Monday, February 13, 2012

Learn To Live With What You Are

Nearly fifteen years ago, I knew a woman who managed an online fanfic archive for stories devoted to the notorious creation of Thomas Harris. If that name is not instantly recognizable, try this one on for size: Hannibal Lecter.

That’s right, ladies and germs. Arguably fiction’s most renowned cannibal has—or rather, had—a modest fanbase. Heck, parts of those forums might still exist. I don’t know, I don’t check. The woman who ran this particular archive (we’ll call her Clarice just for grins) saw roughly the same appeal in Hannibal the Cannibal as others see in Erik from Phantom of the Opera. The grotesque, the tragic, the star-crossed…and for those of you who have read Thomas Harris’ work, that interpretation is not off base.

What struck me then about this woman was she was very grounded, and she didn’t shy from handing out business cards with her name and fandom association. To some of us, the things we do alone with the glow of a computer monitor is a very private affair…even if we’re not looking at porn or doing anything other than write a scene between our two title characters.

I remember once being very embarrassed showing anyone anything I’d written. Anything. Even an innocuous scene between friends. Therefore, the idea that someone would not only confess to their pastime, but advertise it to strangers was beyond me. Even now, though I have grown bolder and less discerning who knows my dirty little secret, I find it hard to believe I’d do the same given Clarice’s circumstances. Heck, when pushed, I’ll confess to writing “paranormal romance”—despite my vocal assertions that erotic romance writers ought not be ashamed.

Yet more than the labels that come with our craft is the mindset of where we are versus where we need to be. I highly doubt Clarice still hosts that website. It’s likely lost to the Ghost of Internet Past. Regardless, it was a stepping-stone. A place marking where she was in her writing career to where she went. In my case, I got my start in Internet publication in the same vein as so many others: in fan-fiction. I was ashamed to admit it until I stopped writing it, but I’m not ashamed anymore. Regardless of what it means to me now, it meant something to me then. I knew I wasn’t going to do it forever, but when I was at my happiest, I don’t think it would have bothered me. You go from that to the world of actual publishing—with its actual deadlines, actual editors, actual royalty statements, and actual panic attacks—and a lot of what you hear isn’t where you are, rather where you’re not. You’re not agented. You’re not a NYT Best Seller. You’re not making what you want to make. You’re not, you’re not, you’re not.

I think we get lost in the are not’s, and some of us have forgotten to learn to live with what we are, and how what we are builds into what we become. There is no race on this thing. If you love it, you stick with it. If you don’t love it, ask yourself why you do it. Is it for who you are or who you want to be, and if it’s the latter, are you satisfied being what you are, knowing it’s a necessary step to getting you where you want to go?


Cari Quinn said...

I always love your posts, Rosalie. Each week you hit the nail on the head and also make me think. Thank you. :)

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