Breaking the Silence

Welp. It’s time to update this.

One of the reasons I haven’t been posting regularly is that I’ve been working on stuff that I can’t post here. If I were to publish a story on these fine digital pages, it would be considered “previously published” and only qualify for a reprint rate. That would bring the value down to 1-2¢ per word. Not that short fiction pays all that great to begin with.

As a writer looking to earn money from my words, blogging stories is like cutting my own throat.

So what have I been doing?

Quite a few things, as it turns out. I’ve dabbled in some screen writing, my novel outline still refuses to come out from under the stairs, and I’ve realized quite a few recent ideas would work as graphic novels.

That last one really got my attention.

As I dug into it, I started to unpack some old memories that had been shuffled off to long term storage. I had managed to put a majority of my attempt at art school out of my mind. Maybe it was something that I didn’t want to remember. Maybe the memory of walking away wasn’t something that I could keep fresh and still get through the day.

Either way, it all came back.

The short version is that I was young and didn’t have the dedication and attention needed to succeed. Youth is wasted on the young, etc. I didn’t understand the difficult work was the most rewarding. I was also paralyzed by a fear of failure.

I’ve only kept a few things from that period of my life. A set of Rapidograph technical pens is the most important. Next is a hand-drawn font specimen from a typography class. The others, a book about drawing anatomy and some miscellaneous art supplies don’t carry nearly as much baggage.

The pens came to mind one night as I was drifting off to sleep. I had been doing some doodling in a drawing app1 on the laptop, and I guess line work was on my mind. I was toying with the idea of self-publishing a short graphic novel. (Graphic short? We don’t have words for this sort of thing.) It would be a one-shot deal, as starting with smaller projects is the best way to try something new.2

Just found this old #rapidograph set. Wonder if it still works? #illustration #tweet

A post shared by Jennifer Mack (@shotbyjenn) on

I found the pen set the next morning, and soon realized I put them away full of ink! Luckily, they’re professional-class pens and can be disassembled for cleaning. Once I started that, it took most of three days to get all the gunk out.3 Most of that time was letting the individual bits soak, but a fair amount of scrubbing was also involved.

Cleaning those pens brought back about three years of art school memories that I had totally blacked out. But it also unlocked the part of my brain where I hid my drawing skill.

Before this week, I would honestly claim “I can’t draw.” I had internalized that to the degree that I truly believed it, and also that it was “the way things always had been.” It’s odd, but now a pencil just seems more comfortable in my hand. I’m going to run with it, and see if I can knock the rust off this part of my brain.

So right now my plan is to start working my way through the anatomy book. This should shore up what was my weakest skill, figure drawing. Longer term, I want to draw the graphic novel that’s taking shape as a script right now.

I’ll be sharing my progress on Instagram (and cross-posting it to Twitter and Tumblr), with occasional reposts here. So follow me on Instagram, I’ll be posting something art-related at least once per day.

I don’t know if I’ll be doing much inking with the Rapidographs. Working digitally seems to be where I’m going. But I’ll have them.


  1. Manga Studio 5, for the curious. It was on sale for $15 a while back. That’s cheaper than a decent sketchbook, and has unlimited pages. ↩︎
  2. I’m not able to hire an artist for the script, and refuse to ask someone to draw for free. So that means I’ll have to draw it. Goals are good! ↩︎
  3. The ammonia in glass cleaner is the secret ingredient. It cuts through the old ink stupid-fast. ↩︎