I am a fiction author and essayist, specializing in speculative fiction, human uplift, and all things geek. Visit my website at ryandoskocil.com.

Hint: they don’t involve writing

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Photo by Vinicius “amnx” Amano on Unsplash

The Struggle is Real

Creativity is fickle. It requires a specific kind of energy, which is a combination of motivation and drive. Motivation is the reason behind your writing. What are you trying to accomplish? Who is it for? What does it mean to you? Drive often takes the shape of inspiration for us creative types. It’s that feeling you get when you see a great movie, read an amazing novel, or travel somewhere new. It’s the sense of wanting to put something fresh into the world and to explore possibilities.

Motivation and drive must work together for creativity to peak. When either one falls by the wayside, you’ll find yourself struggling to get words onto the page. No amount of force will make it better, which you’ll discover quickly if you try to plow through your creative ennui. …


What imagined worlds teach us about setting, place, and atmosphere

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Photo by sergio souza on Unsplash

Setting, Place, and Atmosphere

A wonderland chocolate factory, a tech-enhanced arena where adolescents fight to the death, a sprawling haunted hotel in the mountains of Colorado — each of these images trigger immediate recognition for most of us. They are the landscape in which authors have told great stories, and each is the product of pure creative invention.

While characters are tantamount to great fiction, so is the world in which a story unfolds. Extreme exceptions aside, humans don’t live an entirely internal life. Our environment constantly shapes our thoughts, feelings, and actions. For this reason, the environment or world you create informs your story as much as your characters. This is true for any genre. …


And what to do with the overwhelm of feedback

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Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash

Why Workshop?

Writing fiction isn’t a simple process. After your world is invented, your characters developed, and your sentences constructed, it’s time to focus on the hard part: revision.

Revision is vital to polishing and perfecting your work, but the best revisions come after getting outside feedback. Beta readers are useful in the post-revision stage, but nothing can be more informative than sharing your work with a writer’s workshop.

Workshops can take many forms, from online sites like Scribophile, to casual writing courses, or even college programs. …


The case for lifelong learning

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Education Matters

Many of us follow a stereotypical tract in our early life: go to school, get a degree, find a job, get married, have kids. These are largely considered terminal points in our lives, to the effect that once completed, most of us don’t revisit them. This mostly makes sense, with one exception: it’s a mistake to believe that a diploma or degree is a finish line to education. That education is considered a mere checkbox of early life goals is a disservice to us as individuals. It also fosters an under-educated populace.

The word “education” is derived from the Latin word educare, which means to nourish, or bring up. It indicates fulfillment. This is certainly indispensable in early life. Education prepares us for the larger world, for work, for navigating the complexities of societal life. It brings us up into adulthood. A college degree then augments our understanding of humanity’s storied history of thought, and this trickling down of knowledge ensures the survival and progress of our species. Education makes us a valuable part of the whole. …


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As a writer, I spend an inordinate amount of time workshopping for other writers, haunting writers’ circles, stalking Facebook writers’ groups, and interacting with writing students. In each of these venues, the same questions come up over and over again from new writers. How long should a book be? What is a beta reader and how do you get one? Is this thing even on?

Writers come from every corner of the planet, and with the advent of electronic self-publishing platforms like Amazon’s KDP or Apple’s iBooks, the dream of becoming a writer is more accessible than ever. Every year, a new platoon of writers wants to join the fray of published, successful authors. But it can be difficult to learn how all the writing gears fit together without committing to a college degree program, so I’ve compiled the top five questions I see new writers ask. …


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Strapped to an IV line, an oxygen cannula stuffed in my nose, an itchy cuff taking my blood pressure every few minutes, and my torso pocked with sensors, I felt like I had hit rock bottom. My wife had dragged me to the emergency room because I could barely lift my head, my vocal cords were so weak I couldn’t talk normally, and I was too dizzy to stand. I spent nearly a full day in the emergency room, waiting for a somber doctor to pull back the curtain and give me a grim prognosis. Instead, I left with an armful of papers and a lot of people scratching their heads and shrugging. For two years no one could tell me what was happening to my body, and the problems were only getting worse. Leaving the hospital that day was the lowest point for me in the last four years of fighting chronic illness. …


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I once thought Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and other “invisible” illnesses were a sham. I thought these labels were for patients who didn’t want to work, or for people who wanted disability pay. I thought these people created their illnesses by eating junk food and not exercising. I thought laziness was a main factor. But the universe likes to teach us, and it decided to teach me how this mindset is both narrow-minded and unfair. A little over two years ago, I was diagnosed with a chronic invisible illness. …


Hint: it requires some whittling

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Photo by Raul Barrios on Unsplash

The Shape Underneath

You’re a writer. You’ve done some serious time, keeping your nose to the proverbial grindstone, researching, assessing, assaulting blank pages with words. You’ve stepped back and looked at the hot mess of your first draft, hacked it to pieces, and glued it back together. But still, every time you reread it, you face-palm because you almost sent it out when it still needed more edits. How do you get to the point where you know your manuscript is truly done? If you want solid results, you need to get real with that writer’s chisel and start whittling the heck out of your work, until you can find the crisp and defined shape underneath. …


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If you’re like most of us, you don’t think much about the environmental impacts of crops like sugar, soy, or cacao. We don’t see them grown, and thus have little regard for the vast resources required to keep them productive. In fact, many people are so removed from food sources they can’t identify if their favorite fruit comes from a tree or bush, and a recent Missouri University study showed that 79% of respondents believed hamburger comes from pigs. This disconnect is no surprise, considering the distance between urban populations and farmland. But the source of our food is important, and not only from a literacy perspective. …


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Reading Diminished

The act of reading a book is often romanticized. It conjures images of cozying up fireside with a blanket and a warm mug, lounging poolside in the summer sun, or leaning against a shade tree in the middle of a bright lawn. We think of cats curled in laps, of vast and dusty libraries, of warm bookshops with dark wooden shelves, of coffee and tea. These are images of enrichment because reading is in itself enriching. But fewer people are indulging in this therapeutic pastime. According to a study from the Pew Research Center, 24% of U.S. adults did not read a single book in 2018. We avid readers see a statistic like that and feel our dinner welling up in our throats, but with 695 million books sold in the U.S. …

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