Merry Christmas, everyone! I'll be taking Friday off to spend the holiday with my family. Whether you're of the "give praise for the birth of Jesus" group of Christmas-celebrators, or more of the "season for giving/family," I hope the this Christmas treats you well.
I do want to suggest one thing you might consider doing this Friday, though, if you have a few spare minutes. See, I spend a lot of time around here talking about stories, but one thing that mostly goes unsaid (if only because it's so obvious) is how powerful the right story at the right time can be. Every reader can name one or more stories that have fundamentally altered their lives, and plenty more that have helped them, subtly or not-so-subtly, to see the world in a new way. The ability of a piece of fiction to shape who we are is precisely what makes fiction so valuable, and such an essential part of the human experience.
We tend to forget about that when it comes to fanfiction, though. It's not hard to see why; most fanfiction isn't of the "capable of changing someone's outlook on life" sort, even more so than in commercial writing. And besides that, there is the stigma of it; saying that reading LotR for the first time was a life-altering experience (individual results may vary, obviously) is a lot easier to explain than saying the same about a psuedonomyously-authored, unlicensed story about the colorful, friendship-loving denizens of the magical land of Equestria.
And yet, there are works of fanfiction that can change the way you see the world, whether by helping you see things in a new light, crystallizing a lesson you only knew academically, or helping to change your outlook in a more idiosyncratic or harder to define way. Maybe it's a product of the story's quality; maybe it just happened to be the story you needed to read at that moment in your life, appearing in front of you at just the right moment like an act of epiphany. Either way, that's something worth celebrating.
So, if you have a few minutes this Christmas, consider letting the author of a fanfic which changed your life know what their writing has accomplished. If they happen to be on FiMFiction, that makes them easy to get in touch with. In any case, send them an e-mail or PM letting them know what their story meant to you. It doesn't have to be anything lengthy or super-detailed; just let them know what their story meant to you, and thank them for it. It's pretty easy to get positive reinforcement in most fanfic communities, and while that isn't a bad thing by itself, it does mean that praise can often feel impersonal. Take a moment to let an author know just how much their writing has meant to you.
Merry Christmas, everyone.