On indulgence in writing

I’m currently reading a gorgeously-written fanfic* that is one of my favorite things I’ve read all year. In the introduction, the author comments that it’s “the most goddamn self-indulgent fic I have ever written in my life”.

That made me chuckle at first, but as I thought about it more I realized that yes, this may be self-indulgent in that they can’t publish it for money, but that doesn’t mean it’s not just as good or worth writing as anything original.

From where I sit, all creative writing is self-indulgent. When I sit down to write it’s only ever for myself first. Eventually it will get polished up and be ready for others, but that first draft is all for me.

I don’t know how to write any other way. The novel I put out last year, that got my biggest and best response of all my work, was utterly self-indulgent. I wrote the first draft never intending to publish it. It wasn’t until a dear one read it and had a very strong reaction to it that I decided to edit it and put it out.

As most fanfic readers know, there comes a point where a good story is just a good story. As an editor and publisher myself, I’ve read a number of fics that I can clearly see being totally publishable. With a little bit of tweaking (change a few names and file off the serial number), they would be incredible books on their own merit.

Which brings us back to self-indulgence in writing. Part of the reason these fics are so good is exactly because the author is free to write whatever they want, purely for their own entertainment. Some authors are pros in real life, others just write for the fun of it. Either way, those awesome fics are what happens when an author gets out of their own way and falls in love with their own writing, which is something I heartily support.

So if you have a story you want to tell, but feel like it’s too something (silly, deep, weird, etc) I encourage you to write it anyway. It’s only my opinion but I feel like you should be the first person who loves the story. If you love it, others will too.

*It’s a well-researched, culturally-sensitive, historically-accurate, 65k word The Old Guard fic set during The Crusades (one of my historical special interests) and it’s utterly swept me off my feet.