In my previous post, "Abandonment Issues," I talked about my writing method. Here, we're going to talk about the guilt that writers, like me, face with balancing a professional writing career and our fanfiction writing needs. I feel pretty silly calling it a fanfiction writing career, but should I?
In a nutshell, the writing life of a playwright largely consists of crafting stage plays, varying in lengths from 2 hours or more to as short as ten minutes. Also part of a playwright’s life is submitting to countless companies/festivals/awards, sometimes spending hours/days/weeks putting together application materials about why you and your play is a perfect fit for said company/festival/award. It can get time-consuming to say the least, especially when you spend so much time writing a dissertation on why your work is the perfect choice when the only thing you get in response (if you EVER get a response) is a generic, short and impersonal rejection.
At times, the thought of working on my plays can set off a legitimate panic attack. My brain shuts down, my eyes glaze over, and I forget to breathe when I think about all the work I have to do, all the work I haven’t done, all the opportunities I’ve missed out on, all the deadlines with ticking clocks staring me down, all the success my fellow writers are achieving and celebrating while I try to be happy for them and not give in to my own bitterness, and the knowledge that the longer I go without something under my belt to show for all this wasted time the less likely I'll ever be to get my foot in the door anywhere.
When faced with these daily stressors, I actively choose to not give in to the panic and retreat to my fanfiction refuge. I can get lost in any of my unfinished stories and safely lose myself for hours while actually producing some pages for no one by myself. And sometimes I even finish a story or two.
Rejection doesn't not suck. But I keep writing, I keep trying, especially when I'm told I'm welcome to resubmit to something that previously gave me a shred of hope with a personalized rejection (Wait, what? They actually read my work?!). And... among my professional successes as a fanfiction writer (Wait, what? That’s a thing?!) I've successfully taken a historical figure’s life events, as well as their own material as a writer (all public domain), and adapted it all into a one-hour one-woman show that I co-produced with a small professional theatre company a few years ago, and even got paid for it!
This cross-pollination of fanfiction and professional writing does exist. The good companies and opportunities are out there, you just have to do your research. And side note: it's okay to set your expectations high. For example, I never submit to anything that requires a reading/processing fee. Even when it comes to the big time competitions/awards/publications. If I ain't makin' money now, how do you expect me to pay you to decide if my work is worthy? Think Tony Stark eyeroll, and that's exactly where I'm at. The history and legitimacy of fanfiction is a rather interesting topic also, but regardless, there are ways in which a fanfiction writer can easily and legally meld a professional career with a non-professional one.