Back in the mid-nineties, when the web was new, some TV series experienced a novel kind of attention: internet fan sites. The ones I visited were The X-Files and Space: Above and Beyond. Back then, these groups were mostly friendly and manageable gatherings of people who had a common interest and wanted to talk about it. There were flames and trolls emerging, but it was harmless compared to todays haters, mobbers and flamers.
This was the time when I got first introduced to fan fiction. I had heard about it, somewhere. There were people who wrote Star Trek stories, but I didn’t read fanzines, nor did I visit conventions, so I didn’t actually see any. Then, hanging out in ‘my’ groups, I was quite surprised at the number of fanfic stories that showed up. Hooray: more stories about a series I liked, what could be better? Romance. And Fantasy. And erotica. And action/adventure. All the genres you could think of, and a lot more you’d never heard of. I found it fascinating. The topic of fair use and copyright issues did come up, but hardly anyone paid much attention. I was busy reading.
Later, I found websites about books I liked, and, you can guess: fan fiction about these books.
I read, and read, and read some more, but over time, I also got my own story ideas. Only, I couldn’t write them. Writing never was anything I would have considered a talent, something I am good at. I certainly wasn’t encouraged at school. And so I asked one of the writers.
“Listen, I have this idea…”
“Buh. Not you, too. I have ideas of my own. You want it written, write it yourself.”
And with that advice, I started scribbling my ideas down. I moved on, from one fandom to the next, and finally I started to write in earnest, and to post my stories. There are archives for fan fiction. Some of them are even moderated. And often you are required to have a beta reader. It is a very educational experience to get back a story you wrote that looks drenched in red ink. At first I was embarrassed and offended, but eventually I learned to value the feedback, and now I don’t feel like I’m done with a story if my friend and beta reader doesn’t look over it first. Mind you, I only was a moderately successful fan fiction writer, but I wasn’t a total failure either. And so I keep writing…
I’m not writing fan fiction any longer, but honest and critical feedback is still something I want and need. I’m part of a tiny writing group on facebook, where we are trying to figure out how to best help each other, and to get motivation to write. We’ve just now started a series of prompts for January, something I think we’ll continue every month. I’m thinking about a word-count challenge as well, either for myself or for the group—or anyone else who is interested. This could be like a 2500 words per week goal. I’ve participated in something similar before, and it is very motivational, especially if you get a little pat on the back when you meet the goal.
And why, you ask, do I write in English if my first language is German? Because it is more fun. And because I came to writing through fan fiction, which took some time to find its way to Germany. And because people who read what I wrote could only read English, and because the fandoms I wrote for had English as the original language and I prefer to read and watch the original, and…
Writing, for me, is being creative. I need to do something creative, I’m not happy without. In my youth I was drawing and painting (not very well). Later I added crafts. I also like to sew, and knit, and crochet, but I’m not really all that talented at that either. You could say that I am all thumbs. Still, it is something I do, I make, and that is important to me.
Writing has given me some incredible moments of creativity. There were times when I was just hacking away on the keyboard without much thinking, and later would wonder how I came up with that scene or segment. I even have moments of what I call my ‘creative subconscious’ from time to time. When I’m very tired and want to finish a paragraph before I go to bed, I sometimes fall asleep and still write a few words while drifting off. It is always very interesting what I produce then. Something like dream-writing. I wouldn’t want to miss these moments. That’s why I write fiction.
I’d be very interested to read from other writers how they motivate themselves.