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An Open Letter About Fic Writers to Fic Readers

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Hey everyone,

I am going to make an actual post about this topic so that it can be linked to if anyone wants to a) eviscerate me for it or b) gently shake my shoulder like an awkward, encouraging cousin.

"Overwhelming" is the best word I can apply to responses from my readers, because I am overwhelmed with love, and heartache, and fist bumps, and solidarity, and simple kindness, all of the time. "Thank you" is not enough of a response. A couple of you might have guessed that I've received a lot of personal messages over the years, and I want every single reader to know that I value them and understand (on some peripheral I-am-me, You-are-you level) their struggles with addiction and depression. Meanwhile, pretty much everyone I know who has come out to me as depressed, not coping, not eating, annoyed, angry, fucked up, yellow when they really really wanted to be pink, beaten, abused, has been a stranger contacting me through journaling and social media sites. The fact that more and more personal friends have done the same in the wake of the tragic death of Robin Williams due to his fighting multiple illnesses like a hero is something of a revelation to me. Mr. Williams lost that battle, but this particular rant isn't about Mr. Williams, whom I adored.

This is about me and about how people treat me, because that's where I am right now, and I think it might be worth mentioning. This is not, I think it's important to say, about any other artist's opinions. These ones are mine, but they may possibly have Venn diagram overlaps.

A FIC READER'S GUIDE (only so far as I am concerned):

1. YES, please encourage people you enjoy reading--we eat that stuff with filthy little hands like ice cream scoops, adoring you as we lick our fingers. We want to know you liked it--we want to know it mattered. That's the highest compliment you could EVER pay us. Ever. Please believe that you are cherished. You read it? You're a star.

2. YES, please rec us to other people and rec better writers to us, are you kidding me?

3. NO, please do not ask us when the next chapter will be up. We want to write it. We INTEND to write it. But sometimes we have bad days/weeks/months. We didn't forget that the next chapter needed to be written. If we are not dead or incapacitated, we want those things I just mentioned above. We want you to encourage us, and we want you to rec us, and we want you to rec marvelous prose to us. We are selfish. But sometimes, we just can't write. Sometimes, you maybe can't water the plants. Or write. Or get out of bed. We get it. Just...we get it. Asking for what you want doesn't help us get to the place where we can write your stories, and they're actually kind of our stories, and while we appreciate your motives, it makes us feel worse, not better.

4. YES, find people on the internet you can connect with. If that's a fic writer, you've excellent taste and I appreciate your discernment and we would like to help you as best we can. Email me at Tweet me @wordstrings. Take these measures if you need to. I'm serious.

5. NO, please do not jump into the deep end with graphic details of your circumstances; understand that a fic writer is not a confessional box. We are not priests, and we are often up shit creek with a leaky spoon ourselves, and we can be easily triggered into crying for eight hours instead of writing. If you need professional help, please seek professional help. I say this as a person who writes often about mental health, abuse, darkness, and morbidity--I can love you, but I can't help you. I wish I could.

6. NO, do not feel as if fic writers don't want you to comment and virtually cuddle and get to know you. That's a huge bonus for us, that's A SABERED CHAMPAGNE BOTTLE OVER OUR HEADS. But we can't fix our own lives, and sometimes, for some of us, that's why we write fic. So we want to chat. We just need space at times. Please keep reaching out. Reach out whenever you can, it's good for you, it's like tennis. Always good for you.

7. NO do not feel guilty if you want more of a fic and you're tempted to beg for it and you're working on something yourself and it just isn't gelling and you feel awful and your heart races over That Other Fic and maybe you have six or seven hearts all pointed in different directions and maybe nothing can help but maybe you can reach out to that one person and you want more of that one fic that will make you feel better but I promise you darling what will make you feel better is doing something for yourself because I have to think that I have to believe that because if I can't believe that then I'm responsible for you and you never wanted me to be responsible with a capital letter you only wanted that extra chapter to tide you over that's what you wanted and I can't give that to you right at this moment and what you need to feel is not ever ever ever ever guilty for wanting stories because all I want right now is stories and it hurts how much I want stories and how much I want to give you mine and can't and I'm left with begging other people for theirs when in the end we all love each other so why not stick to that and adore each other's stories and never feel guilty for wanting them?

8. YES, write your own fic if you're scared of that particular step. Write what's in your heart. Write what's on your mind. Show it to friends. Show it to colleagues. Show it to gas station attendants. Show it to people whose work you're gracious enough to read. Don't expect them to be competent enough to give you what you want from them--but write the thing, please. Write it for you. When you're done, show it to other people.

You'll be amazed at what can happen.

Katie Forsythe