I used to write fanfiction.
I can recall vividly the exact moment when I started writing it. It was Christmas break 2008, there was a writing challenge on a particularly prolific (if not well trafficked) Harry Potter forum on Fanfiction.net, and I had had just about enough of shadowing. I spent too much of my time playing the wallflower in high school. I wanted to get involved. I wanted to talk about the things that I liked. And so I wrote what is, to this day, still one of my weirdest pieces of fiction.
As far as writing goes, it wasn’t great. It needed work grammatically, stylistically, and the gaping cliff hanger at the end wasn’t so much intentional as it was a means to end the story in time for a deadline. But it was a good first try and it opened a door for me in a lot of ways.
I started talking to other people on the Forum, people who were older than me, more experienced than me, and who were incredibly nice about helping me improve my writing. They edited early drafts for me, they corrected my grammar, and pointed out flaws in my storylines that I couldn’t see. They were my mentors, my literary peers, and my first online friends. We talked daily about all of the things that we loved, not just Harry Potter, and eventually came to know each other better than most people I had met in person.
Amongst my online friends I found a sense of belonging that I couldn’t find in my daily life. I found people who understood me, people who appreciated my work, and people who shared my interests. Writing fanfiction taught me how to express in words all the stories and ideas jammed into my imagination and the friends that I made as a result of it helped me to improve and, ultimately, to become the writer that I am today. Through my experience with fanfiction I began to accept who I was as a person, too. I stopped caring so much about what my peers thought of me, stopped pretending that I enjoyed things that I didn’t, and acknowledged that while I didn’t fit in with them, there were other people in the world who could and would share my interests.
I don’t write much fanfiction anymore. Like most fanfiction writers, I eventually moved on to explore some original ideas and alternative creative outlets. At present, I spend a lot of my time reading, writing personal essays like this one, and occasionally making YouTube videos. Sometimes I work on longer, more in-depth pieces of fiction, too. But my fanfiction past is kept closer to the surface than most people realize; I’ve kept the penname that I fashioned for myself six years ago alive, choosing to use it around other parts of the internet instead of letting it fade away. Because my past and my penname are part of who I am and I can’t let them go.
Writing fanfiction was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I’m a better writer and I’m more open about my passions and interests because of the decision that I made to try it six years ago. I put myself and my work out there for the world to see and I’m proud of myself for doing it.
Have you ever read or written fanfiction? Or have you had a similar experience that changed you for the better? Let me know in the comments down below!