How Being a Fangirl Can Make You a Better Writer

03/25/2019

The familiar advice goes something like this: Just get your butt in the chair; just write something, anything; just take a long walk. Just, just, just. But everything else comes easier, doesn’t it? A Netflix binge, a scroll through Instagram, a nap—washing the dishes, even.

illustration of author

“Two birds, one fan letter.” Illustration by Josh Quick.

Without diving too far down the dark and twisted philosophical rabbit hole of why this might be, what I can say for certain is: It’s been seven years since I graduated from college and I still haven’t figured out how to be consistently creative without an assignment. Self-imposed deadlines become nothing more than my best intentions, and even the most sleek and user-friendly productivity apps all eventually become a graveyard of unchecked to-do boxes and nagging notifications that say shame, shame, shame.

So what’s an unmotivated, better-student-than-writer to do? Enroll in a class, of course! Online writing workshops like those offered at the Loft and the Poetry Barn have become little luxuries where I once again feel alive, inspired, whole—they’re utopias of advice and hope where I produce more work in an 8-week period than I do in an entire year.

In one workshop on how to pitch, instructor and all around incredible human-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up Laura Goode bestowed on her virtual students a bit of sage advice that I’ll pack into a three-word nutshell: Be a fangirl.

Or, as she put it, “Do favors, give shoutouts, and write fan letters.” As soon as I read it, it felt both original and doable. This was something I hadn’t read about in any Best Advice for Writers article before, and most attractive of all, it sounded easy. As writing tips go, this was a step stool, not a winding staircase disappearing into the proverbial fog.

As experience has taught me, it’s all those things and more. So, what can you look forward to living life as a fangirl?

You’ll Climb out of the Inky Hole That Is the Comparison Trap

There are few killers of the will to write (read: live) as swift and sweeping as the comparison trap. Just ask this stuck soul who recently poured her writer’s heart (resembling every wannabe writer’s heart) out to Polly.

Just last week, a dear friend G-chatted news to me about another author’s trajectory from first-time-published no-name to woman with a book deal. My friend bemoaned, “I want to hang myself with a noose of jealousy that I made from threads of procrastination and unfinished dreams.” We’ve all said or thought a version of this at one point (or many).

Instead of fashioning a hypothetical noose of despair, sending fan mail can shift your reaction from jealousy to productive appreciation. Showing appreciation, besides just feeling really good (more good feelings please), is an expression of gratitude and, according to science, gratitude is good for you. Plus, it fans the flames of creativity. Two birds, one fan letter.

You’ll Be Writing Something, Anything

We’ve all been told to write something, anything, every day. For some of us, things like daily journaling simply don’t do the trick. In my justifiably-humble opinion, writing fan mail falls under the category of something, anything, and is, well, way more fun than trying to hack yourself into writing a page of something, anything, like a machine.

It feels really good, too—knowing that you’ll be one in a million emails (or tweets, or whatever your fangirl method of choice) that will actually mean something.

Capitalize on the pressure to give a good first impression, too—your addressee is, after all, someone you admire enough to send fan mail to. This does not mean you need to be long-winded. The shorter the sweeter.

You’ll Make New Friends

We all need our personal sideline of cheerleaders—our champions, our mentors, our moms. I would’ve given up on more things than I’ve already given up on if it weren’t for a select few super-supportive individuals. Like this article, for example, which made it over the finish line thanks to the brilliant Kara Cutruzzula, someone I now call friend thanks to a simple (but no less heartfelt) email.

In my experience, it’s more likely than not that sending a fan note will lead to more interaction, followed by connection, and then maybe you’ll land an IRL friendship where you take turns gassing each other up or keeping one another accountable. Hey, send that pitch yet? At worst, you’ll walk away having given the world a much-needed dose of good vibes.

In the end, what was just a piece of writing advice from Laura Goode turned out to be life advice that has made me a better member of the creative community. Maybe your fangirling will lead to something more, or maybe it won’t. It really is, as they say, the thought that counts.

Carley Parsons, author headshot
Carley Parsons (Guest Blogger)

Carley Parsons is a writer, poet, and wannabe filmmaker. She holds a bachelor’s in creative writing and film from the University of Rochester where she received the Academy of American Poets prize, and she was recently a finalist for Frontier Poetry’s Award for New Poets. She currently works as a senior digital content specialist and is working on her first chapbook of poems. To read more of Carley’s work, sign up for her monthly newsletter, the Sunday Bluesletter.