Drabble · Stories · Writing

Out of the Box: A drabble

Zi stared down at the tiny box, eyes narrowed in concentration. There had to be a trick to opening it and getting at whatever was inside. It was small, barely the width of her hand, and the wood dark and smooth with age. It had been two hours now, and she was nearing the point of simply carving in some very illegal sigils and letting the thing explode. There was no latch, no seam in the wood’s perfectly uniform sides. Her instructors hadn’t even told her what was hidden in the box, just dangling the mystery in front of her like a carrot. She pushed a stray strand of dark hair back behind her ear.

Maybe I’m not supposed to open the box, but just pretend that I did. That wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. Her memory echoed with Agent Larch’s constant refrain of “think outside the box!”

She grinned suddenly, glancing around the small, bare room. Each corner had its own set of engraved rings, adjustable standards ready for most spells. She grabbed the unopened box of chalk, standing and making her way over to the closest set. Why should she try and unlock the cage, when she could just move it out of the way, instead?

The chalk dropped into her hand, and between the outer two rings she drew crow sigil. Crow, her mind offered absently. Sign of the tricksters; of travel, change, and illusion. The tiger was a more finicky sigil, and she took her time making sure the angles were perfect. The tiger; strength, stability, wealth and treasures.

Filthy hands left streaks of white on her jeans, but Zi barely noticed, reaching down deep into the earth to pull at the power she could always feel buzzing beneath her feet.

Whatever was in that box, it was hers.

Just a little drabble as a homework assignment. Zi is a character from a novel I’m working on though. I do like her quite a bit. 

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S.J. Penner

Author of the upcoming series #Tyrant, artist, and inveterate dabbler. Creator of #guiltfreeswag for writers and gamers at Coffee Ink where 100% of proceeds go to Red Cross Emergency Services.

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Stories · Writing

Knock. (A Short Story)

Someone is knocking at the door.

The sound came to me in slow, pulsing waves of sound. Tap. Tap tap. Tap tap tap. Each strike scrapped against the edge of the cocoon of silence I had woven around me. My ears clenched against the intrusion, the first flex of muscle since I had laid down yesterday. The day before?

No more than three days, surely.

The visitor rapped against the wood again and I blinked slowly, eyelids scrapping across my corneas. I tried to swallow but my mouth was dry as paper, dry as the wood the shivered and sang under each sharp knock. It hadn’t rained in weeks, and I hadn’t moved in days.

The world and me, wasting away into dust and drudgery. I watched the constellations of glitter the woken dust made in the air above me. I blew a breath out, my throat screaming at the sudden rush of scorching air. Had I swallowed sand again, before I slept? I thought I had moved well past that by now.

I had started out as all those grieving do. Denial packed my bags, and drove my feet day after day. It brought my radio, which was filled to the brim with static and white noise.

Anger was written on my hands, in the scars that riddled them from the mirrors I had shattered. The carnival had been closed, quiet as the graveyard down the road. Rainbows of fluttering flags waved to me as I crunched across the gravel. The house of mirrors had been full, though, the moment I stepped inside. Full of gaunt, expectant men in stolen, luxury suits, staring back at me with my own red-rimmed grey eyes.

I destroyed them all, my silent companions.

The begging came later, sitting on a dock, staring out across the ocean. I begged then, for a boat. For an escape from the madness and the loneliness. The silence had begun to fill my ears, even then, and I could barely hear the rush of the waves over it.

Give them back, I pleaded. Give them back, or take me too.

I don’t know who I was asking, but no one every answered. Or at least I didn’t think so.

Someone is knocking at the door.

A blanket of inertia keeps me pinned to the luxurious mattress, but I let my head fall sideways. Across a sea of shatter plates and remnants of life, I stare at the source of the slow but steady thrumming in my chest.

Tap tap tap. My heart vibrates with the sound, and while my muscles lay atrophied and useless, my nerves stretch, my mind peering through the fog of disuse to watch the wood.

Depression had struck me like a physical blow. The ruins of my hotel room scattered around me; the mirror shattered, my dinner thrown aside, the maps, radio and camping equipment in useless pieces. Like puzzles, all their pieces thrown together in fury, and abandoned in despair.

The weight of being alone struck me down. I lay amidst the satins and silks of the five star room. The candles I had lit flickered and died, and my soul had followed the light into the darkness. The sun rose, and I didn’t. The world was too large, too empty.

There had been no bodies. Maybe if there had been, it would have been easier to understand. If I had watched the world die of sickness, if I had seen them kill each other, or waste away amongst the radiation, maybe I could have been stronger. Maybe I would have lasted longer.

