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How to Set Yourself On Fire

I've written more about Sherlock Holmes than the man who created him.

Books, fan fiction, articles, essays; more than three quarter of a million words.

The thing is, I almost stopped so many times. Because I write professionally, people pay me to write about flu jabs and saving for retirement but they didn't pay me to write hundreds of thousands of words of Sherlock fan fiction.

So I tried quitting. Tried to focus on 'real' writing. Yet every time I turned in an article on feral cats or baby colic, I'd start another chapter on another fic, muttering I shouldn't be doing this, this isn't paying the bills. I was always promising myself I'd quit.

I didn't though, and there was a reason for that: Writing fic about men in love and lust made me happy. Giddy happy. Excited happy. Run round the room fist-bumping myself happy.

Yet, because I'm duller than the average deducing bear, I still tried to stop. Each time I did, I'd grouse and grumble, and each time my friend Tony would encourage me to keep going.

And yet, like some sort of over-dramatic consulting detective, I'd lament: "But fan fiction doesn't earn me a living!"

Finally, Tony responded with the two best words in the history of best words.

"So what?"

*Blink* *Blink* So…………what?

Oh my. Oh my yes.

So the hell what?

Sure, maybe being part of a fandom like Star Wars or Sherlock or Supernatural, maybe having a passion for writing fan fiction or drawing fan art isn't bringing a pay check. Well generally neither does petting a kitten, going to the cinema, or having sex, and yet we manage to do and delight in all of these things, finding fulfillment and joy.

That's what Tony's so what taught me. Joy is enough. Finding joy in a fandom is enough. Yet beyond that, being part of a fandom, drawing, writing, meeting people, well these things give so. many. other. things.

A community. A place to share ideas. A place to find new ones. A place to fan the flames of your passion.

And that passion, oh it's powerful. With passion you write more, draw more, edit more fan vids. And when that happens, something beautiful happens.

You get better. Then better still.

If you're me you write even more stories and then you finally, finally, finally pitch a Sherlock Holmes book to a publisher.

And get accepted.

Without fic and the Sherlock fandom, without years of encouragement from readers and fellow writers, I might not have bestirred my damn butt from its metaphorical chair and approached that publisher. I'd already pitched books to publishers you see and like every writer I had a stack of rejections.

Then Jayantika Ganguly, a Sherlockian friend, one day said to me, "I'd like to introduce you to someone. You should pitch something to him. He publishes Sherlock Holmes books."

So, because people loved my AO3 fic Well Met, I pitched the publisher a book based on that concept. The Day They Met came out in 2015, The Night They Met was published a year later, both books inspired by that fan fiction.

Writing and reading fic changes things. It changes you. It has power.

Let it power you.

This is an abridged version of an article written originally in Powers of Expression. Wendy C Fries also writes as Atlin Merrick.

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