So, this question—Can you tell me a bit about where you're at with fandom? How you got there?—from stormkpr...
I have gone through many phases of fandom. I'm sure for all of you who have stuck with me through several iterations and hiatuses that you already aware of this. Perhaps, you remember the times I've said I came back after a long flat-out absence from fandom. Well, here is my journey. It's not simple or pretty; in fact, it's pretty twisted, but here we go.
Round One: Roswell, Andromeda, X-Men, Mutant X, Avalon, etc.
So I entered fandom at a young teen stage of my life when anything I loved was something of a fangirl situation and my dad and sister were both the same. I did more graphics than fic at first, but I did write some popular Roswell/Andromeda stuff before my parents changed their collective minds about fandom and cracked down on it. I deleted my profile and for a long time, kept my pictures and fanfic archived personally, but lost those in a move.
When I got old enough to return sometime after the 3rd X-Men movie came out, I was starting from scratch. I hadn't intended to return ever. I had for years simply resisted the impulse to do anything fannish when I wanted to until there was no longer an impulse to resist. But I did return. I did.
Crisis of Writing, Crisis of Faith
I talk about this from time to time, but it's still hard. I wrote a book. The first draft was so terrible, it's not even funny. I wrote and reworked and finally got somewhere I liked with it. The worldbuilding was phenomenal: it incorporated most of my core ideas for fictional worlds, which I still repurpose today. At the same time, I was in the process of writing another story, Rain, which dealt with a huge faith crisis by the characters when Team Five left the Projects, a top-secret branch of the military. These two books broke me.
I mean that.
My grandmother means more to me than almost any other human on earth. She read what I had—and I was excited to share it—and was more than a little appalled. Oddly, it wasn't because of the issues I addressed, which is why I address those issues to this day. It was because some of the ways I grappled with those issues were in direct contradiction to my faith. My books about crises of faith became my crisis of faith and I literally got sick to my gut at the thought of ever writing my own work again. So I stopped cold. It was hard. That was the darkest period of my life. I was depressed, angry, hurt, sensitive, and not understanding how to find my way back to a God I hadn't even realized I'd walked away from.
Nevertheless, I have been a writer since I was old enough to know what a story was and how it was created. I had engraved that idea so deep into my identity that I literally couldn't not write. In despair, I turned to fanfiction. It changed my life.
Round Two: X-Men (all 'verses), Take the Lead, Secret Garden
It sounds melodramatic to say that, but it is something I have truly learned is my nature. When I cannot trust myself to write, I fanfic and in that second bout of fandom, I crossed over from amateur writer to absolute confidence in my own voice.
In the first three months of that year, I started three popular stories and wrote them consistently on a rotation basis. I was rather disciplined; it was nice.
Around that time, I got tendonitis, then I got on pau d'arco, a natural anti-inflammatory and the only one that helped me, and then I got an unexpected side effect I didn't track down to the tea until months and months later. I got insomnia. Every morning between 1 and 2 a.m., I woke up and could not go back to sleep unless it was the fifth or so such morning and I was exhausted.
Between that horribly early wake-up time and the time I got ready for work (more like 4:30 a.m.), I wrote fanfic. Needless to say, I racked up the word counts and produced roughly 300,000 words of posted fanfiction that year besides the unposted WIP stuff. My story count went through the roof and I had way too many balls in the air, but I wrote.
That's when I found out what I liked in a story, how to write a whole story, how to interpret reader feedback, what to ignore. I learned to experiment, to challenge myself, to post, and that's when I blew past the million words of crap line and more, knew it.
That's why it changed my life. When Dean Wesley Smith and company shared the first real information about the emerging independent author situation (and it was truly only just beginning), I immediately saw the parallel between the way fanfic was then handled and the way original fiction was going to be. I started thinking about it then, but I didn't really have one piece of my confidence back: the faith factor.
Finding My Way Back
After all the grief that period gave me, you would think the return would have been huge, climactic, and so infinitely memorable, I would know the exact moment everything changed.
I read some stuff of Rabia Gale's and Natalie Whipple's and Kayla Olsen and kept hammering away until gradually, I did find enough peace to tentatively begin trusting God again. Though really it wasn't Him I hadn't trusted before, it was myself. I didn't trust myself to know if I was really with Him or not. When that happened, I shifted focus.
I started hammering away at a story. Well, stories, but most died on the vine. One made it, the first I'd finished after that horrible, horrible year: "The Singer." When lithiumlaughter recently read this story, she loved the main character. What I didn't know until today was that story mirrors my emotional journey. The most important thing I had died and I had to make peace with God over it before it could live again. And oddly, I think that story's playing a lot into Justus', which is probably why for so long, I didn't want to touch his story, afraid I'd screw it up as badly as I screwed up Rain.
When I finished that story, I'd proved that I really could write and finish something again that belonged to me. And I stepped sideways.
Round Three: Everything
My original fiction worlds are so incredibly interrogative of the stories and poems and biblical themes and questions and struggles I love and fangirl that there is really, literally no difference between them to me. If anyone wants a catalog of the origin of one character or another, odds are 50% or better, they started out in my fandoms.
I thought I would balance fandom and canon at first but I couldn't do it. I immerse so deeply into one world or pairing at a time that everything comes unbalanced naturally all the time, and it's one or the other, this or that, move through sets of stories on rotation. Thus, I have hiatuses and do exchanges and go on the occasional original fiction binge, but none of them really take over my life. I have too many things I love to do and so have always spread myself too thin.
When I'm full up, I write. When I'm hurting and angry or scared, I fanfic.* When I'm empty and dry, I read and listen to music. There is very little overlap unless I force the issue, except reading. I always read.
This is my relationship to fandom. This is how I got there. It's one place I can be angry and hurt and afraid and lash out and cry out to God and the world, Why? I don't get it and somehow it's okay because then He answers back and no one else even knows the questions I was really asking. Sometimes I don't. For some things, there are no words.
For me, there are a lot of those some things.
*Fluffy, funny stuff just doesn't take a lot out of me, but that's a little different. I'm rarely invested in that stuff.