Today, I turn twenty one.
I don’t feel old. I used to fear growing up, but I’ve come to the conclusion that even if the passage of time causes me to lose things, there are many more things that I will gain, simply by being alive.
At the same time, I’m amazed at how quickly time flies! It only feels like yesterday when I started up an anime blog with a stupid name. My blog still has a stupid name, but now it gets well over 1.5k views every day. I don’t post as often as the more dedicated bloggers, but I’m glad my readers have found something to keep coming back to. I still blush whenever someone leaves a kind comment.
A Short History of This Blog
Fun fact: this blog has existed since late 2011, but I never tried using it for anything much until around May 2013. Up until then, I was a fanfiction writer. I was fairly well-respected in the community for my ability to understand English grammar. The hurdle for being considered a good fanfiction writer… is not that high. (More on this later.)
I discovered the anime blogosphere in early 2012 and for a long time lurked around the usual haunts (Random Curiosity, The Cart Driver, etc.). I can’t remember why I started writing my own posts, but something tells me it was probably because I was upset that all the bloggers were talking shit about my favourite anime.
Yep, I’m pretty sure I started blogging because I wanted to share my appreciation of ecchi anime.
My stance towards ecchi fanservice has become much more nuanced and ambivalent over the years (compare this old post with my recent writings on otaku sexuality), but I believe my complicated relationship with otaku culture and the aniblogging community spurred my more passionate writing. How can I consider myself a critical thinker but still be so entranced by such generic narratives? How can I be a feminist and also an otaku? I think my best posts are the ones that teased out these complex tensions.
At some point, I got really hooked on light novels. Most anime critics these days use “LN” as shorthand for “bad trope-y writing”. Well, there is truth in that. Light novel “culture” is pretty similar to fanfiction culture. When amateur writers just stick to reading each other’s works, their writing becomes endlessly self-referential and self-parodying.
At the same time, there are plenty of light novels that don’t fit the template. And good translations really do make a difference, even with mediocre stories. I got into light novel translation because I wanted to bring out the best in light novels. I still passionately believe in that goal.
So yeah, that’s the basic rundown of my history as an anime fan. A lot of it revolves around words, words, words.
Blogging, fanfiction, translation… I’ve published literally millions of words online through my anime fandom. Every day, I produce some form of anime-related writing. And I do all these things without getting paid a cent. Sometimes, I have to stop and wonder why the heck I do all of that.
I think the biggest reason I’ve stuck with anime over all these years is because of the community. Without the anime fandom, I would never have had a consistent audience for my writing. Not only have I made a lot of friends, being an anime fan trained me as a writer and helped me to gain confidence in my skills.
I don’t want to romanticise fandom. Fandom is rightly criticised for its insular tendencies. But fandom is also really broad, malleable and a part of everyone’s lives in some way. In a lot of ways, it is what you make of it.
What has always appealed to me about fan writing is the openness to experimentation. I do a lot of experimental writing on my blog, and I also did it a lot with my fanfiction. Because fan writers have free reign over what works they produce, it often leads to excessive self-indulgence, but it need not be so.
The boundary between fan writing and professional writing is becoming increasingly blurred. Many fans are professionals. Even fans who are not necessarily paid professionals are perfectly capable of writing to a schedule and imposing rigorous standards on themselves. For example, Nano Desu, the translation group I work for, assigns editors to each project and requires prospective translators to pass a test before joining.
I think that if you approach fan writing with a critical mindset, you can get a lot out of it. You can minimise the bad habits and maximise the benefits. I encourage every person to read widely. Don’t just interact with the same community and the same ideas. You must continually try to challenge your perspective.
Every piece of writing is a hybrid product, stitched together through various life experiences and influences, both consciously and unconsciously. I think the very best writers actively engage with the world around them and make use of their influences in a very purposeful way to touch someone else’s life.
Because I write every day, I think about these things a lot. I’m always thinking about how I can become a better writer who can contribute better things to the world.
One day, I would like to get paid to translate or to write academic articles. But getting paid is not the end goal. Writing is the end goal. As long as my words reach someone, then I will be satisfied.
And even then, I will continue to write.