Fanfiction has been a huge part of my life ever since middle school, when my favorite cartoon not only ended on a cliffhanger, but also didn't get renewed for another season. It's been nearly a decade since I started actively consuming and writing fanfiction on Fanfiction.net, and I can honestly say that it's taught me more about how to live a more happy and fulfilling life than a year in college has. Without further ado, here are 10 life lessons I learned from Fanfiction.net.

1. You are not alone

There have been plenty of times when I've felt like my interests were strange or that I was the only one who had a certain mindset. The thousands of fandoms on Fanfiction.net taught me that there's always someone out there who shares my viewpoints and that I'm not weird for having non-mainstream interests.

2. Having the support of a right-hand man (or woman) is everything

I've read enough unedited fanfiction to know that having an editor (or beta reader, as editors are called on Fanfiction.net) goes a long way for your writing. Similarly, everyone needs a support system to live a happy and healthy life, whether that's just one person or a whole community.

3. You won't get along with everyone — and that's okay

I'm not a fan of every fanfic I read, just as I'm sure not everyone loves my writing. Each person comes from a different background and has experiences that fuel their opinions, so it's natural to not vibe well with every person you come across. What's important is that you remain open-minded while also holding on to your own values.

4. Perfect is boring

On Fanfiction.net, a "Mary-Sue" or "Gary-Stu" is an unrealistic character because they're too perfect and therefore boring. With so many high standards and expectations in our daily lives, it's all too easy to get lost as you strive for an arbitrary ideal of perfection. It's important to remember that being "perfect" isn't the goal — being the best versions of ourselves is.

5. Develop your own voice, rather than copying the people around you

The best fanfiction takes inspiration from the original work but is ultimately unique in its own right. You won't improve as a writer simply by copying the styles of well-established authors, just as you won't become your own person if you never think for yourself.

6. Appreciate the little moments in life

Some of my favorite stories on Fanfiction.net are about the small, easily-forgettable moments in the characters' day-to-day lives. I love reading about small successes and cute first dates, and yet I don't appreciate these small moments when they happen to me. It's important to take a step back and smell the roses once in a while, rather than constantly moving toward bigger accomplishments.

7. Success doesn't happen overnight

It's very rare that someone's first story on Fanfiction.net is an overnight hit — and even if it is, it's hard to maintain a large following for long periods of time. Having a successful career is the same way, but that doesn't mean you should stop dreaming and improving.

8. Pay your respects to those you admire

Almost every fanfiction author includes a disclaimer in every story that states the original work that the fanfic is based on, as well as its creator. It's important to give credit where it's due, not just because it's illegal to steal someone else's work, but also to show respect for other creators. No matter what you do, make sure you don't forget the people who influenced you, whether that's a teacher, family member, or friend.

9. Some things will always be more popular than others

A lot of fanfic readers come to fanfiction.net in search of a specific type of story, plot, or relationship. As a result, the popularity of a story is often determined by its subject matter, not the quality of the writing. But just because what you enjoy is unpopular doesn't mean that it isn't wonderful or worthy of being pursued.

10. School and work aren't the only things that require discipline

It takes discipline to be a fanfic writer, especially one who's written long stories that require relatively frequent updates. If you want to improve your skill set in a certain hobby or non-academic area, you have to consistently put in the hours to do so. Just because you're not required to put in those hours doesn't mean they're not necessary to get better at your craft.