Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Knowing When To Move On

A hobby, by definition, is an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation. In short, something fun. When does it stop being a hobby? When it starts to become a chore or when it starts to turn into something stressful and unfun.

In November of 2000 I discovered a Yahoo Group devoted to DC Comics fanfiction. The club was part of a group that made up the Five Earths Project. The idea was that the pivotal ending of the 1987 Crisis On Infinite Earths mini series was changed so that the five parallel Earths remained seperate rather than merging into a single continuity. The clubs would carry on tales of each of those worlds from that point on, ignoring changes DC Comics put into their books from 1988 on. After spending a few months reading all of the stories to date (over 100) in one of the clubs and documenting the tales into a database (so I knew exactly what had come before and so I wouldn't contradict anything previously done), I then set about participating in the group as a writer. I wrote my first story for the group in March 2001 and I was off and running.

I started off with one on-going series, a hero team title called Titans West. I then added in a second on-going, this time with the Secret Society of Super-Villains. In between those two, I'd sprinkle in one-shot stories of Superman, Batman, the Justice League, Wonder Woman, Flash and whoever else in the Earth-1 pantheon that caught my fancy. Around Halloween I even tried my hand at some supernatural and horror tales. I eventually would add a third on-going into the mix - Dial H For Hero, which dealt with a new owner of a strange dial that created new super-hero identities on each spin.

About a year into my active time, the person who was doing all the story archiving (formatting completed pages into HTML and posting the onto a website) was finding himself seriously overbooked between school, his personal life and the clubs. I offered to take over the archiving duties for the one club I wrote nearly exclusively on. I then set about to do the updates on a timely basis (once every two months or so - or when we had twenty five to thirty stories ready to go). Considering at this point I was now contributing a story a week (four a month), it was in my best interest to see the archiving continue so that my work and everyone else's made it onto the final website. Now, this was hard work - it would take me a half hour or more to prep stories and get them formatted. Sometimes that required extensive spell and grammar checking. But I was into it so I dealt with the extra work as I continued to write.

Late December of 2003, I was burning out fast. The archiving was getting to be a lot - especially after we did an epic, multi-writer event during that summer and fall. By this point, I had contributed over 130 stories to the club - some even done in collaboration with other writers. I had sort of exhausted through most of the ideas in my idea pile, even though more would come over time. So, I stepped back from my writing activities on the group in early 2004 but I still kept reading and offering comments to my fellow writers as they had for me over the years. The story flow for the entire group in general began to slow up a bit at that point. I did another couple archive updates in 2004, but by September of that year I felt done in on that too. I did my last archive update and announced that someone else would need to pick up the task.

I really should have gotten out entirely then, but I kept around as I was one of the moderators in some of the clubs. I was still enjoying the occasional tales from friends of mine. I also wanted to offer guidance and such to new writers who had come on board - in part because I remembered how hard it was when I started out. Our clubs had sort of stricter guidelines than most fanfiction sites. It wasn't just open for anything and everything. We had a shared continuity, which meant anything writer A did could have ramifications on writer B who might be using the characters down the road. The group was harmonious for most of the time I was there, but there were the occasional boat-rockers. We seemed to get one every couple years but eventually they would figure things out and move on because the fit wasn't right. Well, in 2006 we got another one and this one just kept butting heads with everyone, trying to shoe-horn in her ideas that didn't always fit.

The most recent arguments stemming from her stories was the last straw for me. It was causing too many of us friends to side against one another, and feelings were getting hurt by the heated discussions. I knew it was time to opt out entirely - to walk away from the groups. This morning, I removed myself from the moderator role. The next step will be leave the group membership entirely. I just realized that the hobby was no longer relaxing and fun for me.

The stories I did for the group can be accessed off of this page - my DC fanfiction if you're interested in some of my work from this period. I really had fun with these classic characters. It was almost like fulfilling that dream, in part, I had as a kid: to be a writer for DC Comics. They are characters who have been with me for a large part of my life, so being able to breathe some life into them myself for a short time was a true delight.

This isn't to say I'm done with writing - far from it! In fact, when I stopped writing for the group in late 2003, that is when I decided to focus once more on my own personal writing with characters fully my own creations. Those are outlined on my website the World of Maenza

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