I’ve been in this game for a very long time. It’s crazy to fathom, but I’ve been writing for almost 20 years. I haven’t been writing STORIES for that long, but the point I’m trying to make is that I’ve unknowingly spent an incredibly large portion of my life grinding at my craft writing everything from editorials to short stories and even a couple of manuscripts. I’ve been sharing my work with the online world since around 2001 under a myriad of names, but I’ve spent the longest streak of time (since 2007) crediting myself as “Dracokon” (or AndrĂ© Kon as I generally seem to go these days). Understandably, I’ve accrued quite a bit of notoriety.

I don’t write for praise, but it’s nice to hear. I write because I wish to share my feelings and dreams with the world in hopes that I can connect with at least one person and help validate their desires and alleviate their fears of general ostracization. In the years that I’ve been actively sharing my work people have left boatloads of encouraging comments and have sent me just as many kind sentiments via email or other types of messaging. Not to play favorites, but the remark that always has meant the most to me is when someone tells me that what I’ve assembled and put together has inspired them to take up writing themselves.

There are literally limitless avenues where the initial spark of “hey, I can DO this!” can come from, but when someone lets me know that the spark came from me? I can’t describe how that feels.

I am no stranger to convention panels and idle conversation with those who are interested in starting to write; I thrive on helping others get their bearings and write their first works. I’ll also admit that I don’t have a professional background or education in writing (for the most part). Part of my degree pertained to journalism, and I took classes on technical and screenplay writing, but you don’t see literary theory or story design in there. Most everything I know about writing fiction is self-taught. I’m no expert, or at least I don’t consider myself to be one, but I will gladly bestow everything I’ve learned about storytelling to anyone within earshot.

I sometimes feel like writing is a severely under-appreciated art, and one that is on the verge of be devalued to the point of death. Not to knock any artists, but writing isn’t exactly easy either; it’s not something that people can just churn out on a whim, at least not when there’s feeling and emotion behind it. Writing is a skill that, much like traditional art, takes years of practice and refining — refining that you will continue to perform until the day you die. If you’re practicing your craft correctly, then every new passage you create will be better than the one before it. After a bit of time you can read back through your portfolio and be embarrassed at a newly perceived lack of skill toward a piece that you probably once felt was your “magnum opus”.

If I’m inspiring people to write then I can do one of two things in return: I can bask in the affection, or I can make an effort to arm these newly created writers with as much discipline and direction as I can muster. The accolades I receive from new writers are beyond flattering, but I can’t just take them all and not give anything back in return. The Workshop is, in a sense, my ultimate “thank you” back to everyone who has credited me as their inspiration (even partially so) to start writing.

It’s a hard art and it’s easy to feel discouraged — and I am the absolute king of discouragement — but you can do this. There’s a lot to digest in The Workshop, so just browse around at your own pace. There’s no immediate rush, because after all if you’re going to be serious about this then you’ll be spending quite a bit of time on your work!