The Benefits of Engaging with Fan Communities

If you meet me in real life, one your conclusions might be: “This person definitely wrote fanfiction.” You would not be far off the mark. I’ve been aware of fan communities all my life; you can’t grow up with Harry Potter without knowing the place to go to speculate is someone’s LiveJournal. Despite this, I never really engaged.

In high school, I was pulled away from a life online to a life of live theater, madrigal singers, and other extracurriculars. Even in college, with more freedom in my life, the most I did was peruse Tumblr for fanart. My real life friends there were active, or seemed active; and I certainly had my opinion about fanfiction then as I do now.

All this to say, I’ve been on the periphery of fan communities all my life. I was not an active participant . . . until the Locked Tomb Trilogy by Tamsyn Muir, a science fantasy adventure featuring necromancy, swordsmen, your teenage goth aesthetic ramped up to 11, memes, and the most endearing characters I have ever read. As soon as I read the final page of the first book Gideon the Ninth, I knew that I was a fan. Not a “I really like this book” type of fan, but a “I need to hunt down other fans” type of fan.

So I joined a fan community on Discord. Since then, I have discovered a number of benefits to my mental health, creativity, and social life.

While these benefits have helped me a great deal, other people’s experiences in fan communities differ from person to person. This post is just highlighting the benefits I’ve seen for myself and does not reflect the experiences of others.

Improved Mental Health

It’s important to keep up with current events, but at what cost? News sources focus so much on the negative of the world, and I can’t blame them what with *gestures everywhere* and all.

Locked Tomb character Gideon Nav in a sweatshirt that reads
Content Warning: biceps Art by Guttertongue on Twitter. Click for original

My main source of information is via social media and NPR. My morning alarm includes an hour of NPR, which is a timed ritual during my wake up routine. When the radio shuts off, it’s time to get out of bed. Social media is harder to regulate, which means I am prone to doomscrolling, a new word that embodies the feeling of reading headlines and commentary about the dystopian state of the world.

Thing is, this contributes to my sense of doom and increases my stress and anxiety. Before I know it, I don’t feel like doing anything, and then my work day is shot because my motivation noped out before I could make my morning tea.

All this changed after I joined a fan community. Instead of constantly checking Twitter or Facebook, I’m now backscrolling discussions in Discord. If the community is particularly quiet, I open up something on my AO3 wishlist and read some fanfiction. As a result, I have more motivation for both my professional and personal lives.

I’m Creating Again

I started working from home in March, and with my new hermit-style life, I decided to take up creative writing again. There have been various things that kept me motivated through these past months: I took a writing course with One Story, I attended a virtual convention in May, and I started a regular virtual creative retreat with some friends. Late summer rolled around, and my creativity went the way of my motivation.

After I joined the fan community on Discord, I was around other creatives on a daily basis. Some of these people wrote multi-chapter fanfiction (long-form transformative works, if you want to get technical), some wrote shorter forms of the same. All have been open about their processes; their readers have been encouraging and loyal cheerleaders.

Being around a supportive and creative atmosphere rekindled my creative brain, and now I can’t wait to work on my next project. (Hell, I even wrote my first fanfiction. Please don’t read it.)

Oh Look, A Social Life

These are real people with lives beyond the Discord. The community on the Discord has been welcoming, friendly, and (on one particular chat) my brand of weird. There are inside jokes, fan favorite creators, friendships. Recently, we started organizing times to play the online game Among Us. We cheat and use the Discord voice chat to communicate instead of the in-game chat function.

In a world of isolation, where even my virtual interactions are irregular and sparse, I can talk with someone outside my household every day. I feel part of a community, and my life is happier as a result.

A lot of people are not looking forward to this coming winter season, me included. I can say that I have a bright spot to keep me company until the spring comes again. I hope you find the same.

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