An odd approach…
I believe I was the last in the universe to learn of FanFiction.net. Now, perhaps this was a blessing in disguise, as I came to it already focused on writing, rather than caught up in a particular fandom. Not that I was lacking in that experience, but there is a difference between being swept up in a fandom in isolation, and being swept up in a sea of those like you. FanFiction.net is an ocean of vast proportions.
It was a wonderful discovery. It was very akin to that book on web design that teaches good design by showcasing poor design. No, no. I am not insulting everyone who writes or reads that site. What I mean is that I saw that what is true for physical artists, is true for writers – everyone is good at somethings, but the measure to shoot for is to become well rounded. Here is an example, from memory:
“He walked down the cracked steps, short grasses and moss already working to widen the lines and gaps to reclaim this rise of earth.
“Heyo. Let’s jam.” He called out to his brother-in-arms. ”
The setting was in the time of King Arthur, and clearly, dialog was what this writer needed to work on, while equally clearly they knew how to immerse the reader in the setting. (the original had more wonderful setting info, but I just wanted to show the steep contrast)
There were many, and varied examples of this, and I devoured them. It also showed me the value of curation. If you were interested in a niche fandom, this site was perfect. If you were caught up in a thriving community – well, there was a lot of underwhelming content to slog through in the search of something passably put together. Occasionally there were jewels. It kept you plugged into the hunt, those jewels.
I look upon that time that I fell down the rabbit-hole of FanFiction.net as time well spent.
But while I feel it made me a wiser reader, at least in understanding the parts, and how they fit together, and discernment, my time spent there did not enhance my production. I never posted. I remained unable to complete anything. I would get what they called a “plot bunny”, and write it up, jump from that “cool scene” to the next and then peter out just as the real work of writing was to begin. Of course, that is how I see it now; then it was that it just wasn’t the right time for me. I didn’t have the right office, the right job, the right time, the… exactly: excuses. Or if you are being kind, I was blinded still, by my first writing experience.
I truly believe that nothing will ever compare to it. If for no other reason than I have enshrined in my memory. Words flowed. Pages were ripped out of my notebook and passed away for my friends to read as they were completed. I wrote. Oh, how I wrote. I wrote in class, I wrote at home, I wrote whenever I could write. In fairness, I never finished it. I had to end it, artificially, because it had to be handed in. The tale burned in me and I worked feverishly to get it out.
I’ve been chasing that ever since, and when I couldn’t chase it, I buried it.
There is something there, if you can see it, hovering around the edges. I’ll never know which came first, the feeling that if the words are not burning to get out it’s not worth doing, or that the moment was the culmination of little praise for steady forward movement and hearts and flowers for that last minute save? What I do know is that time has passed and it no longer matters. That it can’t matter anymore. That battle is over, and if it continues to be the focus, I’ll lose the war.
The positive news is that words still pour and burn. The even more positive news is that when they don’t, I can still produce. From here, we move forward (again), but much more seasoned than ever before!