Evolution of a Writer

Before I was a blogger, I was a poet. Actually, I was a songwriter first. Well, that still isn’t accurate. Before I was anything, I avoided writing everything.

In my earliest memories, I did as little writing as possible. In preschool, when the teachers were teaching us to write our own names, I shortened Nicholas to Nic because I didn’t want to take the time to write my whole name. In elementary school, homework was often incomplete if it was done at all. My handwriting was sloppy. Other kids could write a full page in the time it took me to scribble one full paragraph; I was slow so I figured it wasn’t my thing.

There had to be something wrong with me. My grades were suffering because of it. I was smart (I tested into the highest tier of IQ for my age group) yet I was rarely able to focus in class and barely survived with grades somewhere between needs improvement and mediocre.

One summer, my parents tried to fix it. School was out and they were determined to turn me into a better student by the following September. On a warm weekend, we went over to some friends of my parents for a barbecue. I liked going there because their boys were close to my age and they had a ColecoVision with several games including my favorites: BurgerTime and Pitfall. During this visit, my parents set a restriction: before I could play video games I had to copy three pages word-for-word from a book called Medical Mysteries. It was a tortuous task and unforgettable experience. I complained the whole time and when I was done my hands hurt so much that I didn’t feel like playing any games. My parent’s efforts failed; I still hated to write and school continued to be a struggle.

In seventh grade, my friend Matt introduced me to grunge. Our math teacher allowed us to pick out the music to play while we completed our worksheets. Matt had a copy of the Sap EP that Alice in Chains had released earlier that month. Soon, like most other junior high aged kids in the Seattle suburbs, I thought grunge was the coolest thing in the world. A year later, Matt told me he was in a band. I asked him who wrote their songs and he said, “We do, it’s easy – think of a word and write about it.” As our eighth grade year was coming to an end, he told me that if I wrote a song for his band, they might use it.

Over the summer, I penned my first song. It was called Reach. I wrote it on the blank side of an offering envelope during a Sunday night church service while I probably should have been listening to the pastor. Of course, it wasn’t a complete song – just words. I could hear the melody in my head but since I couldn’t play any instruments, the music portion of the song was never created. When we returned to school to start ninth grade, Matt was still in a band but I never gave him the lyrics to Reach. I was insecure and filled with the self-loathing teenaged angst my generation perfected in the 90s. I was sure my work wasn’t good enough.

I kept writing though, suddenly finding enjoyment in placing words on paper. For a while, I stuck with the basic verse chorus verse song structure, fully intending to find a guitarist who could help add music to match what I imagined when I created the lyrics. Eventually though, the song craft morphed into poetry and prose. It wasn’t good poetry by any measure. I was a nerdy high school kids so there were limits to my talents. But it sustained me through the latter half of my teen years as I filled up notebook after notebook with my own creative work.

The poetic writing continued into my early 20s. Then I met a girl and I really liked her. Unfortunately, my creative spark vanished. I would try and write a poem but instead stare at a blank page wondering if I had run out of words. I couldn’t write a love song if my life depended on it. Apparently, heartbreak, anger, and frustration were better motivators than feelings of infatuation and romance. With the rhythms and rhymes gone from my imagination, my writings morphed again. I started emailing letters – essays to my dad. I wrote about people who were making waves in pop culture. I argued that if Christians really believed what the bible says, we should pray for these people instead of criticizing them.

That girl and I got married. We packed up everything we owned and moved to South Dakota. During the two-day drive from Coeur d’Alene to Sioux Falls, I was either driving or reading. My new father-in-law wrote fan-fiction and he had a short story he was going to submit into a contest. Even though his story was set in a universe fandom that I didn’t follow, I still read it. I thought it was good; the story was engaging and entertaining. Then somewhere between Sturgis and Wall, an inescapable thought hit me: I could totally do this. Not necessarily authoring fan-fiction but writing stories. I’ve always been a good story teller, all I had to do was commit it to ink and paper.

I tried. I thought I could write the next great novel. Unfortunately, I had a bad case of ‘Ooooh, Shiny.’ Every time I had an idea for a book, I composed a chapter or three then got distracted by other ideas. Even if I plotted out the entire story line ahead of time, I couldn’t create more than a few chapters before giving up. Life got complicated. We had a kid, and my wages were our only income so writing took a back seat for a while.

Then came this blog. I’ve already described how this thing I do evolved from a whim because a coworker was doing it to being The Faithful Geek. Now I’m making efforts to make this worth something and turn it into tangible income. (Speaking of which, help a starving artist and click on some ads.) I’m hustling to complete my work-in-progress so I can turn it into a marketable manuscript. I am a writer – four words my parents would have never imagined me saying that summer they tried to fix my school habits 30 years ago. It is amazing how this activity I once loathed has become my passion.

I’ve been thinking about my old poetry a lot lately. Thinking about digging it up, polishing it off, and rewriting some of it. Maybe publishing some here. This afternoon, I realized something. It’s only been the last few years I’ve considered myself a writer but I’ve been one for a lot longer. It’s been nearly 23 years since I wrote my first song. Now, blogging has brought me through adopting kids, corporate restructuring, divorce, and returning to college. I might not have much to offer, but I can write. I don’t know what the future holds for my craft, but I do know writing is the thing I can’t not do.

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