The Creative Penn

My last few posts have focused on the importance of growing your own platform (“Common Sense” and “Should Writers Be Paid For Everything?“).

Now for an example, via Joanna Penn, a.k.a. The Creative Penn.

If you visit Joanna’s site, you’ll learn something new. That’s a promise—and a personal experience. She’s always teaching and thus I’m always learning when I step into her world. She’s honest with her experiences, clear with her voice, and generous with her knowledge.

The site itself is organized and deep (in both quantity and quality of content)—the product of YEARS of work.

One of the things I like the most about Joanna is that she’s “out there.” She always seems to be traveling (or our correspondence and her travel exist on the same cycle) and taking in the world around her. What I pull in on the other side is a worldview from an author who has a life in and outside of publishing, who has the unique ability of being able to go narrow and understand the big picture, too.

I’m partial to Joanna’s podcasts, especially this most recent podcast with Steve.

Spend the weekend digging into Joanna’s site. Go deep. Visit often. Learn.

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Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

do the work book banner 1


A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.



Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.



Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"



  1. Mary Doyle on February 3, 2017 at 5:03 am

    Thanks for the podcast and for introducing us to a great new site Callie!

  2. Mia on February 3, 2017 at 6:47 am

    Steven and Joanna Live! Those two are as fluff-free and gracious as human beings ever get in this world. Thanks so much for posting the link!

  3. Mary on February 3, 2017 at 9:07 am

    That’s how I found this site- listening to Joanna’s podcast. I almost always follow her guests “home.”

  4. Michael Beverly on February 3, 2017 at 10:08 am

    I found Joanna’s site after listening to her on another indie podcast back in 2013. I was just beginning to research self-publishing and writing at the time.

    Her work helped me and inspired me.

    I would like to point out a few observations:

    One: Joanna took five years to get to the six-figure earning range as a fiction writer (she posted about this last year). This is a lot longer than many indies who concentrate on fiction writing alone take due to the time split. That’s not a judgement, just an observation.

    Two: Joanna’s risk averse. This, again, is not a judgement, just an observation. Some of us indies (like myself) are okay living on a couch with six dollars in the bank. She clearly is not this kind of person, and thus she divided her time between being a creative and being a fantastic businesswoman. My point is that she works insanely hard on her business side–not every creative can succeed at this (I’d sooner gouge out my eyes with a spoon–but I spent years of my life trying to force myself to be this–a businessman–because I thought it was the right thing to do to be a successful person and happy person).

    Three: If every indie decided to create a blog about writing or the business of writing, the market wouldn’t support them (there’s room for Facebook, not FB and Myspace–exceptions, Red Social and Vk for instance exist, but you have to be an extreme expert). Contrast this to writing fiction: the market can support 1000s of fiction writers in hundreds of sub-genres. I think that’s something to remember. Most bloggers don’t have an audience and never will, no matter how hard they work.

    Four: You might say, “Yes, but to be a successful blogger you have to work hard for years…” And I’d say, “exactly.” You can’t work very hard at too many things, if you want to blog, fine, but if you hate it, well, it’s probably going to fail because the world doesn’t need 100 people blogging about indie writing, or writing craft, or whatever–Steve’s Nobody Wants to Read book applies ten times to blogs. Readers will globble up 10,000 well written genre books, and ask for more…trying to establish another indie writers blog (for a creative only doing it “because reasons”) is not a good plan, imho.

    Five: I’ve been watching and reading the recommendations about building a platform, an email list, a blog, a podcast, and so on–all over the web–there must be a place where fatigue sets in…granted, there is still room, but only for unique voices who are delivering content they love. Providing an audience reasons that are beyond, “I want to sell you something” is easier said than done.

    Six: I might be an anomaly, but I ignore 99% of my emails, I only read a few blogs religiously (like this one), and the vast majority of platform stuff on the web I simply don’t look at. Contrast that to my buying of books: This month I’ve purchased 5 or 6 and downloaded another 5 or 6 via Kindle Unlimited to sample, both fiction and non-fiction.

    Seven: These are just observations to (hopefully) spark thought and dialogue, not arguments about anything.

    Eight: All that said, this is a great post recommending a great leader in the indie community to which I’m very grateful. As an aside, I’ll freely admit I’ve been a freeloader of her content as she’s yet to monetize me personally. I say that because I buy everything Steve writes…he monetized me first via a book BEFORE I found this blog…again, I might very well be an anomaly in this, IDK…but it’s worth remembering that Shawn wrote a blog post sometime ago explaining that a book (a piece of narrative fiction) was the best foundation for monetizing a platform (not the platform to drive the books the book to drive derivative income). Again, observations and not judgements.

    Nine: I often wonder: If a great writer (a best seller) wrote an indie published book under a pen name with no platform, no email, no promotion, no marketing, would it sell? Would the work speak for itself?

    • Sonja on February 9, 2017 at 10:31 am

      Thanks Michael for your observations. I don’t always comment but have enjoyed reading them and find myself nodding in agreement many times.

      It’s incredibly uplifting to have such an amazing online community of Resistance fighters who share many of the same struggles, heartbreaks, and joys.

      All the best,

  5. Terri on February 3, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    This post and the podcast explains why I am such a big fan of both Steven and Joanna! The interview was such a joy. I loved the reflective and deep conversation between two generous people who have both inspired me.

  6. James Jordan on July 31, 2023 at 12:27 am

    I enjoy your interviews with other authors and experts who share their insights and experiences. You have a great way of asking the right questions and getting to the heart of matter.
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