I had woken to an empty world. My wife’s place beside me in bed was empty, our infant daughter’s cradle cold. The phone lines were still connected, for a few weeks, even the tv worked for a while. It was like humanities last grip on the world; remnants of technology slowly blinking out with no one to care for it. No one but me.

I had finally accepted it, last night. Or accepted the depression, maybe. I’d been depressed before, in my previous life, the one surrounded by seven billion people. I had felt isolated and alone, even in a crowd.

I had been an idiot.

That wasn’t isolation. I could have spent a year in an igloo in Antarctica and it wouldn’t have been isolation. There is an energy that humans have, a hum of life that you can only feel when it’s gone. No one has ever been as alone as I am. No one has ever been truly lost.

There is someone knocking on the door.

Tears are hot on my cheeks, my unused muscles clenching in response to heavy rapping. My body is heavy, the weight of the empty world resting on my chest, but somehow I stood. Like Atlas, the world on my shoulders I walked towards the door, my footsteps matched to the rhythmic pounding.

Knock.

Someone is knocking at the door.

Knock.

I find myself gasping, tears blinding me in their furious descent.

Knock. Knock.

The doorknob is cool beneath my fingers, my trembling hand gripping at it with white knuckles.

Knock.

I can’t hear the turn of the lock, the slide of the mechanism over my gasping breaths.

Knock.

The light blinds me, the early morning sun the only proof that the world is still turning, once the clocks all stopped. I blink away the spots and the tears, squinting at the dark figure. My heart beats a rapid staccato in my chest.

“Oh.” My voice is sandpaper. “It’s you.”

This was just a short story I wrote during a weekend of writing with friends and family. I hope you liked it!

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S.J. Penner

Author of the upcoming series #Tyrant, artist, and inveterate dabbler. Creator of #guiltfreeswag for writers and gamers at Coffee Ink where 100% of proceeds go to Red Cross Emergency Services.

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Examining Emotions for Writers · Life · Writing

Examining Emotions for Writers: Love (Part 1)

Almost every story out there touches on love of some kind; romantic, platonic, familial, the list goes on. So today we’re going to examine some of the more nitty-gritty details of love to help burgeoning writers make it convincing! This is part of a new series I’m working on, Examining Emotions for Writers. So lets get going.

Now, the problem with ‘Love’ is that it comes in so many forms. So for this particular examination, we are going to break it down into the four greek types; Eros, Agape, Philia, and Storge. Each of these elicit different physical reactions, and come about in different situations. Today we’ll be examining just one, and we will touch on the others at a later time.

EROS: love conceived by Plato as a fundamental creative impulse having a sensual element

This is the typical first though when people hear about ‘love’ in books. This is romantic, passionate, sexual love. The love someone has for a spouse, or the instinctive ‘love at first sight’. Paris and Helen; Aphrodite, Eros (Or Cupid) were all examples, harbingers, and victims of eros.

Lets look at some of the typical reactions to eros people have.

Physical: Warmth, heightened blood pressure, dry mouth, tingly appendages, increased heart rate, heavy tongue, flushed cheeks, shifting, squirming, leaning towards the object of their affections, craving physical contact, unsettled stomach.

Mental: Agitated, excited, thoughts disappearing, inability to form coherent sentences, anxiety,  obsessively examining interactions, obsessively planning future interactions, constantly considering the other person while making decisions.

Now, these are probably the nervous/excited emotions that you expected. The problem is that a lot of writers STOP here, but emotional responses are wide ranging and change from person to person. So while one person may get tongue tied, another may spout off tirades of facts, or come across as overly charming. Don’t limit yourself to television stereotypes of love. Examine you character!

The other thing that most writers seem to forget it that this type of love doesn’t stay the same. I find this is a big problem in a lot of novels, but also in real life. People expect to feel butterflies every time they see their love. Forever. As someone who has been married for five years, and together with her partner for ten, I can tell you, this is not the case.

This doesn’t mean I don’t feel a sexual and passionate love for my husband. Admittedly we are edging closer to Storge here, but I feel like it’s important to distinguish. Passionate love changes with the length of relationship. You can’t expect your main character to get tongue tied around their partner of years!

So what are some reactions people have to a familiar romantic partner?

Physical: Lowered heart rate, warmth, casual reaffirming physical contact.

Mental: Increased confidence, lower anxiety, affection, lowering of mental/verbal filters.

The key here is comfort. You are comfortable around your partner, and find them and their present comforting.

