Back from London for two days, and I am delighted to see so many people reading the blog! One issue raised by a couple of people is the issue of fanfic. The great thing about fanfic is that the work required is relatively low--it isn't too hard to write something people like, and it is a LOT easier to get it published.
One of the traits I found in conventionally published writers is a high degree of what we in the motivational psych biz call "Activity Inhibition" or AI. This is the ability to channel your emotional energy, to restrain your impulses, to act in a mature way despite emotional arousal. I won't go into the details of the measurement, I'll just note that to be above average in the US requires a score of 2 or better. The average writer I studied had 18. Yes, eighteen! For those into statistics, the normal standard deviation is 0.25, so the typical writer I studied was so far beyond the norm it is frightening. (The 64-Sigma level!)
What does this mean? Well, writers are people motivated by the desire to have an impact on or influence others, but to do this requires them to sit in a room alone and write. It is a heckuva lot easier to whip out a short piece, post it, and get feedback than it is to write, rewrite, mail out, wait for responses, mail out again, get accepted, wait for the magazine or book to come out...most of the writers I studied were novelists, and typically it takes anywhere from three months to a year for a productive writer to write a novel, and then another year to get it published. That's a very long postponement of gratification!
One of the dangers of the fan community and the con scene is that you can get that instant gratification of the influence motive through web postings, through panel appearances, or through blogs, and this diverts your energy from writing. There have been SF writers who wrote basically one story and then parleyed this into appearance after appearance at cons...and basically quit writing. Why bother, when they got the satisfaction they craved without so much work?
Now let me be clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with fanfic...unless YOU want to do something more or different. If you don't, congratulations! You've got a fun hobby that enables you to write without provoking too much anxiety (though the person who commented that they are pushing aside stories to write fanfic for the fans sounds like they might be getting some).
If you want to move to a bigger pond, as it were, then you might need to constrain yourself. A few options that come to mind:
1. Stay off the web for a while (gasp!)--if necessary, unplug your modem to make it more difficult
2. Get help from the web--go to a workshopping site, so you can get feedback to improve an existing story instead of just posting a first or even later draft.
3. Explain to the fans of the fanfic what you are trying to do, and hopefully they will support you. Also, a public declaration of a goal increases the chance that it will be done!
Seeing people respond to my blog energized me (it's that impact-and-influence thang) despite being jetlagged and at roughly 4:30am London time on my internal clock. One thing I swore to do on this site, though, is to make sure I have content and not just mood. WIth luck, I am providing that, and ultimately perhaps there will be another book out of here--so I am applying the same principles to myself!