Though I’m not especially old, I definitely grew up in a different world. As a baby, I listened to records. Cassette tapes contained all my music as I grew up. I didn’t own a CD player till I was in college. My dad used a 286 to program in Basic when I was in grade school, and my first computer was a TRS80, handed down from him. I tried to learn to type on a Brother word processor, and did most of my real writing in longhand.
I grew up poor and didn’t have a lot of fancy toys, so I made my own fun with books and action figures. I’m very happy about that fact as it had a good effect on me. Both of my parents were writers so I always had that urge and creativity was a big part of my life. Writing longhand was frustrating, so I never finished anything long. I paid much more attention to my art because of that. Also, I never gained the critical habit of writing with regularity. I also had very little clue of how to edit! I did, however, read voraciously. Books and pets were my best friends and I visited the library every week. If I needed to research anything, I had to read an encyclopedia or check out a book. Magazines contained the newest information available!
An epiphany came when I went away to college in 1997. I had a decent computer built, and I discovered the internet. Star Wars: Episode I came out. A rekindled love of Star Wars caused me to reach out to fellow fans on forums and Yahoo Instant Messenger. That taught me to type. I started joining groups, writing fanfic. This opened up a whole new world! Between classes and practice, I became better at writing.
In those days, most people were still published the traditional way and eBooks were mostly unknown. We didn’t have tablet computers and smart phones were still very rare. Usually they were owned by business professionals and were of the Blackberry or PDA variety. Everyone was used to having to go through a difficult process to have their books accepted by a major publishing house. Therefore, I never even dreamed of being published, aside from perhaps writing an article for a magazine. I wrote for my own pleasure and sometimes to share with my fellow list members.
In college, I first learned to deal with public exposure as I built my first website. It made all the mistakes under the sun! Colorful, mismatched text, multiple fonts, animated Gifs. At least I went with a black background and didn’t have any sound files that played. Eventually I tried for a unified color theme, even if it was mostly red and black! I made that one with Microsoft Publisher 95. I went to Geocities, if anyone remembers that, and learned more about making something that was appealing. I never got involved in “Web Logs,” or “blogs” as they came to be known. I thought I didn’t have anything to say.
Fast forward several years, and I realized I still wanted to write. I started working on a novel and actually managed to complete more than half of it. That was better than I had ever done before. I completed old stories, learned more about good writing. I became aware of self publishing. I also helped other people self publish, so I knew how to do it. However, I still had to change my mindset to allow the possibility of finishing something long. Then came NaNoWriMo, and blogging! Because of blogging, I’d gotten used to writing every day. That’s a critical skill for anyone who wants to finish anything. If you can’t write every day, at least try for several times every week. Keep at it.
I finished my first novel because of NaNoWrimo, even though I didn’t “win” the first year I tried it. My wife did the editing as her attention to detail is fabulous. I gritted my teeth and dealt with her constructive criticism. That was hard! I kept repeating to myself “feedback is a gift, feedback is a gift.” She wasn’t cruel about it, but she was thorough and I’ve always been thin skinned. I still strive to improve that, as any author who wishes to be successful should.
Once I’d written that novel, and illustrated it too, I started thinking about actually publishing it. By then, I knew about self publishing, I knew that a lot of famous authors had done it, and I thought “why not?” My wife helped me with the cover design, using a painting I’d created. From then on, I still helped other people with publishing, but started publishing more of my own works. I also started a small editing business with my spouse, since she needed a way to earn some extra cash. We still try to supply affordable services to other writers, including some limited free promotion. I still clearly remember the days of longhand and dreaming
Author of “Gateway Drug” and “Self Publishing Made Easy: Write, Publish, and Promote Your Book Without Breaking the Bank”