The truth is that prior to about four years ago, I didn’t really have very much in the way of life experience. I lived at home (as I had always done), had few friends, never dated, and kept to myself for the most part. This was still during my ‘vigorous self-denial’ stage when, alienated from much of my own life by gender dysphoria, I didn’t really do anything, and instead focused intensely on my studies.
I did, however, have a rich internal life. I would consume (and produce) fiction constantly, as it allowed me to have a sort of vicarious existence, where interesting things could happen. It was a sort of escape.
Beginning in about 2009, however, things began to change. Things actually started to happen to me–some of them was pleasant, some of them was unpleasant, as life is want to be. I fell in love and then broke-up; I finished my undergraduate degree and moved away from home; I have switched sexes, gotten into fights, gone insane, recovered, lost loved ones, gained loved ones…in short, I have accrued in this brief swath of time a not-inconsiderable quantity of life experience.
And how does this affect my ability to appreciate fiction, you ask? Now that I don’t need it in order to feel alive?
It makes it even better.
You see, what has changed is that now writing can resonate with me; before, (for example) I could read about someone having an awkward relationship with his father, and this would bore me; get on with the good parts! Now, I can actually relate to the characters much more frequently; I can put myself in their positions, and this makes fiction a better and more immersive experience. It’s quite fascinating.
I would imagine that it has also improved my ability to write it, but we will see.