Hey gang, I’m going to be a bit behind for the next couple of weeks due to some freelance work I’m doing. Part two of The Artist/Troll War should be out early next week. In the meantime, here’s a long overdue Reader of the Month to get acquainted with. Meet 23-year old Benjamin from San Diego, who says Zen Pencils has given him the kick in the butt he needed to start working on his passion for music:

Hey Gavin,

I’ve been working boring jobs and playing video games my entire life. I’ve been toying around with the idea of being a musician since high school, but never had the confidence to step out of my comfort zone and actually try my hand at creating music professionally.

Then I ran into Zen Pencils. I was so in love with the worlds you created around the quotes and poems. It made each word stand out to me. Before, they were just letters strung together to make coherent thought, and I didn’t put much value in them, specifically because I thought those quotes didn’t apply to me. I always thought I wasn’t the person that the speaker or poet was talking to.

But after going back through all of your comics, something started to make sense to me: These people were passing down knowledge from their own experiences in life, and the reason the quotes are popular or famous, isn’t because they are witty, or because they rhyme, but because they speak from a place of truth that the old cliche’s can’t describe accurately enough. As I started to accept these quotes and poems as anecdotes and testimonials for success, I started to make changes in my own life.


I no longer play video games for five hours a night. I no longer sit at work staring at my Facebook wall, hoping someone posts something funny for me to like. I’m active now. I have been watching every single songwriting video on YouTube. I’ve learned how to compose and arrange songs, how to develop melodies, and how to turn simple ideas into song lyrics.

After reading the John Green Make Gifts For People comic, I realised that getting into the music industry was not about making a successful hit record and being a millionaire. Instead, it’s about creating a message for people who you wouldn’t normally get the chance to talk to. Creating the song is not about the money, but about the gift you can give to others. Money is just a side effect.

I’ve started taking classes online about music composition and theory and am now working on a concept album about motivation. The genre is hip-hop, and it’s heavily influenced by Jurassic 5, Childish Gambino, Watsky, and I would be lying if I didn’t say The Beatles. I’ve started networking and researching the next steps to take my production to the next level.

This whole experience has been eye opening, and I want to share my process with the people who are in the slump that I’ve been in for most of my life. And music will definitely give me a platform to do that.


In all honesty, I want someone to come to my work of art, like I did to Zen Pencils, and take something valuable away from it. I want to be an inspiration for others, and the only way to do that is to be inspiring.

So thank you for being awesome. Thank you for doing what you do. Thank you for showing others what it takes to be self-motivating and most of all, thank you for giving my life meaning.


Wow, that’s the kind of email that would leave anyone speechless. You’re very welcome Benjamin – thanks for sharing your story and best of luck with your music!

You can go check out all the previous Readers of the Month here if you need more happy sauce.
– Gav