Wanderers, if you’ve ever created something, be it art, cosplay, fiction, meta, music, video… whatever medium your expression of fandom takes, the chances are you’ve had a response like this:
“That’s really good! I can’t wait for the next one!”
This, of course, is tremendously encouraging, and it’s very flattering to think that someone can’t contain their excitement at the prospect of another creation of yours. You might create more, and get similarly enthusiastic replies. Perhaps you branch out into another fandom, or another medium. Now you write fanfiction for both Supernatural and The Avengers, or draw and make videos about Young Dracula. Perhaps you made a one-off post about how Hermione Granger was a strong female character and were swamped with requests to write meta about every girl in the Harry Potter series – “…and then can you do The Hunger Games next please?”. It’s still good, and encouraging, and immensely flattering… but you’re beginning to wonder how on earth you’re going to find time to do all that. After all, you’ve also got three pages of quadratic equations and the answer to world hunger to sort out by next Thursday, and the cat needs a bath…
It may be that you decide to focus your energies on one series you’re working on – a fanfiction you’ve now been posting for months and which is very nearly finished, perhaps, or the last three pictures for your fandom tarot cards – or stick to one particular fandom for a while. Perhaps you get inspired by something different altogether, and that takes over your life for a little while. Maybe you even go out into the real world for a while, or things get busy at work. One way or another, not all of your projects are being updated
You start to worry. Perhaps you even feel guilty. What if all your reviewers leave you? What if the fandom hates you for not giving them anything new? What if you’re letting everyone down? What if-?
I’m going to interrupt you, there, and not just for the sake of the rule of three (my English teacher would be so proud). Fandom is a fun thing. Agreed? Yes? Yes. We like fandom. It brings us pleasure. Creating things in celebration of our favourite shows, films, plays, books, bands, etc. is something we do for the joy of it, for ourselves and because it makes us happy. But… that’s not what it seemed like for a moment back in that fourth paragraph, is it? For a moment, it seemed like a job we weren’t working hard enough at.
The moment fandom starts feeling like a job, stop. I’m not saying stop forever, because that seems like a really silly and arbitrary way to decide to stop writing altogether. Unless, after this next step, you really want to. But yes, what was I saying?
Ah, yes. When fandom becomes a chore, when creating things for it becomes a duty, stop. Stop and have a good think about why you’re doing what you’re doing. Why you write this story, why you talk about these characters, why you paint them, why you create videos of them, why you wear their clothes and craft their weapons. Are you doing it for you, or for someone else? Are you enjoying it? If you stopped doing it, would that make you happier? Would you rather just do something else for a while and come back to it?
Wanderers, let me tell you a secret. Come closer, I don’t want the rest of the internet to hear. Now here’s the thing: you don’t owe anyone in your fandom anything (unless you bought something off one of them and they sent you the thing, in which case you should probably pay up). If you stop updating your Harry Potter fanfiction because you just aren’t feeling it any more, a few people will probably look up from their books half a year down the line and think “Oh, I wonder what happened to…” but they’re not going to be angry with you. At least, not for any substantial length of time. More importantly, you won’t be working away over a hot keyboard, wishing you’d never decided to do a chapter-by-chapter companion piece to a seven-book series. You’ll be doing things you actually enjoy, instead. The same is true of your Torchwood playing card designs, or your anthropomorphised My Little Pony cosplay collection. If you’re really sad about something not getting finished, and you definitely don’t want to pick it back up yourself later, you can offer it up to someone else to take over, but if you want to keep it to yourself that’s OK too.
The important thing to remember is that fandom is something you enjoy. You choose to get involved to whichever degree you like, and you can stop any time it stops making you smile. Going back to the title of this article: fandom can be a ravenous beast, pouncing and growling and demanding more food, but if you don’t feed it, someone else will. You don’t have to feed it you. So if you don’t want to do something, if you’re busy with real life, if you think about your fandom and all you think is oh no, I should do that thing I said I’d do, put that thing aside for a while. Wait until you love it again, until you’re relaxed about it and can hardly bear to tear yourself away even to eat or sleep.
Then come back and finish that fanfiction – I can’t wait for the next chapter…
Eleanor Musgrove (knows this feeling. She likes to wave at it as it passes by)