But wait, don’t you get excited around your partner? Of course I do. He can still make my heart race, and my hands tingle! But that isn’t what I feel all the time. Like I said, this can probably edge closer to Storge, but we’ll discuss that one again later.

Love at first sight:

Alright, welcome to my pet peeve. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike the trope of ‘love at first sight’, it’s over used but fine in certain situations. My issue is when that is all there is to it.

I was commissioned to ghost write a romance novel for a client. Before I do that, I like to dig into their head and make sure I know what exactly they expect. He wanted a ‘love at first sight’ story, similar to Borne Identity. Boy accidentally drags girl into dangerous situation and they fall in love.

So I asked, ‘Why does he find himself attracted to her?’

‘Because it was love at first sight.’

‘So is it just physical attraction?’ I tried to clarify.

‘No, he fell in love with her, it isn’t just sex.’

‘But he is a very practical man, and she’s just a random girl from the southern states. What is it about her that he’s attracted to?’

‘He’s attracted to the fact that he’s in love with her!’

…needless to say the final product was lackluster at best, and horrifically trite at worst. People don’t risk their lives because of ‘love at first sight’. They fall in love with a persons optimism. They are attracted to their body. They become obsessed with a conflicting worldview from their own.

Don’t fall into this trap! There is nothing wrong with love at first sight, and nothing wrong with love based initially on physical attraction. Love is attraction based on qualities; figure out WHY your character is intrigued. Don’t be lazy!

Lastly, lets look at a few quick examples;

One of the characters I spend a lot of time on is a vampire named Morgana. She was abused for a long time, and convinced that love wasn’t something she deserves. This means that when she loves, she compulsively tries to become worthy. She takes care of her partners, brings them gifts, and goes to extraordinary lengths to ensure they have anything and everything they want. She is often upset when they try and return the favor, feeling as though that somehow negates her own efforts. She often looses her ability to understand or notice sarcasm in her desperation to find more things to be able to ‘provide’. This is exacerbated by her vampiristic/predatory nature; she provides for her coven and protects them, to the bitter end.

cynthiaOn the other end of the spectrum is Cynthia. Cynthia is a bard, a performer, and dramatic as all get out. She’s spent her entire life as the center of attention as the daughter of the Countess of a small town. She is talented, gifted even, and adored by her father and many of the locals. She is used to people falling for her charms with no effort. So, when things don’t go her way, her temper is epic. When she’s in love, she expects to be loved in return. This expectation means that she will flare up dramatically when she feels she isn’t the center of her partners attention. She is extremely confident, so when she gives gifts they are often things she has written, or gifts of her time/attention. When she feels she’s been wronged, she expect people to grovel at her feet for her forgiveness. When she is flustered, she doesn’t stumble over her words, she simply becomes a character of herself, pulling pretty speeches from every play and song she’s ever performed.

So, what are some things to note about Eros for writers?

  1. Everyone feels love differently! Don’t go with stereotypes – examine your character and think hard about how they would react and WHY. The why is the most important part.
  2. Love changes! After ten years, your day to day interactions with your partner are different, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still passion.
  3. Examine your past relationships! I bet the love your felt for each of those people was different. Make a list of physical and mental reactions you had to each and compare it. I bet it’ll be interesting.

That’s all for Eros. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know!

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S.J. Penner

Author of the upcoming series #Tyrant, artist, and inveterate dabbler. Creator of #guiltfreeswag for writers and gamers at Coffee Ink where 100% of proceeds go to Red Cross Emergency Services.

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Life · Writing

3 Important Requirements for Collaboration

Not everyone writes with a partner. Actually, it seems to be a rarity, and I absolutely understand why. Each person has their own process, and it can be frustrating to work when they don’t align. Or if the other persons ideas of how a character develop differ. Or if they spell it color instead of colour (Yes, autocorrect, I understand you are American, but I am Canadian. I’ll spell it how I want to).

Both of the novels I have finished were written alone, for the most part, but I have a collaboration partner who can definitely take a lot of credit for the fact that they happened. Our first collab was all the way back in high school. We clicked easily, but it was still weird, and awkward, and hilarious.

Now, ten years later, we still work together to develop stories and characters. So I thought it would be a good idea to share with you all the top three requirements for a healthy collaboration.

1.  TRUST

This one seems obvious, but I think it’s the hardest to actually manage. My partner and I have had more than a decade of friendship, and years of practice. Even now there are things I think, “Will he think this idea is stupid?”

