A Presumption of Interaction: Readers, Writers, and Fanfic

There’s been a conversation circulating on tumblr of late about “the culture of fanfiction”: namely, about how in the Good Old Days on LiveJournal and Fanfiction.net, people left comments on fanfic, but now, on Archive of Our Own (AO3), they rarely do. Commenters also associate this shift with a change in readers’ attitudes towards fic writers. This shift, folks argue, has been from one of gratitude towards one of demand in which readers expect stories to be crafted to meet their preferences in pairing, plot, sexual situations, etc., and get pissed off when stories don’t do what they want them to.

Something about these discussions has nagged at me all week.

Admittedly, I’m relatively new to the fanfiction game; I know next to nothing about LJ and even less about Ff.net. I’ve cut my teeth as a fic reader and writer on AO3, the Grindr of fanfic, where the next story is just one swipe away. Perhaps that will make you take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt. To wit:

Writers, your readers don’t owe you anything.

They don’t owe you a kudos, or a reblog, or a comment, or any sort of public recognition at all. No matter how long you worked on it, how much research you did, how much of yourself you invested into its lines: readers don’t owe you a thing.

Continue reading “A Presumption of Interaction: Readers, Writers, and Fanfic”

writing is hard.

So I got a new tattoo this week, one that speaks to me at a fundamental level:

photo (7)

In retrospect, I can’t figure out how these words will strike my students, exactly, or my clients in our writing center. I wonder if they’ll think: dude, I already knew that or really? writing’s always been easy for me or oh crap. is it too late to switch sections, to find a class with a real professor, one who’s mastered writing and can teach me to do it, too?

And at some level, yes, I can see it sounds strange coming from a) somebody teaching college comp and b) a nascent scholar who freaking studies writing for a living, but man: this is a reality of which I need to be reminded every time I sit at the keyboard.

Writing is hard, and it’s coming out of my ears lately, even more than as per usual.

In particular, my brain is big-wheeling over The Writing Process; or to be more specific, the process that’s supposed be mine. I think it’s because I’m preparing to teach composition again–for the first time in a year–while writing collaboratively with a friend and fellow fic writer on a piece we started about a year ago.

Can you see a pattern here, perhaps? It feels like my writing’s been on hold for a while.

And now, too, staring down the barrel of my dissertation and all the very particular kind of writing that will entail, again, it all comes back to The Process.

One thing I’ve learned in grad school is that, as a writer, I get into trouble when I wander away from the data, from the content of whatever it is I’m trying to say. I can tie myself up in theoretical knots–frame, unframe, and matte–through page after page and not say a freaking thing. Worse: I’ll write myself into a ditch, a mental one, sure, one that makes me feel like I’m drowning. Like I have nothing useful to say.

And sometimes, of course, that’s the case: I really don’t have anything insightful or interesting or even halfway amusing to add, and that’s fine.

No. It’s annoying as hell and flip-the-table frustrating, sometimes.

Writing, that bastard, is so fucking hard.

Yeah, that wouldn’t fit on my arm.

What I’m always chasing these days is that balance between consideration and production, between turning ideas over in my head or on the backs of Starbucks napkins and sitting in front of the screen and putting that stuff on the page.

I write to learn, yes, I write to figure out what I’m saying–there’s no question about that. But since I’ve been in PhD world, I’ve realized how much of my writing process, for better or worse, still goes on in my head.

Often, it’s background noise to something else I’m doing, or should be; working through a story as I code data for my dissertation, or chewing on data as I try to write two beautiful, fictional men into bed. The result of this being that, sometimes, when the goddess Rhetorica is on my side, I can sit down and seemingly dump out a lot of text at a rapid pace–a lot of it’s crap, sure, but it gives me a good place to start.

If I think too much, though, I’m screwed.

Not enough, and what comes out come back from my advisor or kindly editors with comments like you can’t just say that. you need some actual proof.

It’s like getting a tattoo, in a way.

It’d had been two years since my last tattoo, and I’d both forgotten and was dreading the pain, the little snip snap jab of the needle into my skin. So the first few minutes this time? Very unpleasant.

But I calmed down, got Zen, and made it through the initial outline pretty damn well, if I say so myself.

Then the artist hit me with numbing gel and let it sit for a while.

When he returned and went back to work, I couldn’t feel a damn thing. That was almost as bad as the initial, terrible pain.

It was only in that interval in between, after the first jabs but far enough away from the last, when I was focused and breathing and singing along to Stevie Nicks on the stereo that everything felt good, felt right.

That’s the space I’m always chasing when I write: that interval between the pain and feeling nothing at all.

So I need this reminder on my arm to turn to, a inky compass on which to focus my anxiety as I chase that perfect space:

Writing is hard.

It’s Like Falling In Love. But With Footnotes.

dean confused by books

Academia is a feeling of failure wrapped in a taco of inadequacy. That’s what you signed up for, believe it or not. Embrace the salsa. Sit down and write.

Continue reading “It’s Like Falling In Love. But With Footnotes.”

Witness to an Academic Autopsy

I was talking with a friend recently about the special kind of hell that academic writing can generate inside our heads, a distinct kind of neurosis that smothers and kills one’s ego again and again and again.

