Being Fandom: Part Four – Enhancement, Not Replacement

Our four part series, Being Fandom, has looked at aspects of belonging to and being in a fandom. This issue, we wrap up by thinking about just how much of our life is devoted to the things we’re fans of.

Over the course of this series, we have been exploring the positive and some of the negative aspects of participating in fandom. Being part of a fandom can be a truly enriching experience. It can provide you with a space to discover and hone creative talents such as writing. Receiving positive feedback from your peers on that particular piece of artwork can increase your confidence and encourage you to experiment with new styles and techniques. You may find, as I certainly did, that you make new friends through fandom, wonderful interesting people who understand your secret passion for that cheesy television show from the 60s and appreciate your decidedly quirky sense of humour. Perhaps, best of all, you may find that being part of a fandom acts as motivation to get involved in other activities such as learning a new language, getting fit or making the effort to go to that fabulous museum down the road to do some research. I know that for me personally, since I became part of a particular fandom, I have rediscovered the history section of my local library (well, accuracy is important) and I’ve gained the confidence to join a creative writing class.

At the same time, it is only realistic to recognise that there are potential pitfalls to becoming involved in a fandom particularly if you decide to become heavily involved. Faced with so many conventions, websites and opportunities, it is easy to see how fandom could develop into a time-consuming and expensive activity. Even something innocuous such as writing a piece of fanfiction can, without warning, turn into a bit of beast consuming most of your spare time.  It can be intensely nerve-racking to take that plunge and share some of your work with others and yet, as touched upon in part three, some in your chosen fandom may be less appreciative of your contributions than others. Even the most confident of us can be taken back by negative comments or criticism and rather than being encouraged you could feel demoralised. And of course, depending on your chosen form of participation, you may find it difficult to maintain anonymity which can be an important issue in a world where employers are increasingly checking out your online presence. (Fandom Wanderers have previously provided some tips regarding web-based fandom which online users may find helpful.) It is always worth taking a moment to consider the long term implications of posting actual footage of yourself on YouTube or publishing that particularly racy piece of poetry under your real name.

Whether you are just starting out or are a long term member of a particular fandom, it might be useful to take a moment and consider your situation from a different perspective. As fantastic as fandom is, it’s really not the most important thing in your life and moreover it probably shouldn’t be. Fandom is just like your favourite sugary treat, it should be something that you enjoy in moderation. Being part of a fandom is a voluntary decision and it should remain exactly that – voluntary. Participating in that role play or making the next video for your YouTube channel shouldn’t feel like an obligation otherwise it’s like you’ve lost the reason for becoming involved in the first place – it’s meant to be fun! Even if you are a Big Name Fan, you are not the property of that particular fandom and you are completely free to explore other interests and activities, however demanding your fans are for their next hit. And if you are the one desperately waiting for the next chapter of your favourite fanfic or wondering why that brilliant cartoonist hasn’t updated in a while, it is worth remembering that person has a life outside the fandom, a life in the real world with academic obligations, work commitments or health concerns that are more important.

Gaining perspective and realising that fandom is only one part of your life can help you deal more effectively with the potential pitfalls. So you received a less than constructive comment on your latest piece of artwork – well you can’t win them all. So you’re experiencing a creative block – no need to stress, you can write again whenever you feel like it. As for that truly horrific moment when your favourite T.V. series/film franchise ends –  it’s not really the end of the world. Of course, this is all coming from someone who ate their way through an entire tub of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Brownie and cried for two hours straight after watching David Tennant’s departure from Doctor Who… (Still can’t watch that episode without tissues!)

But on a more serious note, fandom should be something which enhances your life, something which inspires you and encourages you. It shouldn’t be your life, it shouldn’t be a chore or an obligation (after all very few of us will actually be able to earn a living from our fan work), it shouldn’t be replacing other key activities and people in your life. Remember, you as a person cannot be defined by one thing alone, even if it is something as brilliant as that book series about a boy wizard who defeats a Dark Lord. So go forth, get involved and most importantly enjoy fandom as it is meant to be enjoyed – as a life enhancement, not a replacement.

Red Hamilton (who still desperately misses the Tenth Doctor…)

That’s it for this series, but there will be a new one beginning next issue, so make sure you check that out when it arrives!

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