Today’s post is by former lawyer and a published novelist, earlgreytea68, who started writing fic with a couple of friends around eight years ago, saying, “Sure, I guess I’ll give this a try!” That was, to measure it the way a writer does, a few million words ago. EGT has written babyfic in “Doctor Who,” “Sherlock,” and “Inception,” but she writes other sorts of fic, too. You can find it all on AO3 and hang out with her on Tumblr.
Sometimes I meet people—professional writers, even—who have no idea what a fanwork is, and this always gives me pause. My world is so immersed in fan creativity; my most-visited websites are Tumblr and Twitter and LJ (I’m old) and my bookmarks are all fics I need to get around to reading and I use AO3 so much that I literally broke my log-in account (a saga for another day, but shout-out to the awesome tech support who helped me through it!). I wonder what a life without fanworks is like. I wonder how a writer learns to write without fanfiction, because I learned everything I know about writing from fic, honestly. Thank you to every writer who’s inspired me and every reader who’s left me a comment, because you’ve all been the best creative writing course in the universe.
But from the outside, I guess, it all looks weird. Once I had to explain coffee shop AUs to someone, and I said, “You take the characters and you put them in a coffee shop, so they’re, like, baristas and regular customers and maybe bakers and stuff.” They blinked at me and said, “And that’s a whole story?” And I was like, “That is TONS of stories and THEY ARE THE BEST.” But I guess, in the abstract, never having read a coffee shop AU, it might sound weird.
Then again, I have become more and more convinced that it’s only weird to people because I put it in the fanfiction context, and, for some reason, people assume there’s something different about fan creativity than about “regular” creativity. Which is such an odd premise. I say “coffee shop AU,” and people cock their heads at me. But I say, “I’m working on a story where the main character works in a coffee shop and falls in love with a regular customer who’s always ordering pumpkin spice lattes,” and people say, “Awww!” I say, “I think I’m going to write a story about a person having to raise a baby who is also their clone,” and people say, “Yeah, sci-fi is in right now, huh?” I say, “I’m writing a story about Sherlock Holmes having to raise his own clone,” and people raise their eyebrows and are like, “That’s kind of crazy.”
So this may be a weird thing to say on International Fanworks Day, but on this day what I want us to celebrate is the fact that fanworks are just like every other form of creativity, in that they are valid and important and interesting and fun and if you are engaging in them, you should never feel like you should be ashamed of it, that you should “stop playing around” and start “getting serious” or doing “real creativity” or whatever terms you want to attach to it. Because fanworks are absolutely one hundred percent real. In fact, fanworks are, in many ways, more real than the vast majority of “real” creativity, because the reach of fanworks is tremendous, and the influence of every fanwork, in the great ongoing dialogue that is fandom, is undeniable. Even the smallest of ripples contributes to the larger conversation. No fanwork is an island, and that makes every fanwork vitally important, in a way that “real” creativity seems to purposely stand apart from.
In fact, I might be biased but if you can’t say it on International Fanworks Day, when can you say it? So: Fanworks differ from every other form of creativity mainly in the fact that they are a higher percentage of amazing. Fanworks are so routinely derided and dismissed, so routinely mocked and belittled, that everyone engaged in fan creativity is that extra dose of amazing for forging forward with that. Every act of creation is an act of bravery; it takes great courage to step into the world with something you made. And fan creators do it in a world that has already decided that your creation is worth less because it has “fan” in front of it.
We make astonishing, impressive creations and, so frequently, we say nothing about them to most of the people we know. I sold a novel for publication and I told everyone I knew. I have written fics for years—fics I adore, am proud of, cherish, who have introduced me to delightful people who make every day better and have pulled me through tough times -— and I don’t talk about it. And it’s so weird, because it’s something to celebrate. We should understand it as such.
So, on International Fanworks Day, I want all of you to celebrate YOU. Don’t feel bad or guilty or pointless; feel every one of your pieces of creativity is the amazing achievement that it is. Drawing and painting is, frankly, nothing short of witchcraft. Crafting a fanvid is a joyful magic. All of the other creations blossoming out there -— stuffed bunnies and brilliant pieces of clothing and excellent graphics and transporting fanmixes and moving songs and all the rest of it, gloriously too numerous for me to list -—are an embarrassment of riches. And all of you writers out there (which happens to be my creative medium): writing is hard, writing a story even harder. When you step back and look at what you’ve accomplished, don’t call it a fanwork. Call it what it is: a piece of art. Know, all of you, that no matter what it is you’re doing, you are bringing great glee to many nameless people who you will never meet but who will smile at your work, who will make a note of how much they loved it, who will discuss it with their friends. That, after all, is what artists do. And that is what you are: an artist.
I wanted, my whole life, to be a writer. I worked very hard at it and I succeeded in publishing a book and it was absolutely amazing and if that is your dream, I encourage you to go for it. But I want to share with you the lesson I ultimately took away from that experience: I worked very hard to be a writer, only to realize that I had been a writer all along.
Happy International Fanworks Day, guys. Keep all that creativity coming.