There is nothing quite like the overwhelming urge to plagiarise the hell out of something because you wish you’d done it yourself.
That voice that goes: ‘Nah, man, it’s all good, it’s just fan fiction, all the cool kids are doing it nowadays, it’s totally a legitimate expression of devotion to somebody else’s work that is only looked down upon because of our privacy-centric capitalist economy-driven societal norms, don’t be a part of their system’.
While my position on fan fiction has shifted over the past couple of years from outright condemning it to actually rather admiring those who practise it, simply because it seems like honesty to me winning out over self-consciousness or fear of social stigma, it does make me a little sad to know that a lot of the ideas I really want to write are being taken directly from stories I’ve read or watched made by other people. And while in some ways that’s unavoidable – we all have to get our ideas from somewhere – there’s a difference between taking really commonly-used ideas that come to be known as tropes and conventions, and taking specific scenes from books you’ve read or films you’ve seen just because they resonated with you really strongly to use in your own work.
Harry Potter tends to have this affect on me. Prisoner of Azkaban is my favourite of the series, and other than Lupin, the reason for that is a combination of the Knight Bus and Harry’s short stay at Diagon Alley. That part of the book is the most wish-fulfilling part of the entire series for me, because it’s the most desirable thing when you’re about 13 years old and you really start to feel just how tied to your parents you are in terms of what you’re permitted to do – it’s the fantasy of being left the hell alone, for the expectations and the surveillance to vanish and to get some space to yourself, and start exploring what you can do with it when you don’t feel like you’re being tested on it.
And I cannot adequately describe just how badly I wish I’d written something like that first.
Independence – or the guise of it anyway, because even if Harry is ‘alone’ at Diagon Alley, he’s still under the watchful eye of Fudge and more or less under house arrest – is something I often forget about the importance of when I think back to being a teenager, and it’s right around that age that I started getting sensitive to its importance, and then after that I guess it just lost its novelty as I got more of it, combined with the fact that I was really never much of a rebel. But it’s not even about rebellion. It’s just about autonomy, about not having to watch yourself because of other people, and being able to get a sense of yourself that is all just you.
But the real wish-fulfillment part is actually the fact that Harry isn’t truly alone. He’s safe. He’s got Tom the innkeeper to fall back on if he gets into a tight spot; he’s got a ton of money; he knows Hermione and Ron will be along in a few weeks – this isn’t the grisly reality of adult independence; this is supervised independence, where the supervision is unobtrusive but still very much there. It’s not something I want much as an adult, as I’m in a complicated situation regarding independence right now and it’s been this way for so long that I’ve basically forgotten what it’s like to ‘want out’ so to speak, and it’s something that I got enough of as a young adolescent to feel fairly satisfied, but the memory of wanting it never went away. That’s a formative experience if ever there was one, and not just one that I wish I remembered when I think about my stories featuring young adolescent main characters, but one that I now wish I could write without knowing that I got the idea for it from Harry Potter.
And it’s that sort of awareness that makes me think: ‘Well, why not just write fan-fic? It’s not like I have any original ideas anyway’ – which is wrong, but that feeling does get to me sometimes; the amazing, fully-formed and professionally-edited ideas of other storytellers come to me in their glorious packages and I just want it, and to have it in the form of a commodity, of a media product packaged for my consumption, is not enough – I want to make it, I want to tell it, I want the story and I want to be the creator. I want my cake and I want to eat it, and I want to clone it, and myself, and do it again, twice, forever.
And a whole bunch of writing didn’t get done today; one positive thing coming out of my slacking off is that now I really just can’t be bothered being stressed about anything anymore. It’s going to be bad – and I know it’s going to be bad. That’s a certainty. All I have to do now is get it written.
And that sucks, because this essay I’m finding it hard to write is for my favourite paper this year (it’s about comics, and what I have learnt so far is that they are awesome), and I’m finding it hard to write it because I know I have a whole ton of study to do on top of writing it and trying to find time to write Tallulah. So I think I have no choice now but to start getting used to the idea of getting up in the morning, rather than in the afternoon as I am used to doing, because given the time I end up going to bed regardless of when I wake up, getting up in the morning is going to just give me more hours to work with. That and I just have to study, even if I don’t really learn anything because I’m really distracted.
Or I just don’t study and stop putting in any effort whatsoever when I feel like not putting effort in.
Being your own boss is hard. Even being a university student, you really are your own boss. There are consequences for not adhering to institutional deadlines and guidelines, sure, but it’s still all about self-directed work. I’ve never really gotten used to it.
The more I think about needing to do this work, the less I end up doing it.
So I guess … I just stop thinking.
Great. I’m so good at not thinking.
So the moral of the story is that I might end up writing fan fiction, but more likely I’ll just end up handing in this essay a day late and not doing half the study I’m meant to do. But I’m past feeling disappointed with myself right now. I have more important things to be getting on with, and I need to get on with them.
And once I do, the whole disappointment thing will become irrelevant. Convenient.