May 1, 2011

Blog Tour Guest Post: Bryan Cohen

How I Got Into Writing About Writing
By Bryan Cohen

Three years ago, I was stuck like Pooh in a honey pot. Aside from a successful trial of National Novel Writing month, I was in the middle of a several year writing dry spell starting at the end of college. I was still participating in plenty of creative endeavors as a theatre producer and actor (including a stint as a comedic professional wrestler in a Speedo), but I was feeling my grip on writing words beginning to slip away. I needed some guidance and the salary of a coffee barista wasn’t going to get me the therapy, life coaching and exorcism I direly needed to get back on track.

So, I read. I scoured websites and libraries looking for information on “motivation for writing” and “writing inspiration.” My specific searches often came up short. When I broadened my search to general motivation, I stumbled upon some information that turned my life and its direction completely around.

My main discovery was a website called Personal Development for Smart People. I feigned above average intelligence and dove in. With such enticing article titles as “10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job” and “30 Days to Success,” I was skeptical but hooked. The site opened me up to people I’d never heard of who were huge in the personal development field like Earl Nightingale and Stephen Covey. I’d always thought that I could be a successful person but I’d never heard of an entire industry devoted to its pursuit. I took in whatever information I could in the field, reading and listening to over 50 books in the success field.

Note: Since I first read Pavlina’s website, he’s gone a little bit crazy into subjects like polyamory and domination and submission. I suggest reading the old stuff, circa 2007-2009 :).

One of the points that stuck with me from Stephen Covey was that you learn 90% of what you teach. Since my early searches for “writing inspiration” turned up negative, I thought I’d try to fill a niche by inspiring people who were stuck like I’d been, using some of these general concepts of motivation, success and ice fishing that I’d picked up. Thusly, Build Creative Writing Ideas was born.

While my articles on general writing motivation gained a bit of traffic in my first year, the real gems of the Web turned out to be articles that listed 10 to 20 writing prompts: story starters to help get writers who had crippled by writer’s block to push past the problem. After creating over 60 pages of prompts, I published them into a collection, 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts. Out of nowhere, people starting buying the book in numbers that far exceeded my expectations. Interestingly enough, selling a book to inspire writers, inspired me to write even more (funny how that works out) and I started writing and publishing other books on the same topic.

What is the lesson here? If you learn something that is just begging to be shared, you should make every effort possible to share it with the world. What if you’re a fiction writer? You should share all your life lessons that you picked up on the street through the trials and tribulations of your characters. Teaching is inherent in writing. Who knows, maybe it’ll be just the inspiration you’ve been looking for to get that half-finished novel off your hard drive and onto Amazon.

Bryan Cohen is a writer, actor and comedian from Dresher, Pennsylvania. Since graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill he has written four books (1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, 500 Writing Prompts for Kids, Sharpening the Pencil, and Writer on the Side), several plays (Something from Nothing and Chekhov Kegstand) and he was the head writer for an un-produced Web series (Covenant Coffee). His writing and motivation website Build Creative Writing Ideas has had over 100,000 visitors since it was founded in December 2008. He lives in Chicago, Illinois

Bryan Cohen is giving away 100 personalized writing prompts to one giveaway entrant chosen at random during the blog tour. Personalized prompts are story starters that cater specifically to a writer’s subject matter, strengths/weaknesses, etc. Cohen will create the prompts to cater exclusively to the winner. He is giving away free digital copies of his book The Writing Sampler to everybody who enters, which includes excerpts from each of his four books on writing. The book contains essays, writing prompts and tips and tricks to enhance your writing skills. In addition, for each of Cohen’s books that reach the Top 500 on Amazon during his blog tour, he will add a $50 Amazon gift card to the drawing (up to six $50 cards in total)!

To enter, simply post a comment to this blog post with your e-mail address. Follow Bryan on Twitter @buildcwideas.

Creatively stuck? :::


  1. Hey guys, Bryan here. Looks like some of the links got a little funky (oh, that wacky Internet). Here are a few of them for any who want to click through:
    1,000 Creative Writing Prompts
    500 Writing Prompts for Kids
    Writer on the Side
    Chekhov Kegstand
    Sharpening the Pencil
    Covenant Coffee

    Entries into the giveaway are good until June 2nd, so comment away for your free book and chance to win :).


  2. Every single time, I learn something new from you or about you. I didn't realize you had so many books available! :)

  3. Aw, thanks Cassie! I try to be an overachiever :).

  4. Bryan,
    Great post. Neat to hear about your journey and the success you've had just taking to it! Way to go Bryan!

  5. Dear Sophia,

    Thanks! I'm so glad you read it and enjoyed it :).


  6. Brian - I love you website and love your prompts. I have the 1,000 Creative Writing prompts and have it on my "nook" so I can take it with me always.
    Columbus, Ohio

  7. Dear Jana,

    Thank you so much for your kind words :). I never get to hear from any of my readers on the Nook, so it's an honor and a pleasure! Drop me a message on my site if you'd like to read any of my other books on Nook for free.


    Build Creative Writing Ideas

  8. Bryan,

    there are many community theatres that offer instruction to actors and other stage-related endeavors, but I haven't seen many (actually, none to be honest) that offer specific guidance like your publications. I think structured programs in these theatres could really help kids and adults tap into unexplored territories. I know these books are out there but putting the message into an instructional format would be AWESOME for so many. Think about it! D

  9. I'm willing to consider a more instructional book. Writer on the Side is probably my closest to a step-by-step method. I'll keep it in mind :).

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