwhelming, just ask some of my students. If writers can power through the blocks, the lack of readers, the lack of praise, and the inevitable backsliding in product, then they can become really good at storytelling. People aren’t writers just because they get a book deal or make money self-publishing on Amazon or defend a kickass Thesis. People are writers because they write.
That was one of the most important lessons I learned from the Oregon Writing Project at a time when I wasn’t sure I could keep teaching. My first five years in the classroom were incredibly difficult and disheartening. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m still doing it well into year twenty. So, I learned that writers are people who write. I also learned that the best teachers practice their craft. I can help students through writing a paper on a topic they hate or get past a block or finally get a decent poem onto paper, because I write. When I’m writing I’m at my best.
For the last few years my depression has stolen my desire to capture words and ideas. Instead of filling up journal after journal, I have half a dozen half-filled blank books. Instead of writing in and posting regularly anywhere, I’ve slept or read my life away. Reading is my escape and writing is my sanity. I need both to be a better version of myself. And I can no longer let my fears about how self-absorbed it seems to write and post my thoughts about not much stop me. Instead I’ll take a lesson from a colleague who runs a fashion blog with a strong and steady following. She truly cares about clothes, about the importance of looking the way we want to feel. She wants her readers to be inspired by fashion and passion the way she is. I’m not that passionate about anything right now. So, this is me finding my voice again. This is me being me again.
I don’t think I’ll be writing much fan fiction though.
I will keep reading.