This isn't about depression, though; I wonder if the two things might be related, since obsession seems to be a problem of mine, but I am not the right person to answer that.
This is all about the long-standing battle in my head between fan work and original work. It has been going on for years, and only just happens to be getting bad right now, and leaking into my occasional comments and posts, because I really can't decide what to do about it.
One thing I don't want to be is that writer who tells her audience that fan fiction is worthless, that it isn't real writing, that fanfic authors aren't real writers. Obviously, I have a problem with that claim, as I consider myself a "real writer" and I've been writing fanfic for a very long time. When I was in school, I didn't feel nearly as conflicted about spending most of my time writing it because I was doing other things that amounted to "making something of myself" or "being useful," or things like that. For a while I didn't think I was going to be a Writer. Not too long ago - maybe five or six years - I thought I would be satisfied doing something else for work and getting my writing fix in by working on fan fiction.
But I obsess about things. A while ago I got it into my head to publish, and since then I haven't been able to kill the idea. I wanted to.
Majoring in creative writing is all that made me happy, but it sure hasn't been useful in any other way. It will never be useful unless I use that training to make money, either by getting a job (surely the "English" before the "creative writing" should mean something?) or publish something and prove that I don't waste my time every day making up stories. It doesn't matter that my immediate family is okay with me staying home; it doesn't matter if my friends encourage me; it doesn't matter if writing really is useful, even if society doesn't think so. These days I write, I read, I cook, occasionally I even clean (but don't quote me on that), and I play with my cats. Someone else pays my bills. Under these circumstances, I feel it's not just useless but unacceptable to spend all of my time writing fan fiction.
You might think I'd find it acceptable to do half and half, which I did try - and I failed, because I obsess about what I do, and once I start thinking about a story and latch on for real, I don't think about anything else until it's done. I'm not sure this is a matter of discipline. If it were, I should be able to make myself do it, because I can make myself do other things (like stick to a schedule, or get an assignment done) if I try hard enough. This does not work the same way. It's like my thought process is a slippery, slimy, squirmy thing that I can never get a hold on-- when it comes to writing. I might be thinking about some original fic idea and how I might work around a problem, only to find that line of thought inspires a solution to a problem I'm having with my main project, and so I run over to write it down and... that's it, I've shifted to the other track. And why should it be a bad thing that trying to solve one problem led to solving another? It isn't! Except, of course, that one problem was original fic-related, and presumably has more merit because I can publish it, and the other was a fanfic-related problem, and not as important.
Why shouldn't it be important? I don't know. Why does it have to make money? Because money is important.
I have to choose which one to write, and while I usually prefer fan fiction if I'm brutally honest (it's a lot more fun right up front, for one), there are stories I want to write which will never, ever get done unless I make the decision to focus. It's easier to focus when I feel that the other choice is useless for me, and possibly selfish. It's easier when I think the thing I'm working on has the potential to go beyond my journal to something more.
It just so happens that this decision coincided with my disillusionment with fandom, and with the waning of my interest in the topics I was currently writing for. This was really the perfect time for me to make the switch, because when I settle down in a fandom, I usually stay there for a long time, and good luck getting myself to think about anything else.
But this attitude that fan fiction is useless, that I don't like it - that's a lie. I feel that I like it too much, as a matter of fact. Fan fiction did a lot for me. It taught me how to use imagery and detail, how to write dialogue, how to plot (by accident, most of the time, but it was still plotting), how to analyze existing stories for material to use. It made me write all the time, it increased my productivity, it helped me shut my inner-editor up so I could get things written down and worry about tweaking later, so writing wouldn't depress me. Fan fiction taught me not to hate everything I wrote. Fan fiction also showed me what an attention whore I am, and how closely I link my self-esteem to success. Those things are good to know, even if I'm not sure how to deal with them.
Here's what it also did: it made me complacent. I got used to leaning on the crutch of Someone Else's Characters and Someone Else's World-Building, which allow me to brush off all of that characterization nonsense by making one or two sly references to something that already existed so I could move on to the stuff I was really interested in. And because people reading fic generally want satisfaction of some kind, it was very easy to write the same thing over and over again and get the expected response. This wouldn't be a problem if I wanted to write only fan fiction, but it's a huge problem when I want to write original fiction, because I don't have the skills to pull off truly thorough characterization. If fan fiction exercised my prose to a certain level, it also let me leave certain other skills to atrophy at a much lower level.
I can't blame this on fan fiction because I was the one who allowed that to happen. What I can do - and what my mind definitely does - is tell myself that writing it will only entrench me in that, and to learn, and get out, and advance, I can't write it anymore. Even if I want to.
You don't know how much part of me wants to write Silmarillion fic. There's so much room - and so much material available to research, so little world-building I would have to do to supplement my stories, but still enough space for me to make up the noble houses under the banner of Feanor and their relations, and it's very hard to not do it. It's very hard not to indulge myself in some Maedhros/Fingon, a pairing so unlikely (hahaha, so very unlikely), doomed, and shadowed by betrayal that it's no wonder I like it. I want to sit here and write the same thing over and over again, and enjoy it, and know that other people out there will enjoy it too, because The Silmarillion doesn't get much fic compared to the other books.
I feel like, if I do that, I may as well give up on my original stuff and go get a retail job, because that's all I'll ever do that will contribute to something other than my own obsession with someone else's toys.
I don't know why I want to publish. It sure as hell won't make me much money. When you look at my chances, it actually seems more useful to write fan fiction. Sometimes I wish the desire would just die, and other times I just feel it's so stupid and ironic that this ambition to publish was birthed when I was writing fan fiction (Star Wars, to be specific) and hoping to somehow get it officially licensed (which has precedent in all the other SW novels on the shelf) because I didn't know there were things called fanzines or the internet.
Sometimes I wonder if, had I known about those avenues for fan fiction, the desire to publish would've hit me at all.