Guest Post: Earlgreytea68

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From time to time, the OTW will be hosting guest posts on our OTW News accounts. These guests will be providing an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom where our projects may have a presence. The posts express each author’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. We welcome suggestions from fans for future guest posts, which can be left as a comment here or by contacting us directly.

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.

  1. Owlbsurfinbird commented:

    YES! Best way to learn to write fiction is to start with fan fiction. Thank you so much for the encouragement to keep at it!

  2. elwenlj commented:

    I write fanfic and opening like that feels like standing up in an AA meeting, as it does every time I say it. I had never really written creatively until I wrote fanfic. I’m no published author but fanfic did coax me into writing other pieces so I think it’s great jumping off point for budding authors. (When you don’t have to create the characters and setting it makes it a lot easier to just have a go.) Having said that I think the leisure writers like myself, who write just for the fun of it and don’t consider themselves good enough to publish should also be acknowledged. The fanfic fandom itself is reason enough to do it. Through fanfic I have met online friends that I cherish. I have laughed until I cried and simply cried at the amazing fanfic creations put out there for me to enjoy; the only charge asked, a word of praise or encouragement. So, long may fanfic continue.

  3. evisionarts commented:

    I’m a professional artist and have been working as a freelancer for over 20 years. I went to art school in the 80’s and there was a distinct caste system. “Fine” artists (my major) were considered the elite although it was assumed we were doomed to die starving in our garrets. Illustrators were people who couldn’t make it as fine artists. Graphic designers were a step lower on the ladder. This kind of thinking was, of course, absolute crap.

    I remember visiting the school library and discovering the work of children’s book illustrators Arthur Rackham and Kate Greenaway and deliberately hiding my awe of their skill and delight in their work because I was afraid of what my fellow fine art students would think of me. That was the first time I dared to question the status quo though it still took me years to openly admit to myself and others that there was no great book dictating the worth of an artist based on what they chose to create. We made all that stuff up. It was so freeing to realize that!

    I started creating fan art and fan fiction about four years ago and I spent quite a bit of time struggling with myself about whether to include it in the portfolio on my website. I ultimately did because I decided that the one great thing about getting older (I’m 50) was learning not to listen to people who’s only goal is to limit your creativity. And I’m so glad I didn’t allow the voices of negativity to dictate my actions. Acknowledging my love for fandom has opened so many doors for me and I’m so grateful to the community. If it weren’t for fandom I doubt I would be co-hosting a podcast or speaking on panels or perhaps even writing at all. My life would be so much poorer.

    Fan art and fan fiction is art and fiction. It’s as simple as that.