March 24, 2016 § Leave a comment
It’s an overload of happiness; what’s not to love? But it’s so messy and emotional and hard to control. I don’t want to cut it out of my life; honestly, fangirling seems like one of the most beautiful things you can do (especially as a teenage girl). But is there some way to control it? HELPPPPPPP. PLEASE. Thank you so much. I hope your book flies off the shelves.
February 15, 2016 § Leave a comment
Anonymous fanfic-scrapping addict writes,
Long story short, I’m addicted to going ‘screw it’ and throwing all the fanfic I write in the fire. Why???
I want to write something! My writing’s not bad, is it? Everyone else likes it. My ideas aren’t too shabby. But every time I get past a few pages, I just feel the need to delete the whole thing and start over. It’s infuriating. Why can’t I finish any project?
Help please. I need to know why this is happening and why I keep rejecting my own headcanon.
February 2, 2016 § Leave a comment
So I get lost in my headcanon. A lot. It happens at work, at home, on the bus. . . After a CBT therapy last year, I realized that this behaviour could be an escapist response to my anxiety. I have since been trying to teach my brain not to go there all the time.
The only issue is that getting lost in my headcanon is the only way I’m able to write fic. Now that I’m trying to limit myself, my fic ideas remain unwritten. I’m afraid that if I indulge in them, I’ll just end up in an escapist fantasy again.
Any suggestions as to how I can still write my fic and be mindful?
January 20, 2016 § Leave a comment
Im the biggest fangirl for Drarry (Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter), to the point that I refuse to sleep because I’m reading stories about them. I can’t do homework or study, I’m procrastinating all the time, and it’s getting out of hand. I buy all the merchandise and I’ve watched the Harry Potter movies at least 8 times in a day. How do I stop this?
July 31, 2015 § 1 Comment
Every day my to-do list gets bigger.
I have multiple jobs, many articles to write, and 181 episodes of The X-Files left to watch. But in my brain two very small voices take shape, knocking on the door that hides the treasure: all the headcanon and conflict and kisses that have yet to be recorded and released into the wild of the Internet.
Yes, I started a fanfic a few months ago that I never continued. It’s possible that I’ve begun more fics than I’ve ever finished, and I’ve started to wonder what that says about me. Does it mean I’m a BAMFy lady who’s got too much to conquer? Or does it mean I’m a coward who can’t finish what I’ve started?
There are many reasons why we abandon fanfiction that we write, whether our readers realize it or not. Maybe when we die we’ll have to wrap them all up in fic-writing purgatory before we ascend to fangirl heaven (where we star in all our favorite shows and our hair is SO SHINY THOUGH). Here are a few possibilities why you never finished that angsty multi-chapter roller coaster, and what they can help you learn about yourself.
1. You outgrew the characters.
All relationships take work, and if you neglect fictional folks for a while you might find yourself falling out of love with them. But fangirls also mature and grow as humans, and they may find that that old Glee ship no longer seems appealing to them. I’ve often wondered myself how one ship can be my be-all and end-all, and then a few months later seem so. . .blegh. You can blame it on the writers for out of character plot, but ultimately there’s nothing wrong with outgrowing a pairing.
What this says about you: You’re a maturing lady who doesn’t have to apologize for wanting to ship a more mature pairing. GO FIND THOSE MIDDLE AGED REPRESSED IDIOTS.
2. You weren’t ready to be vulnerable.
Oh god, this one is so me. *hides face* Fiction writing is hard because it often feels more revealing about ourselves than writing nonfiction does. And putting those vulnerable moments in your story is hard work, especially when you’re not anonymous and your friends are going to read it. I’m not talking about sex, per say, because not all good fic has to be M-rated. Sometimes there is just a scene or a moment of conflict or even joy that we just can’t seem to write. We blame it on lack of experience with certain plot points, but deep down the next chapter just feels like it might reveal too much about ourselves, our struggles, and our deepest fears and dreams. So we stop, and our readers wonder what the hell happened.
What this says about you: Maybe you’re not quite ready to have a reader see what’s hard to write. Try pushing forward and finishing the chapter without showing it to them. Think of it as more of a therapeutic exercise. Then if you’re proud of what you’ve written, maybe you’ll have the courage to share. Or you can keep it just for you.
3. There was too much pressure from your readers.
Reviews. We say that writing fic isn’t about the praise, but I call BS. Because fic readers are always in search for MOAR (especially for less popular OTPs), chances are they’re going to love your work whether it’s Pulitzer worthy or not. Who doesn’t love a low praise bar? The problem is that as a story continues, the pressure builds to either keep the story going forever or to construct an ending that everyone will like. So it’s easier to just hang up your hat, start a different fic, or disappear from the Internets.
