It’s my pleasure today to introduce you to my good friend Scott. Scott and I originally met at a meeting to discuss the creative future of an arts and news journal that our church was publishing at the time. The journal disappeared, but Scott and I stayed in touch, exchanging stories after we’d discovered we were both aspiring fiction writers. Scott was always generous with praise and very encouraging of my work and I loved his creativity and scope in the writing he shared with me.
When I started a writers’ critique group at my house, Scott was one of the first and most dedicated members. He and I have watched each other grow in our literary attempts, and have been there for each other, offering guidance and suggestions along the way. Scott is a talented, intelligent, and insightful writer. And he knows that he didn’t get where he is all by himself. He knows the value of fans, especially the first real one.
The summer of 2006 broke my heart.
I had been living abroad in Norway, working for a church on a short-term contract for what I hoped would become a full-time gig. The church had taken a risk on an American seminary student: paying for my living expenses, and giving me an opportunity to find part-time work to supplement my income.
I spent that summer scouring coffee shops, restaurants, supermarkets, and banks, trying desperately to find a company who would hire me so I could live my European dream.
After four months of fruitless searching (and a heart-wrenching disappointment regarding my employment with the church), I left Norway and returned to my parent’s house in Michigan: heartbroken and disillusioned. My European dream was dead.
Sometimes we don’t know what we want until what we think we want is taken away.
When I returned from Norway during the fall of 2006, despondent and disillusioned, I did the only sensible thing to do: I wrote. In a frenetic pace that I have not been able to match since, I wrote a novella, 50 pages, within three weeks, on top of a full-time job. Naturally, the first person I gave the manuscript to was my fan.
The first story I wrote was in 3rd grade. It was a graphic novel about a vampire turned good guy. The only thing I remember about the story is that I used an egregious amount of orange-red colored crayon in its composition. At the time, my first fan would have been two years old.
1. Any device for producing a current of air by the movement of a broad surface or a number of such surfaces.
2. An enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc.
My first fan has said things to me like:
“What are you working on?”
“What are you working on now?”
“You aren’t done with that yet?!”
“You HAVE to finish that!!”
Her name is Sarah Phillips, and though forces beyond our control made her my youngest sister, her humor, honesty, and mutual appreciation of shared passions made her my friend. Her devotion to my writing also made her my first fan.
On a bleak wintry day in November, 2006, Sarah took my novella from me calmly, at least, outwardly calmly, and promised to be honest with her feedback (not everyone is, and not everyone knows how to be helpfully honest like she does). Fortunately, she only made me wait a couple days before handing it back with a grin. It had problems, and she pointed those out, but she obviously loved it.
I don’t believe any writer, or any artist for that matter, will continue to regularly create unless someone honestly likes their work. And I would emphasize the honestly part of that statement. My first fan was not my mother—not because she doesn’t like my stuff, but because she wouldn’t read it if I weren’t her son. My mother’s encouragement reminds me of a quote from Rich Mullins: “I grew up hearing everybody tell me ‘God loves you!’ I would say big deal, God loves everybody. That don’t make me special! That just proves that God ain’t got no taste.”
Fans may not have good taste (I like to think my sister has wonderful taste), but they share a common appreciation for like passions. My sister is my fan because she likes what I write, and she likes the authors that I like, and the movies that I like. I have been blessed to find other fans, but I don’t know if I would have continued writing (and I certainly wouldn’t have written as passionately) without my sister’s encouragement, without her gleeful smile after reading my stuff.
Who is your fan?
Find a way to tell them you appreciate them. If they are close to you, give them a hug. If you are really close, tell them you love them. If they are not so close, say thank you, or sign their book, or pose for that photo with them.
Maybe you have fans you don’t like (it happens). You still want them to be your fan, even if you don’t like them. Why? The first definition of fan is: they produce a current of air by the movement of a broad surface. A large fan base causes your work to move, to go places you could never carry it.
If that is too selfish a reason for you, revel in the fact that there are people out there who are looking at and enjoying the same things as you.
I want to publicly thank my sister for reading my stuff, and I want to thank God for giving me such a friend to enjoy life with.
Love you, sis.
D.Scott Phillips is a writer, runner, and a lover of film and books. When he is not busy with these, you can find him plying insurance to pay the bills, tutoring students, drinking lattes, and exploring haunts local and afar.
He lets his inner eccentric run wild on the Internets at: http://dscottphillipsfiction.com
He loves cats.