...was really special, thank you very much.
No, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about my first time being a writer. OK, I know, I know, I've been writing since I was a child. My first piece was published when I was 13. But it was always a hobby.
I'm talking about my first time as a serious writer (well serious as in being serious about it and not seriously talented. LOL) and getting paid for my writing. I think that's a very important place where I realized I could do this, for real.
First, a little bit of background. I became serious about writing (fiction, mostly) in 1998 when I was living and working in Atlanta. I started reading fiction again, after years of reading only nonfiction and work-related stuff, and I was hooked. I was always an avid fiction reader when I was a kid (mostly mystery and adventure, with a few James Bond thrown in), but somehow I lost that interest. Reading fiction again sparked my interest of writing fiction myself. I'd been a good writer when I was a kid; I could do this. I started to take classes, including a few courses at UCLA. I wrote some short pieces (for class) and I worked on a "serial" which was published in a community newsletter for about two years. But nothing commercial.
It wasn't until 2001 when I began actually writing anything for real, though. Since 1998 I'd had a few story ideas fermenting in my head, but it wasn't until 2001 when I decided on one and went to work. It helped that a colleague of mine, who and his wife were avid fiction readers, and they showed interest in my story idea and encouraged me to work on it. Their words really struck me as true: "Anyone can talk about it. Can you actually do it?" To prove myself, I wrote a chapter and sent it to them for critique. Now, before you say, "So what? I've been doing that since I was 5," let me tell you it was the very first time I put my work up for critique (other than peer reviews and writing classes). I was nervous. My friends' comments, though, confirmed that I could do it. One chapter turned into two, then three, then five, then ten (of course, later I realized those were the wrong chapters to write -- I scrapped them from the final draft; but I needed to write them to get me into the right groove).
But anyway, working on the novel gave me tremendous confidence and I started to write other stuff, too. Articles, blog posts, short stories, etc. Then something happened in 2003 when I was about done with the novel, I heard about a local literary magazine called Writers Post Journal. I'd been thinking of getting my feet wet by submitting some of my works for publication. Again, "don't talk the talk; walk the walk." For me, it's another step. Best of all, it was a paying market. I submitted a piece I wrote a few years back and they decided to publish it. I got a shiny $5 and a free copy of their magazine.
You never quite forget your first time.
It was cheap and short and relatively insignificant. But it was mine. And it set the wheel in motion.
And here I am.