I underestimated how much time working full time takes out of my life. Making space outside of that for personal projects is still something that I am adjusting to, but there is time for that. Is this what being a real adult is like? Finding only small moments to write, be it on a bus ride or during a lunch break?
I miss reading. Reading is easier than writing, and they each bring joy, but which brings more fulfillment? I sort of wonder whether I’d be better off if I read different kinds of content. Less fanfiction and more philosophy. But some of the ideals that are most integral to my belief system and patterns of thought were developed from fanfiction, or from the source text of the majority of the fanfiction I read, the Harry Potter series. Likes and dislikes, passions, genres of music and poetry (what is the true difference there?) were in part sculpted from what I have read and internalized over the years, and yes, that includes fanfiction. I’ve learned different life lessons from White Squirrel, Rorschach’s Blot, MayFairy and Dante than I have from Derrida, Foucault, Spivak, and Nietzche, but they were lessons all the same. (And yes, Dante wrote self insert fanfiction and that’s not a bad thing. And so did Plato. Fight me.)
Perhaps books opened my mind to worlds beyond my imagination, but fanfiction broke those worlds open and showed that there was more to see. And perhaps… perhaps there may have been things I was unprepared for. Maybe there were things on the internet I should have stayed away from and that were places I shouldn’t have gone at a certain age. But fanfiction was never that. Fanfiction was my solace, and my rescue, and it showed me that everything was OK. Fanfiction gave me happy endings, as well as one’s that weren’t so happy, and a way to explore the darkest parts of myself with no consequence. In fanfiction I found a friend and a partner in myself and in my writing, as there were no stakes, no pressure, and yet plenty of reward. Escapism, but also family, and creation.
I write and create as an act of escaping the pressures of my daily life, and I write on this blog to do that, but what I write here is done as a way to express the things that go on in the real world. Another mode of writing I do is on commission, which is done to get paid. I don’t dislike this writing, but the fact that I have to push aside personal projects for what will help me keep the lights on makes me resent things just a little, even if it’s about a topic I love. But fanfiction, that’s the most freeing thing. Because fanfiction is unlimited in its potential, and I get to play with a world that’s not my own. Fanfiction has no restrictions, no real deadlines, but is so fulfilling because I can express myself and tell stories in a fun and exciting way. I can hone my craft, and if people want to judge me for it, the only thing they are judging is an anonymous screenname.
Perhaps it seems like a waste of my limited time to devote any of it to writing these stories, but I had stopped writing for about a year at one point, and while the year was OK in the general sense, writing-wise I felt stagnated and a little miserable. Writing fic again has me invigorated, and I also feel a little bad honestly because the comments I got upon finally updating indicate that people were very eager for an update, and at least one person thought I might be dead.
Reading fanfiction has also brought me no small amount of joy. As I noted before, I’ve thought about the characters and the narrative in all kinds of new ways, and the ways that people have read and written the characters has taught me a lot about the way that people in general tend to think, as I’ve seen the characters that I know and love through the lenses of hundreds if not thousands of other fans of the series. In a way, fanfiction has done a lot to teach me about people.
Granted, it’s important to take things that one learns on the internet with a grain of salt. I don’t pretend to be an expert on human interaction to any degree, and especially not on the basis of what I’ve learned from fanfiction. But what I have learned isn’t useless, and is interesting.
I’m not sure where I was going with all this, but if I had to draw one strong conclusion, it’s that reading and writing have strong value, no matter what the source, and for me that value has been largely positive, particularly with regard to fanfiction. A lot of times people like to trash fanfiction, or even published works because they don’t meet the standards of what people consider to be a valuable contribution to ‘literature.’ I think that superfluous entitled bullshit. Read what you love and do what you love is what I think. The things that we do and create have the meaning that we make from them. Everyone gets something different out of every piece of media they consume, and that’s the important bit, not whether it was written by someone who was forty-six or someone who was fourteen, and the debate about genre v. literary fiction feels tired to me.
So perhaps this is an old argument and perhaps I’m preaching to the choir, but I do think that, more than just imagining our world complexity, we imagine how others view their worlds through a complex lens, that’s how we can make meaning from a wide variety of sources.
Happy reading! (No matter what that material is 😘)
P.S. Check out my fanfic website jesmalestiel.com!