When I first came to fandom, it was strictly as a reader and a writer -- I wrote my own stuff, I read the stories that caught my eye, and that was all. Except this didn't last very long, because the second story I wrote was "The Confessional", a collaboration with three other writers, a project that drew me into the heady excitement of working with other people: sharing feedback, swapping ideas, knowing that there were at least three people who would be reading and commenting on everything I wrote. It wasn't a straight line from there to becoming a more active participant in fandom, but it set me on the path toward it, and now I can only think of fandom as a community. A loose community, in the case of Final Fantasy fandom, and one that grows and shrinks, has boom and bust times, but a community nonetheless.
So that's one thing I like about doing projects and writing to prompts and modding Mega Flare and serving as a consultant on many others: meeting people, and interacting with them, getting into long comment conversations and talking about the stories we write. The other thing I like is stretching myself to write characters and in genres that I would never do otherwise. Would I ever have written Paine having a conversation with Sephiroth without the Trick or Treat request? No, I would not. Would I have ever started writing Ashe/Balthier stories without the first kiss battle, or expanded those themes into one of my favorite stories ever without an FFEX request? I can't be sure; maybe, but maybe not. Fandom projects get me thinking in new directions, and I love that about them.
The main downside, of course, is the lack of infinite time. Witness "Aftermath", the last major story I started that was not part of a fandom project; I began writing it in 2006, and it is still not finished. As above, I can't say for sure that writing for prompts and projects is the only thing that's kept this WIP and others "in progress", or limbo, but I know it hasn't helped.
But it's worth it, I think, for the creativity charge I get from working on projects, and especially the giddy fun of participating in something like ff_kissbattle or fuckyeahfinalfantasy when it's in full swing. (Although FYFF hasn't really hit its stride yet -- lots of opportunities in there still!) So as long as I still feel drawn to the source, keep old connections, and continue making new ones (waves to several new friends), I'm sure I will continue to be an active participant in fandom.
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