How Fanfiction Took Over My Life: (Or How Sometimes Writing Bad Is Good For You)

If you’ve ever written, you’ve been in a rut. You’ve hit that creative wall where no idea seems good, no words seem to fit right, and nothing that you type out compels you to hit save. Believe me, I’ve been there. In fact, at the beginning of the summer, I was in such a deep rut that I didn’t really ever feel like writing again. Then, I discovered fanfiction.

For those of you who don’t know, ‘fanfiction’ is a genre of writing (usually only on the internet) that takes the standard characters and sometimes plot of a book, movie, or TV series, and is written completely by the watchers and readers. It is usually pretty entertaining, since the imaginations of these people are kind of crazy but in the awesome they-can-juggle-eight-orange-juice-jugs sort of way. In their warped little worlds, that one couple that could never quite make it work ends up getting married, or the awful villain that had previous gotten away manages to get captured by the good guys. It’s like a create-your-own ending book, but written by you and with the characters you’ve come to love.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – this is bad writing, isn’t it? Well, I’m not going to make sweeping judgments on the entirety of the genre. Some is well written, some is…not. It varies on the platform you’re writing with (fanfiction.net vs tumblr vs mibba, etc) and the original source of the characters/plot. Some people find great literary merit in it; some laugh in its face. Personally, I used to turn to it as a guilty pleasure in middle and high school – I never dreamed of trying to write it, but I found the other people’s ramblings just as entertaining.

Like I said, I hit this summer. I had just moved back home from college and realized I hadn’t written anything that wasn’t assigned for class in something like three months. Which is terrifying, considering I’m trying to make my future career about the stuff I write. I panicked and tried to convince myself to write a certain amount of time each day, but everything ended up coming out forced and contrived. I didn’t like my voice anymore and I was beginning to burn out.

Then, I was talking to one of my friends and she mentioned how when she was in middle school, she used to write fanfiction all the time. I had heard of it, but hadn’t read any. When she reluctantly presented me with her old livejournals, I hit upon gold. It was, of course, not that great (no writing anyone does in middle school is good. Nothing anyone does in middle school is good), but you could tell it was written with an enviable ferocity, if you will. I hadn’t written anything like that in ages. Even when I wrote creatively the past semester, it was with too much trepidation and self-analyzing. There’s something to be said about smashing your inner critic and I wanted to try that.

So yes, I wrote fanfiction. I sat down at my computer, picked a fandom (not revealing what), and tore away. I didn’t think about who would see it or what anyone would think about it, I just let the story go as quickly as my fingers would move and when I got bored, I stopped. I never write like that. It’s invigorating.

But it got me out of my rut. The next morning, I took my usual chair at the kitchen counter and opened the page for my “official” writing…and suddenly, I was able to type it all out better than ever before. I modeled my pace to that of the fanfiction – spit it all out at once, then go edit. Which is so, so much easier than editing while you go (that’s my hoity toity writer advice for the day).

So yes, I write fanfiction. Yes, I still do it. I have a whole document saved on my computer for the awful stuff. Whenever I feel myself slipping into my rut again, I go back and write another terrible chapter, filled with cliché and poor word choice. And it’s great. Not the writing, but the feeling I get from being able to just sit down and write something without constant self-analysis and doubt.

Well, maybe don’t go out and create an account on fanfiction.net, but definitely look into writing badly. Have a “crap” document on your computer just for stuff that you know no one will ever see. Just please, whatever you do, don’t get sucked into the fandom like I did. Fanfiction is one thing, but posing as a fourteen year old on tumblr is another…yeah, not so sure how I’ll get out of this.

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