Trust is hard to build, but once you’ve got it, miraculous things can happen. My advice for this one – don’t rush it. Don’t pick some hugely intense, emotionally draining or exposing project for your first collab. We started with a silly project that is still available, though paused indefinitely, Of Passion and Apathy. We loved the characters, and what started out as a light hearted joke turned into a project we still pick away on, almost 11 years later. Don’t be afraid to start light, and delve deep as your grow your trust.

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(All images are (c) S.J.Penner. Do not repost separate from this blog.)

2. EXPLORATION

There is something to be said to sticking to a project, even when you don’t feel inspired by it at the moment. I agree with that, and you do need to realize that writing isn’t something easy, and pushing through is require. But sometimes, with a partner, you need to let yourselves explore a bit further. It’s a way to build that trust we just talked about, and to get a feel for the other persons style and interests.

Our second project is an ongoing BEHEMOTH. At the moment the world we developed has four ongoing novels, a pathfinder game setting, drawings, comics, and a ridiculous amount more. There are tons of different little stories, characters, and ideas that we ran around with, running with some and discarding others. This means that we have a world that is intensely fleshed out, which makes any writing we do within it much more intense and immersive.

So explore together! Find new lands and new characters, even if they aren’t part of your core narrative. Have FUN!

3. HONESTY

Honesty is integral, as partners. There are two sides of it. You need to be honest in your critique, but also honest about yourself. The first is pretty straightforward.

If you hate a character, or if you think they are reacting the wrong way, you need to say something. Discuss it, let them explain their side and explain yours. If you don’t, your flow will be thrown off, making a long and amazing process slow and painful.

The second is harder. You need to be honest with your partner about yourself. A writing partner (especially a long term one) is almost like a spouse. They will see you excited, energized, and creative. They will see you annoyed, petulant, and frustrated. They will see you at your worst and at your best, and the better they understand WHY, the better they can help you through it.

For example; let’s say they want a character to have been sexually abused in their past. For some people, this wouldn’t be a problem. But for many of us, it can be a touchy subject, either because of personal experience, or because of someone close to us. It might make sense for the CHARACTER, if it happened, but maybe it isn’t okay for you to have to write it.

You absolutely, positively need to be honest. If you have hard lines about things you are comfortable with, you need to tell your partner. They can’t avoid something that they don’t know is a trigger.

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(All images are (c) S.J.Penner. Do not repost separate from this blog.)

Writing delves into the darkest parts of humanity, so TRUST your partner, EXPLORE your boundaries, and be HONEST when you reach a line you don’t feel comfortable crossing.

And write. Just write. Collaboration can be hard, painful and frustrating,  but I can tell you from experience, it is also a way to find your best friend.

 

Writing is so much more fun with friends! Remind yourself with a mug! get a mug? 100% of proceeds go directly to American Red Cross.

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S.J. Penner

Author of the upcoming series #Tyrant, artist, and inveterate dabbler. Creator of #guiltfreeswag for writers and gamers at Coffee Ink where 100% of proceeds go to Red Cross Emergency Services.

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Life · Writing

Why I Gave Up #Nanowrimo2016 (And What I Learned by Doing It)

I’ve completely Nanowrimo twice, as well as various Camp Nanowrimos, and my own personal ‘nanowrimo-esque’ goals. I’ve written and am currently editing two novels, one of them close to 200k words, while writing the second one in that series.

For Nanowrimo 2016 I decided I was going to get through 50k words of the sequel to Tyrant, my 2015 Nanowrimo project. I barely managed 20k.

Now, that doesn’t sound too bad for most people – 20 000 words is still a lot of words! But I am a home maker, and my time is spent either volunteering or writing. Hitting 2000 words a day is,  normally, not a problem. I do that most of the year, one way or another.

But in October, I had begun to struggle. My anxiety had flared up, depression creeping in. My mind was sluggish, my attention span shorter than that of a gnat, and everything hurt. I still fought on. I trudged through paragraph after uninspired paragraph.

Finally, two weeks ago, I snapped. I dragged every last blanket and pillow into my bed and refused to come out the entire weekend. I have no idea how my husband managed to get in there to sleep. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t barely sit up, and everything just hurt.

Now, I’m not one to ramble about my personal life on the internet. I have enough trouble opening up to those who are closest to me. So, this isn’t going to be a post of me blogging out all of my woes. Suffice to say, I was unhappy, and I didn’t know why.

I didn’t want to know why, because that meant I would have to deal with it.