What this says about you: You care too much about what other people think. Being focused on praise and approval and not the story itself is only going to make you anxious. To shift the focus, try writing an entire multi-chapter story before you start posting chapters. That way your fic will reflect your true intentions and imagination more than the pull of the demanding reader.
4. You no longer needed the crutch.
Sometimes we write fic just for fun, and sometimes we need it to get us through a difficult patch in our lives. Maybe you retreat into a story when you’re home with your crazy family for Thanksgiving or after a nasty breakup. The fic crutch isn’t unhealthy as long as you’re taking care of yourself with additional strategies, and a good hurt/comfort or fluffy fic can be just the trick. But you may find that your resilient unicorn self has bounced back faster than you can resolve the plot, and your readers still want the goods.
What this says about you: You are quick to retreat into the imaginary when things get rough. This is both a coping mechanism but also a symptom of possible depression. Keep writing fic, but also pay attention to the urges, because they signal that maybe you need some extra support and healthy habits to help you through the tricky plot points in your own life.
Ultimately, it’s important to be kind to yourself when you examine the junk yard of abandoned fanfiction. You can see what you want to pick back up and refurbish, or you can pay attention to the new direction your imagination is taking you. When fic becomes work, we’ve lost the point entirely. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two about ourselves along the way. Fic is the toy we pull down from the attic to play with time and time again, but it’s also a mirror that reflects how far you’ve come and how far you could go. So don’t be afraid to take a peek.
March 23, 2015 § 1 Comment
*cough click play cough*
I fell in love with Adam Cartwright when I was eight. I am significantly older now, but still in love. With the internet, I’ve discovered Bonanza fan fiction and streaming old Bonanza episodes. I mean really! It’s embarrassing. Is this OK? How much is too much? I’m a published novelist, and it interferes with my plotting! I have an app that blocks my access during work hours, but I still think about it! My husband thinks I’m insane, so I have to hide my fangirling from him. I used to feel the same way about Paul Simon, but I appear to have grown out of that.
Let me just start by sending a giant thank you to my grandparents for never turning the TV off for a single second of my childhood. Because of them, Sarah, I am a 29-year-old woman who has spent more time on the Ponderosa than dare I say any other millennial on the planet. I guess being able to answer your question is worth having to put up with all those hours of Judge Judy blasting at 700,000 decibels. Maaaaybe.
How much is too much? The fact that you have to hide the behavior from your spouse tells me that you might have already wandered into that territory. The problem with fangirling is that it is a bonanza. The word is defined as “a source of sudden wealth or great luck,” and boy do we feel like we’ve struck gold when we find a fic archive or a streaming site that feeds the beast. But like anyone who wins the lottery, we struggle to manage the wealth.
To me, there’s a difference between what I call “selective sharing” about fangirling in relationships and blatant deception. For example, if your significant other asks why you’re in a good mood, you don’t need to say, “Because these idiots on my TV screen just kissed, so excuse me as I barf rainbows riding into the sunset of creys on my unicorn.” Maybe just go for, “Something really exciting happened on my show this week.” Or “I’m reading the best fanfiction, so just ignore me if I grin like an idiot for no apparent reason.”
So that being said, you don’t need to give your husband the plot points of the fic that you’re reading before bed. But if you’re spending vast amounts of time in fangirl world and have to lie about what you’ve been up to or why you’re spinning around in circles in a feels frenzy, then it can be problematic for any relationship. Like any addict, we lie to ourselves first before we start lying to others. We become masters at avoiding the truth, distorting reality to justify our behavior to our loved ones.
It sounds like you’re not lying to yourself about how your Cartwright feels are interfering with your own writing, and you have already taken some solid steps to separate work from play. Maybe take a break from Bonanza, or even go on an Internet fast? I know that a weekend free of technology always helps my creative juices, so consider leaving Adam back at the ranch for a few days.
Above all Sarah, never ever feel ashamed about being a fanwoman. There is no show too old, too new, too anything, that should make you feel embarrassed about wanting to dig a little deeper into the story. I’m sure your capacity for imagination has served you well as a writer, so it’s normal to feed the fire from time to time. Just make sure it’s contained, so the whole Ponderosa doesn’t go up in smoke. And if your husband just doesn’t quite get it, tell him he can buy a copy of Fangirl Therapy in 2016! Published by Perigee Books/Penguin. Huzzah!
December 15, 2014 § 2 Comments
Maria Susanna writes,
In every fandom I’ve been in, I’ve been a hurt/comfort junkie and enjoyed the company of others who like fictionally hurting and comforting the ones we non-fictionally love, but now for the first time I’m in a fandom where it seems that other fans find that… weird. Someone literally just said “But why would you want [character] injured?”
