As a kid, I had a habit of creating fake petitions. I’d fill them in with all the names listed in my elementary school yearbook and present these pencil-scrawled lists to my parents as evidence that everybody agreed they should do something for me, whether it was not making me switch schools or buying me the newest Bratz doll.
Eventually, it must have become the better option for them to just give in. So, for my 11th birthday, I was gifted a laptop. The brand’s logo was shiny and terribly symbolic of what was to come: Gateway.
And so it was.
Before I was gifted this laptop, I wrote in notebooks that I hid from my family — I have always been tenaciously secretive about the art I create, especially because so much of it is informed by my actual experiences. But on that computer, I wrote troves of poetry and metaphorical stories, burdening Microsoft Word documents with lamentations about the depression I had been dealing with since fourth grade, about my parents divorcing and other dark, dreary juvenile woes. Alone in my room, symbolic pen in my hand, I began, in earnest, to cement my career as a writer.
The next step was logical and came naturally. I started posting my writing on the internet.
Not original work, though — not at first; I held that too close to my heart. My poems and my stories, and especially my novels, were not to be read by a community of strangers. So I gravitated toward the next best thing: fan fiction.
This was a natural consolidation of the two things that define me most: writing and popular culture. Instead of socializing during recess and lunch, I sat to the side with a notebook and a pen, outlining elaborate storylines for “Harry Potter” fan fiction, “The Lord of the Rings” stories and various Japanese anime series. Then I would go home, type up a chapter or two and set my words free on Fanfiction.net and Archive of Our Own.
It was a way of getting feedback on my writing style where I could stay relatively anonymous, putting a purposeful distance between myself and the characters I wrote about but that didn’t belong to me. The comments made on the products of my 12-year-old mind have had significant impacts on the way I approach writing. Thanks to a comment made seven years ago, I am forever careful to never be too vague about setting.
Around the time I turned 14, my perspective shifted. I met some friends on Tumblr and Twitter, and these friends wanted to create a writing group. The idea was fairly simple and has in fact been done by countless other people on these same websites: We would post our writing, whether it was poetry or prose, and tag it with our group name. Then we could browse the tag at our leisure, supporting and critiquing each other. For the first time, I was posting my original work on the internet.
And — much to my adolescent surprise — people liked it.
And something else was different too: I was consuming more of other writers’ original works. I neglected geometry and chemistry to stare at my iPhone screen, scrolling through the poetry and fiction tags on Tumblr and reblogging the pieces that impacted me the most.
For so long, I had wondered when I would find other writers of my same ilk. It turned out they had been here all along — in a corner of the internet, a space they’d carved out with the jagged edges of their words. I used to want, so desperately, to be the Lord Byron to someone else’s Percy Shelley or the Allen Ginsberg to a witty Jack Kerouac, defining the literary scene of our generation over Bellinis in salons. But my contemporaries were not so tangible and not exactly the salon type.
Rather, this was the literary scene of my generation. We live on the internet now, where posting original writing takes just a matter of seconds.
There are people who vehemently challenge the merit of self-published writers on the internet, but I beg to differ. Medium.com, a popular website on which to post writing, is the home of some of my most cherished works. The internet isn’t replacing the traditional publication process. It’s just offering an alternate route, a place to share writing that you simply want shared.
With writing, accessibility is key. I may be at UC Berkeley now, but I grew up in suburbia, where being part of the “intelligentsia” was something like a distant dream. On the internet, however, it wasn’t a dream for me — it was reality.