Finally, my writing partner and I were working on a scene between two of our characters, and one of the characters said to her counterpart –

“Fine, go mope. You are the only person I know who feels guilty for making someone feel good.”

It was a blow to the heart. An offhand comment while spitballing ideas summarized the entirety of the desperate aching void I had been fighting against. I fell to pieces. A character in a world nothing like ours, in a situation nothing like mine, and she had managed to shatter my carefully constructed defenses like a catapult stone.

So I stopped. I put everything aside – my writing, editing, everything. I sat, and I thought, and I cried. I confronted the people I needed to confront. I confronted myself about why I had let everything get this bad. I wrote emails, I made plans. I finally feel like I have solid ground beneath my feet for the first time in months.

All thanks to a character that had nothing to do with Nanowrimo.

Now, I love Nanowrimo. I adore it, and I have every intention of trying again next year. I’ll do Camp Nanos, and I will keep writing and editing. But Lord above, I’m so glad I stopped.

My mental health was crumbling, and I was dreading writing every single time I sat down. Writing is hard, and there are times when all I want to do is throw in the towel, but I was hating it, and that wasn’t okay. A lot of people feel terribly guilty when they don’t complete their Nano goals, and I’m here to tell you: It’s OKAY.

Life gets in the way. You can get in the way. But there is always next year. Next month.

Don’t give up on your story just because you had to give up on Nanowrimo. Don’t give up on yourself.

 

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S.J. Penner

Author of the upcoming series #Tyrant, artist, and inveterate dabbler. Creator of #guiltfreeswag for writers and gamers at Coffee Ink where 100% of proceeds go to Red Cross Emergency Services.

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Writing

Are you a Pantser? Should you be a Planner?

As we hurtle with terrifying speed towards the November 1st start date of Nanowrimo the debate that sparks every October has begun again. Should you plan out your novel, or should you fly by the seat of your pants? Or as it is more commonly asked: Are you a Planner, or a Pantser?

For those of you who might not be familiar, Nanowrimo is “”. I’ve won twice now, once with my upcoming novel #Tyrant, and once with an earlier project that is sadly sitting, covered in dust (I really should do something about that). For that first project, so long ago, I wrote by the seat of my pants. I had a beginning, I had an ending, I had characters and a world. I’d be fine, right?

Well, I made it, but it was with many tears and some swears I didn’t even know I knew. Every time I turned around I was slamming into walls of ‘wait, but why would they do that?’ or ‘how would they even get there?’ I fought through writer’s block after writer’s block. I fell behind, I caught up, I wrote and wrote and wrote and I hated every minute of it.

In my last blog post “Why are writers so afraid to have fun?” I talked about how writers are so focused on ‘getting published’ that they end up writing things they hate just because they think it will sell better. They end up hating what their writing, and worse, hating writing.

This is another facet of that. Why make yourself absolutely miserable, trying to force out 1666 words a day when you don’t know where you’re going? Why not take the time before hand and plot out your map? That way when you sit down you don’t have to be worrying about the ‘what now?’ problem. All you have to do is write.

I think there are two main things stopping people from planning;

The first thing that holds a lot of us back (I know it was definitely the fear in my case) is the idea that planning is hard. The idea of writing out character sheets, settings, maps, and plot boards sounds like, well, like homework! S.J, didn’t you say we should have FUN writing?

My response: You’re going to have to do all of that anyways! The problem with doing it LATER is that I can guarantee you are going to have to do a LOT of rewriting. You are going to forget if you character has blue eyes or green, if he was a blacksmith or a chef. You are going to make more mistakes this way, and hunting them all down later is awful.

The second reason people seem to avoid planning? They just want to ‘go where inspiration takes them’. They want to let their muse guide them. They want to allow the story to grow organically, naturally and without fences.

My response: My friend, meet writer’s block. I talk to tons of writers, all the time, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that people who refuse to plan because they want their story to grow organically are ALWAYS more prone to writer’s block. They follow rabbit trails that lead nowhere and have to delete pages and pages of work. They end up giving up on the story all together because they have gotten themselves so tied up in side characters and plots that they don’t even know what direction is up anymore.

Planning gives you a skeleton to work on. Just like a sculpture builds a metal frame beneath the clay, just like a painter sketches the ideas onto the canvas, we need to have the basic idea sorted out BEFORE we start work on our masterpieces. This doesn’t mean you can’t let things grow and change organically – of course they do! The protagonist of Tyrant is a completely different woman than I though she was going to be when I started out.

But don’t build your house on sand, folks. Give yourself a solid footing, especially in a marathon run like Nanowrimo.

