A Decade on Fictionpress
2020 marks my tenth year on Fictionpress. After dipping my toes into various Tamora Pierce RPGs in the late 2000s, Fictionpress became my first outlet for writing original fiction. Considering all the hobbies/lifestyle choices I have dabbled with on a whim in this same time period (hurdling, watercolor painting, biking, veganism), I'm grateful that writing has stayed with me this long, however sporadic.
In many ways, 2019, for me, was a circular end to the decade that began with 2010. For one, after a stint in the real world, I'm back in school. I look forward to five years from now when I can say that I'm a doctor. Of philosophy. But not in philosophy. Technically, all this unstructured time I have now is supposed to be dedicated towards research, but for the first time in a long time, I feel inspired to write again. I totally know my priorities.
It's been fun to revisit Potpourri chapters, reviews, and private messages over the last decade and take it as a collage of my personal growth. Even if I can only read some cringier entries by peeking though fingers covering my eyes. I don't say the word "like" as often anymore. I use the gender neutral pronoun "they" in a singular context now (take that, fourth grade language arts). Through Fictionpress, I've learned a lot about how to communicate clearly, how to give good feedback, how there's no benefit to being snarky (wish I didn't need to learn this at all), lessons that have been applicable to many other aspects of my life. I'm happy to say that I'm much surer of myself, and, I like to think, kinder to others. Though I wish I appreciated more the site as a platform for virtually meeting other wonderful writers. A lot of those people are no longer here, and I regret not being more proactive about keeping in touch through other channels.
Actually, Fictionpress as a whole is quieter than it used to be, and I'm not entirely surprised. Self-publishing is commonplace now. Wattpad has been much more agile in keeping up with internet trends and capitalizing on its growth. Most writers I knew joined in their teens and stayed for the community, but I'm worried that Fictionpress has lost the critical mass that keeps it attractive to new writers. The ex-consultant in me would love to look at its operations data and work with developers to rebrand the site as the resource for writers it's capable of being. I'm only half kidding.
I haven't thought much about LE&D for the past few years. Yet, elements of the writing process and the story continue to surface in my life in unexpected ways. Years ago, before I had an income, I looked up the most expensive French restaurant in my city and used photos of the first result on Google as visual references to describe a scene in Chapter 2. Last October, I found myself splitting a bottle of wine with a friend at that very restaurant (her idea, not mine). After some debate and negotiation, we settled on asking for a wine that's fruity but not too sweet. The sommelier sent out a bottle that tasted like olive oil, so I guess she delivered.
Also, last year, I fell in love with UC Berkeley. Up until I was applying to grad school, the most thought I'd ever given to Berkeley was for the purposes of fleshing out a minor character. But Tom was right (even though I'd thought he was wrong); for a student, Berkeley was pretty close to utopia. The weather uplifted everyone's spirits, vegetarian food was abundant, and in March when I visited, the night air was heady with the fragrance of flowers.
I didn't end up attending Berkeley, despite its promise to fulfill all my hippy-dippy dreams. Because it would have made seeing my boyfriend rather difficult, and because I couldn't quite reject the elitist allure of the pretentious east coast school that had also made me an offer. At the time, I thought, quite melodramatically, that choosing said pretentious east coast school was like choosing to marry someone old and wealthy whom I didn't love but who could make my life very, very comfortable. My program has since thrown a bunch of money and resources at me, and I realize now that love can come from being very, very comfortable. Ha.
All this continues to make me wonder if there's truth to the law of attraction: the idea that we bring into our lives what we focus on (honestly, I'm skeptical, and who knows whether writing fiction counts as unintentional manifesting). I've never been one to set long-term goals, which always seemed like setting myself up for future disappointment. But for kicks, I'm going to be cautiously optimistic and set some writing goals for this decade:
1. Read more stories and leave more reviews on Fictionpress. Hopefully generate positive karma for this site.
2. Write, write, write. Accept that no first draft is going to be perfect.
3. Submit some short stories for publication.
In the years since my last entry in 2016, there have been several occasions where I was tempted to write in Potpourri, but didn't. I felt guilty for uploading my personal ramblings when my fiction was going nowhere. But in reading past entries, I'm revisiting memories that would have been forgotten if I hadn't detailed it at the time. This exercise is personally valuable to me, so I'm going to be easier on myself for updating Potpourri going forward.
Coda: I've debated over whether to end my reflections above, but doing so would be skirting around an elephant in the room.
Last August, a set of particular circumstances led to a conversation with a customer service representative for my phone carrier that was unexpectedly productive and pleasant. At the end of the call, I thanked him and wished him a nice day. To which he replied, "You too, sweetie," before hanging up.
In an alternate universe, I might have taken offense at his use of "sweetie." Instead, I felt suddenly and overwhelmingly wistful. I should mention that I was on vacation. In Hawaii. I was in paradise, and I couldn't shake off that sense of sadness and longing that overcame me.
A writing professor of mine once said that he needed to be obsessed with something to write about it. In the years I was writing and editing LE&D, I, too, was nothing short of obsessed. I love writing! I love words! But if I were honest with myself, the momentum driving LE&D forward was my obsession with father figures.
The person who should have been mine is an abusive, sexist, lazy anti-role model who parrots the ideology of internet trolls. I've spent a bunch of time reflecting on this in recent months, and strangely, while I wish I had a better father, I don't actually think I'm worse off for it. If anything, some of my better qualities can be traced back to the challenges of my childhood; I'm not easily stressed, and I'm more sensitive and grateful to everyday kindnesses shown to me by others.
I recognize that I have a tendency to develop attachment to people in my life who've even tangentially acted as some sort of emotional substitute for a father. Coincidentally, I'm in a professional field where you're expected to build relationships with people in senior-level positions, which are largely held by older men. This skewed gender ratio is problematic for society, but it has helped me become hyper-aware of how and where to draw the line.
It's not great, though, that one word from a voice floating over the phone can unbalance me emotionally for the rest of a day. Based on the podcast I listen to, it seems like adults are permanently affected by the events of their adolescence. So I don't really know what to do, except maybe find a new podcast. And be more appreciative of how truly lucky I am to have had the support of genuinely good people in times I've felt vulnerable. And try and pay it forward.