How did I learn to write?
I can attribute most of my writing ability to fanfiction.
Yes. Fanfiction. There, I said it. There is some kind of strange taboo about writing fanfiction, like it’s not “real” writing, or that authors are “stealing” ideas from the creators of the original source. There has been a lot of scholarly writing about fanfiction, notably Henry Jenkins.
I have been a writer of fanfiction probably since I could write. The earliest stuff I remember writing was something about the characters in the fighting game Killer Instinct, and I still have some of the Sonic the Hedgehog 3 fanfiction I wrote. Note that I was ten years old when these games came out.
I wrote in a number of fandoms, mostly keeping it to myself (before I discovered that fandom was actually a thing and there were other people in it). My most prolific fandom years were 2003-2006, which was when my greatest output was and my greatest involvement in the community. I wrote some really terrible things in that time, but I also wrote some things that I still consider to be pretty good. My whole time in fandom was about experimenting — giving myself the opportunity to try writing, to find my style, to write something really terrible and learn from it. It was a safe space, essentially, where even the most terrible thing would be received with some kind of joy from someone, and where an opportunity to learn and grow as a writer could be found. I met some amazing fanfiction writers and fandom roleplayers in that time, from whom I learned the craft of writing and the value of critique. I count these folks among the greatest influences on my writing style, and moreso on my enjoyment of the writing process.
The point of this is that writing fanfiction was an enjoyable exercise, through which I learned a lot about the craft of writing. Mostly, it taught me that writing is fun if you’re doing it right. Even now, when I’m writing my dissertation, I can see ghosts of my fanfiction writing past. The introduction to my dissertation is an arrival story, taking the form of a narrative about how I arrived as a researcher in World of Warcraft. This is, essentially, a fanfic about myself; is it still fanfic if you’re writing it about yourself?
So there you have it, my admission of my past. How did you learn to write?