Now, you might be saying “Okay. You’ve convinced me. But HOW?”

I can help you there! There are a couple of resources and people that have given me SO MUCH HELP in the last few years, and I know they will be great for you too (I don’t get commission on this, I promise. There are just plain old, useful links).

“The Writer’s Journey” by Christopher Vogler – This is an oldie but a GOODIE. It’s aimed at screenwriters, but if you call yourself a writer in any sense, grab this book. You will not regret it. It lays out stories and why they work, basing itself off of ‘The Hero’s Journey’ by Joseph Cambell (which is also an amazing book, but a little harder to chew through. Vogler has done a nice job of modernizing Cambell and breaking it down for us non-academia types).

The Plotting Workshop by Shaunta Grimes – Shaunta Grimes runs Ninja Writers, an awesome online writing group that supports and works together to get things DONE. Her plotting workshop breaks down planning a novel into wonderfully easy, bite sized bits. She often offers the workshop for free, so make sure to keep an eye out for that!

Nanowrimo.org – There are SO many resources in their archives and forums I don’t even know where to start. Go, sign up, explore. Thousands of people congregate there every day to help you figure out how to get yourself fighting fit for November. Right from story ideas to world building, they are there to get your story written.

So what do you think? Are you a plotting convert, or a staunch planner? Either way, if you want #guiltfreeswag to show your loyalty, you can find it here!

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S.J. Penner

Author of the upcoming series #Tyrant, artist, and inveterate dabbler. Creator of #guiltfreeswag for writers and gamers at Coffee Ink where 100% of proceeds go to Red Cross Emergency Services.

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Life · Writing

Why are writers so afraid to have fun?

The last two years I have delved into the world of writers on the web. There are a lot of us out there, from bloggers (of which I hope to become one), to novelists (of which I am one, though currently unpublished), to researchers, to poets. Every one of us saw the open seas of the interwebs and said, ‘You know, I think I have something to say!’. So we picked up our pens (or pencils, or keyboards, or quills) and we set to work to destroy that horrific white page of nothingness.

Now, the problem with writing is that, well, it’s hard. Writer’s block is a real thing, on top of the fact that most of us only do it as a hobby. Time is against us; families need keeping, food needs cooking, clothes need washing. So when we finally sit down to write, we feel like we have no time to waste. We have important things to tell the world! Intriguing, twisted, and complex stories to tell. So we stare at the Blank Page. And we stare. Then we stare some more.

We’re tired, we’re uninspired, we’re blocked. We’re terrified that what we write won’t be good enough. We haven’t learned enough, aren’t good enough. So we read books on writing, we complain about writer’s block on forums, we chat with other writers on Facebook. We do everything we can do, except actually WRITE.

There are a million gifs, memes, and posts on the difficulties of creative pursuits. People constantly reminding the world that writing is WORK, that it is HARD, and that it comes at a cost. Writing makes us depressed. Writing burns us out. Writing is a burden.

But WHY? Why are we as writers so determined to undercut ourselves? Don’t get me wrong, writing a novel is hard! Of course it is! There are times where you will want to give up the whole, ridiculous endeavor. I certainly had a few of those moments working on the first draft of ‘Tyrant’.

I think, though, that people come at writing the wrong way, nowadays. Everything I read is always about ‘accessibility’, ‘marketability’, and ‘main streaming’. It’s all about giving the audience what they want — or at least what that last book on digital marketing we read tells us they want. We all focus so hard on what will sell that we forget what writing is all about.

We write to share our inner worlds with the outer world. And dammit, whos inner world is really THAT serious, ALL the time?

So, for all my fellow writers out there, here is my proposal; WRITE WHAT MAKES YOU SMILE! Stop worrying so much about whether or not your are hitting your ‘target audience’. Don’t stress about marketability. Don’t panic about what a publisher might say about it.

Does your story make you smile when you think about writing it(yes, evil, maniacal smiles count. We all love to torture our characters)? Because chances are, if it makes you smile, it will make other smile too.

Shut off Facebook. Log off twitter (after following me @sj_penner, obviously). Ignore the inner voice telling your that no one wants to hear what you have to say. Just think of something that makes you smile, andwrite.

If you need a more physical reminder of this particular idea, why not get a mug? 100% of proceeds go directly to charity.

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S.J. Penner

Author of the upcoming series #Tyrant, artist, and inveterate dabbler. Creator of #guiltfreeswag for writers and gamers at Coffee Ink where 100% of proceeds go to Red Cross Emergency Services.

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