The First Chapter

That Question That Every Writer Gets Asked That Most of Us Don't Really Have an Answer for Either: What Got You Started?

My wife and I  are a part of a church plant in a small town in my little valley. If anyone knows anything about planting a church, it's that your numbers are small when you start. With small attendance, comes a tendency to know everyone. So, this couple comes for the first time and nothing exceptional happens. I am an introvert (INTJ, if you're interested), and I struggle with anxiety and depression regularly, so there wasn't a chance I was going up to talk to them.

Fast forward about a month or two, and we're having a potluck. By now, my friend and I have put out a book through our independent publishing company. It's a western and I think it's a pretty great western. Everyone knows I'm a writer, so this couple is at the table and some are asking me on the sales. The wife of the couple turns to me and asks, "So, how did you get into writing?"

I cannot count the number of times I've been asked that and have had zero response. I've never given it much thought. I'm 26 right now, and I've been writing or making stuff up for about as long as I can remember. How did I get into writing? I have no idea.

Recently, though, I've been giving it some thought. I've heard writers say they wrote little things as kids, sometimes it was just marks on paper, but that's their start. That wasn't me. I've always had a very vivid imagination. I've always had action figures. The cool action figures, the Max Steel, Action Man, GI Joe, and anything else. No dolls, just action figures.

My father did plastering, so he had this attachment to the mixing machine for the mud that I used for a sword, because it reminded me of a sword I saw on The Three Musketeers (1993). I would jump up in the bed of my father's truck and slay the enemy as they attempted to take my life. I'd act out a lone soldier's battle against countless enemies with my GI Joe's, and Max Steel's.

My great-uncle remembers coming from Southern California to Northwestern Montana when there was still a good bit of snow on the ground, and watching me act out an epic battle. I was probably fighting the English with William Wallace. I was using one of two swords my brother and I made from thin pieces of wood. I was in jeans and a t-shirt, rolling in the snow only to come back up and swinging that thing around like I was in a Kung Fu film.

I remember having a very active, vivid imagination. I got to the point where I started throwing some of these things on paper, only as a distraction from my life. After a year or two of actively doing that, I had a birthday party where my friends saw my large wooden box of action figures and toys, only to make jokes about them. It was about the 6th Grade, so I guess society frowned down upon a child having and playing toys at that age.

I want to be very clear: the jokes were not in any way mocking or insulting. It was my friends making jokes about my stuff. But for some reason, it stuck. I got rid of them and I started filling notebooks. My step-mother had a typewriter she used for assignments when she was in high school, so I wrote a fantasy inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia. I wrote a lot of fan fiction, played a lot of video games that led me to write about that content, which got me into history. But I always read.

That first chapter lays everything out in a novel or novella. It sets up the characters, the motives, the dangers... everything. My first chapter in being a writer was a very long and gradual one, as I remember it. And sometimes that's what it is. It's not right away. I've spoken to people who say they want to write a book. Just a book. Nothing specific like a novel/novella, fantasy/thriller/historical.

For some, being a writer isn't something that you plan on it. I wanted to be a soldier or a teacher. I started my degree in secondary education, but life happened and I've pretty much just taken my writing and said, "Okay. What can I do with this?"

I've been writing "professionally" for about six years now. Had one book published twice, with three rewrites (two after I took them off the market), and another book published once, which was the sequel to that. My publication history has not been pretty and has not been long, which gives me hope.

So, what got me into writing? Was it an escape from anxiety and depression? Was it something fun I started and continued to do? There was an author my high school English teacher was telling the class about that he didn't even like to write, but it paid for his daughter's education and for him to live. I tend to think that's close to where I fall.

Writing, for me, isn't really an escape for me. I have three children now that keep me on my toes, a full-time job, and a valley full of family. There is no real escape from that. But what writing is... it's something I feel that I'm good at, but I can (and need to) learn from it. Ernest Hemingway said that no one is a master writer, because we're in a profession where no one is. Louis L'Amour said something similar along the lines that you're constantly learning new ways to tell a story, so no writer can be the best. They can be extremely good, but they're not the best.

So, what got me into writing? Nothing.

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The First Chapter
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