This is a repost from WoodWitchofSuburbia’s blog over at AFF. I think she put forth a great message for the writing & reading community all around (& really, the entire art community in general), so I just want to help spread the message here too. Please do check out her fantastic fanfics here too! ^^
I’ve been around the internet for a long time, in fact most of my childhood was spent on the internet. At 23-going-on-24, I think it’s safe to say I have quite a bit of experience with internet communities, how they function, and what good and bad there is in the online community.
When I was younger, the idea of “silent readers” was not as common as it is today. The fanfic community was alive and well, full of conversation where the authors of the stories were able to be involved with their readerbase and know who was reading their story and what was good or bad about it. The fanfic world was thriving, constantly growing. Today, I would say the fanfic community is struggling to stay afloat. Not because there’s no one willing to write fanfiction anymore, but that nobody chooses to say anything when reading.
It’s all too often that I hear people saying that author’s begging for feedback are only doing so because they crave attention, as though this is a bad thing. Of course they crave attention, they spent a good chunk of time writing this piece of prose for no feedback. An author can’t know if anyone is enjoying their work, if it’s worth continueing, if no one tells them what they liked or even disliked about it. Readerbases have become very entitled in the fact that they want people to keep pumping out fiction for them without having to give anything in return. That’s not how this process works. No one wants to talk to a brick wall.
An inactive readerbase is a useless readerbase.
When I write, most of my motivation to continue comes from the feedback I get. In fact, I have a fanfiction that I put lots of time and energy into called EXO Planet: Tree of Life. It’s over 60,000 words with Twenty Three chapters as of today, December 16th 2015, has a map and floorplans of the places I’ve created for the world with a complex set of mythos and a history involved. I’ve published this fanfiction to both tumblr and asianfanfics.com and to be honest, I don’t even want to continue it on AFF. No one responds to it, no one pays attention. I have no reason to care about publishing new chapters here because as far as I know, no one even cares about it. On tumblr, I have a rather active, anonymous readerbase that is always asking me questions about the world, the characters. Always telling me how much they enjoy reading, how they reccommend it to their friends. To this day, I’m still flattered that someone told me I was their favorite fanfic author. These comments made me so excited to update, it kept the story fresh in my mind. Because I was able to converse with my readerbase, they actively became involved in the story and created ships that I made canon simply because I knew what was going on. They even told me about their crack-ships within the fanfiction! I felt like a regular JK Rowling. I even did audio ask sessions where people would ask me something and I would record myself talking about the subject for up to 30 minutes, and they LOVED it, and because they enjoyed it I enjoyed it.
However, in time, my readerbase on tumblr became more and more silent. There are times I don’t even know if anyone has read the new chapter. It’s incredibly frustrating and as much as I love this story and desire to complete it as we’re nearing the end more and more, knowing that I probably won’t get any response for doing so just makes me… indifferent.
I have this problem where I constantly start things and then never finish them, especially with fanficiton/prose. Because of what has happened with EXO Planet, I think I can conclusively say that most of my issue with finishing things is not because I’m just lazy and don’t care, but actually because I feel like there’s no point in finishing it. I get bored of updating only for myself. I wonder if the idea is bad, if it’s worthless and that maybe I should move on to something bigger and more interesting.
Readers don’t realize how much they contribute to a fanfiction simply by responding to it. Art, both written and visual, is meant to be responded to, and when you don’t? That’s the death of creativity and a descent into lonesome madness, to be quite honest.
So next time you think about being a silent reader, try to imagine yourself screaming in a crowded room and no one looks up, because that’s what it feels like to create something precious that no one cares to respond to.