Am I crazy? Are they crazy? How can I handle my sweet bittersweet feels about my fave being hurt without freaking out my fellow fangirls? (Maybe what I mean is, IS ANYONE EVER GOING TO READ MY FIC IF I FINISH WRITING IT??)
Maria, writing hurt/comfort fic does not make you crazy. It doesn’t make you sadistic. If you’ve ever watched Grey’s Anatomy, you’ll find that it made Shonda Rhimes a bajillionaire. Hurt and comfort are part of the human experience, and every piece of fiction from Harry Potter to Downton Abbey employs it as part of plot.
You’ll always get haters when you write fanfic. If there’s too much angst, people want fluff, and vice versa. I am not the kind of fangirl who wants my favorite to end up in the hospital, because 90% of my favorite characters die on screen anyway (*side-eyes Damon & Carlton*).
But Maria, I think the question you need to ask yourself is what function the fic serves for you. Fiction can be a powerful coping mechanism for people struggling with past traumas, anxiety, and any number of maladies. But when it’s the only tool in your belt, it’s unlikely to work forever. Finding other ways to comfort yourself is essential, because we can’t distract ourselves forever with television or fanfiction.
We like to imagine our favorite characters being cared for, but the truth is that there are people you encounter every day, real people, who can benefit from your generosity. If you’re drawn to that kind of story, then why not start living it? Think of a friend who could use a note of encouragement, or an organization that could benefit form your time and talents. When I’m feeling caught up in my own stuff and retreat into fiction, it’s usually a signal that I need to practice kindness towards myself and others.
So keep writing that fic Maria! Do what you enjoy, and if people don’t like it, well then they don’t have to click on that link. But don’t be afraid to think about how your gift for comforting others can expand outside the boundaries of a fictional world. You won’t need those fic reviews when you can see the impact you’ve made in the lives of others.
September 23, 2014 § Leave a comment
Books. Every fangirl likes them in theory, but sometimes we get sidetracked by our OTP and spend months submerged in the depths of fanfic, both good and bad. If you’re wanting to move out of a fic reading stage and pick up an actual book, here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Read what you like. You don’t have to be reading Dostoevsky for your brain to get all wrinkly. If it takes some chick lit for you to prep yourself to sink back into denser fiction, then that’s fine.
2. Consider the benefits. Did you know that people who read fiction are more likely to demonstrate greater empathy towards others as well as greater interpersonal skills? But you have to be willing to put yourself in different people’s shoes, not just your favorite character’s over and over again.
3. Use your fangirl imagination. If you have to plaster another character’s face on the protagonist in your mind to get excited about a book, then cast away. There was a blonde protagonist in the Wool series named Juliet, so of course I cast her as Elizabeth Mitchell.
4. Ask your fangirl friends. What book reminds them of a TV show or a movie you like? To get you started with this, here are few of my recommendation.
If you like Downton Abbey, then you might like
If you like The Walking Dead, then try
Rather than reading Harry Potter for the 9th time, how about
Did you love how much LOST scared you? Then I recommend
Caught in a Hunger Games slump? How about
Love BAMFy middle-aged ladies? You must read
I’m not into The Big Bang Theory, but I did love
Who doesn’t love Orphan Black? You have to read
Interested in prison life from Orange is the New Black? I loved
Finally, for all you Battlestar Galactica fans who love middle-aged idiots in cabins, then you must read,
December 8, 2013 § Leave a comment
Jessica writes, Help fanfiction rules my life and I can’t go a day without it! What am I supposed to do?
Jessica, I feel your pain. I’m 28 years old, but I still get motion sickness from reading fic on my iPhone on the subway. My goodreads book challenge for 2013 is 62 books behind schedule because of fic. I missed a dentist’s appointment last month because I stayed up until 2am reading a 38 chapter AU of my OTP. Fanfiction is a gigantic inconvenience, but it’s also a precious distraction from the day to day grumbles of life.
The problem with coping mechanisms is that they sometimes work too well. We start out using fic to distract ourselves from the worries that bounce around in our heads at night, and we end up using it as an excuse not to face the challenges that come our way. The goal isn’t to stop reading fic or perhaps even to decrease how much we read, but to examine what exactly is the distraction we’re trying to escape.
Over the next week pay attention to the times when you are tempted to read fanfiction or think about it. Writing a story in your head as you walk home at the end of the day is different than reading one to put off updating your resume or completing a big project. The more you use it as a distraction from opportunity, the less satisfying it will become over time. If you can figure out how to use fic as a reward for a good day of BAMFing, then you’ll be able to savor the squees like they were meant to be enjoyed.
For more fic related exercises check out chapter three in my book.
Have your own fangirl dilemma? Let me know!