Sharing any kind of writing can be nerve wracking, sure, but academic writing, I think, carries with it the weight of Being Assessed, of having one’s worth measured against a gold standard to which we plebes can only aspire. A standard, I might add, that’s almost Oz-like in both importance and invisibility: the discourse behind the curtain, natch.

This discussion’s taken on a new weight as of late, as I’ve had two pieces of writing Formally Assessed and found wanting.

Continue reading “Witness to an Academic Autopsy”

A Story In Which We Can Live

james

These are the stories we like to tell about ourselves:

First and foremost, that our lives form a story, that they can be contained within the boundaries of what we recognize as a coherent narrative.

One problem with this assumption–one that is, I think, so deeply ingrained in us so as to be almost invisible–is that it sets up a very real trap: what do we do, then, what are we supposed to think, when our lives as we know them in any given moment fail to meet the requirements of a story? Of the story we think we’re writing, day by day? Of the story we’re certain we should be creating, we are, we must?

Recently, two of my friends have run headlong into this problem and found themselves struggling to find a way around it. These two friends, it’s worth noting, are at very different points in their lives, and hold very different places in mine: the first is an ex, with many years of co-authorship under his belt when it comes to our lives together; and the second a friend, a co-writer, whom I’ve never met in person but with whom I create texts.

Two people. One plot point in common. Same problem.

Both of these friends find themselves at a point where the stories they feel they should be writing day-to-day are not manifesting themselves in lived experience; both feel some guilt, I think, for not matching their lives to the rough drafts they’ve held in their minds for a long, long time.

Continue reading “A Story In Which We Can Live”

Sure to Bite Me in Mine

One of the great things about posting your writing online is that people will read it.

This is, of course, also a pain in the ass.

When people say nice things about my work–about my ability to write–then the digital broadcast of the stuff is all marshmallow fluff.

Some days I live and die by the kudos, you know, over on AO3.

kudos

Like so.

But when readers don’t like what I’ve written and take the time to make that known, man. Makes me feel like a need a shower, one in which to drown my laptop and save the universe from the crap tentacles of my pen.

Ultimately though, I have a co-dependent relationship with my readers: I need you. Badly. And I hope, once and a while, you might need me, if only for 2500 words or so.

Most my readers, y’all, I’ll never meet; most of you live only, thus, in my imagination. Once my stuff goes up, gets out of my hands and onto someone else’s server, the reader has the upper hand; any status to which I might have pretended as a creator is huff poof boom.

I shouldn’t need anybody’s approval in order to value what I write.

Ok. That’s what I’m supposed to say, anyway. Total bullshit.

Continue reading “Sure to Bite Me in Mine”

I’m Almost a Trained Professional

My grad program wants to know: what are my goals for the coming year?

Damn straight. But I’ve gotta do a few other things first.

  • Pass my comprehensive exams: 2 questions, 30 pages, 72 hours, coming up in early September. Hooah!
  • Drink less. Curse in class more. Especially when we’re talking about mpreg.

  • Write for an hour a day. Be it a fic or an academic essay, spend 60 minutes a day writing for myself.

  • Try try try to stop comparing my writing to other people’s. It’s not the most awesome way to determine my work’s relative quality, though it’s awful tempting. How can something that brings me so much joy also be such a source of anxiety? Haven’t figured that out quite yet.

  • Get an academic article published in a scholarly journal. Accept that I probably won’t get a job based on kudos I receive on Archive of Our Own.

ryan and col no just no

…probably.

  • Keep polishing my theoretical lens, one that combines fan studies, rhetoric, and (*sob*) performance studies.

  • Take pleasure in my goddamn research without drowning in it, that self-centered joy.

  • Spend as much time with people as I do with my laptop. Preferably with people I dig.
  • Stop being a dick. Or at least: moderate my dickishness so as to avoid alienating everyone that I like in my life. Get less good at pushing people away.

  • Give a presentation at a proper Rhetoric conference. Or, as my dissertation director put it, figure out how to sell myself/position myself/other oblique reference to prostitution in my chosen field. Because the whole job thing’s coming up faster than I can believe.

  • Collaborate with a colleague on a fic or a more “academic” piece, because it’s so damn much fun.

  • Remember that just because I can say something in a public, online space doesn’t mean that I have to. Or even that I should. Because some people don’t like being characters in my electronic life.

  • Be nice to myself every once and a while

An Engine of Discursive Pleasure

This post is a metatextual exorcism: me trying to get the stupid out, as my directing teacher used to say, in re: my research project about the rhetorical tactics of the Overlord. It’s also an excuse for lots of pictures of Misha, so. If that turns you off, you know, I’d suggest you check for a pulse.

Ok, so. Here’s why it’s been hard for me to wax academic about Misha Collins:

It was easier for me to [gleefully] objectify the dude than it was to take him seriously.

Like, bro: I could write some smoking hot RPS about you without breaking a sweat, but put on a Random Acts video and I went all Crayola.

Fangirling over his body? Fine. Fangirling over what he actually did with that body in real life?

Oh hell no.

Continue reading “An Engine of Discursive Pleasure”

All In On The Slow Burn

As a writer, there’s something to be said for taking your time.

For crafting. For reflection. For musing over the words until each and every one is right.

I almost never do that these days.

But when I do, I go all in on the slow burn.

cas smoulder at dean

For example:

Last month, I wrote a paper in two days that it took me a year to write.

Continue reading “All In On The Slow Burn”