I have to confess, I cried.
It's been a while since I sat back and read one of my finished longer stories. I re-read A Soul to Seduce in prep of gearing back to work on it, but that's different. That's reading from a writer's perspective. With incomplete emotions because the story isn't finished. Reading Stone was like getting immersed all over again, because I have distance from the story.
It reminded me of something very, very important. Ultimately, I started writing fanfic - oh, so long ago - for one reason, and one reason only. I was in love with characters - the entire cast, not just Spike and Buffy - and I needed more of them. I needed an adventure to get lost in. I needed the resolution of a romance the show only hinted at. I needed it for myself, and it wasn't about feedback or a community or new friends or anything else, even though finding those things has been wonderful to say the least.
BtVS and AtS did one thing - they gave me joy. I think I got burned out on fanfic not just because I got further and further embroiled in original writing, but because I was overloaded with how much reading I did for LLGA when it was up. I don't know if people realized it, but I read each and every story that ever got nominated over there. At its height, that was over a hundred stories every two months. And I'll admit, I'm a picky reader. 80% of what I read, I would never recommend. But it was too much. I overloaded.
I read my very first fanfic (that wasn't written by me or a crit partner) in over a year this past spring - an AU Spangel story by toobusy2write called Subspace. It was like running into old friends in an unexpected place and sitting down to hang out for hours upon hours, where conversation never lagged because it was just like old times, where the night ended and the first thing you thought after separating was how long could it be before you met up again. I don't know what's going to happen with me and fanfic. I'm trying to get back into the swing of things with wip_out and finishing Soul. But I feel the itch, and I remember the joy, and I think just maybe, if I give myself permission to stop feeling guilty about having a WIP and disappointing all the people who were following it, I'll be able to focus on what was important.
How good it made me feel. That's the reward. That's always the reward. If something I wrote can still make me tear up, I know I succeeded.
I know I can do it again.