For years I tried to make a dent in the fickle and derivative indie lit scene. My mistake was trying to write stories that hadn't been written before, and mostly using pre-created characters, celebrities, and myths. It was a weird dichotomy. I wrote about sports stars, Big Bird, Cobra Commander, Dolph Lundgren movies, Transformers having sex with each other, and crack-addicted homosexual video game characters.
Nobody cared. I was trying to do something new, but in the scene's defense, my stories weren't very good. I wrote perhaps twenty bad stories, and finally gave up. I went back to novels for a while. Even now, I have a problem writing something less than 80 pages or so - I like the middle-sized form of novels and novellas rather than big books or shorts.
I couldn't find myself as a writer. I had definite ideas, but I didn't know how to realize them. Most of all, I didn't know how to write my stuff because I didn't know how to be me, or what that meant.
But around 2013 I had a breakthrough. I was thinking about Batman a lot, and lo and behold, a strange idea came into my head: Batman as time traveller, sent back to rescue King Arthur. It's a totally nutso idea, and I loved it immediately.
Not only could I write about a character I was obsessed with, without having to say anything "literary", but I was also able to research the Arthurian myth to do so, and I LOVE research. I must have read five or six King Arthur books to write that 80 page story.
Ultimately, I spun my own version of Batman, and my own version of King Arthur, a potent combination that still thrills me.
But most importantly, I found who I really am as a writer. I don't know how - but for some reason, this story marked a new level in my writing. It is so pure, intense writing, absent of the desire to impress anyone but myself. That was a big milestone.
The story is called "Paladin of Gotham," and I have since reconfigured it so it doesn't use the "Batman" name or accoutrements, and now has a character named "Night Shepherd" instead. Now it is truly mine.
But I found myself through fan fiction, whether it was with those earlier, terrible stories, or finally with "Paladin of Gotham," that's how I taught myself how to be... me.