Going to tea with my writer friends today. I hope they don't ask what I've been writing lately, because I am totally not going to admit that it's fan fiction.
Is there any decent sociological writing out there about fan fiction? People who don't read it seem to think it's primarily erotica, but that's only a part. Sometimes it's primarily about closure. I have a theory that some of the best fan fic comes from the most unsatisfying canon plot lines. Unfinished mythical arcs beg for completion.
Sometimes it really is just about shipping your favorite characters - whether show runners agree with your choices or not. There's a real affection present in fan fiction - for the characters, the shows themselves - and it is a selfless sort of love, because no one has anything to gain financially by it. ("All standard disclaimers apply," is one of the most commonly included lines in authors' notes.)
Some fan fiction is very, very good - obviously written by "real" writers. Some of it is...not. Some are pretty good rough drafts that just need some judicious editing. (Editing is handled by people called "betas" in the fan fic world, and the quality of editing varies as wildly as the quality of writing itself. Many fics are "unbeta'd" altogether, too.)
I've been reading fan fiction for a long time - there was some great "Farscape" fic back in the day! - but this is the first piece I've ever written. I think I looked down on it in mistaken snobbery, thinking that I needed to stick to "real" writing in order to accomplish anything. But I haven't accomplished anything with my "real" writing for years! I haven't even tried. I haven't published anything since 2005, I think - and that was just a poem in a now-defunct literary journal. I've spent most of the last 10 years in an artistic fog. I stopped performing, stopped writing seriously. I had a terrible day job that dominated me completely for several years, and then my chronic fatigue came back after years of near-normal energy, and even my ambition dried up.
But this silly fan fiction project feels right. I have been cranking out a chapter - an entire chapter - every other day. And so what if no one reads it, or that I can't make a dime from it? It's so satisfying to watch the plot unfold, to take these familiar characters in new directions. It feels amazing to be un-stuck in this simple way!
And yet I'm still ashamed, and I still won't admit it to my writer friends, because I feel like they won't understand.