It’s been quite a while since I wrote an essay about writing.

Some people had let me know they were interested in writing, but had no idea how to get started writing, so every once in a while I devote a column to that topic.

This time I thought I’d get back to how I became a writer. I’m going to make you wade through some ancient history, but trust me, this is going somewhere, I promise.

It was 1997 when I got my first computer and internet connection. Many people still didn’t have home computers or internet connections. The internet was not much at all what it is now.

I ran across a political website I liked and emailed the man who ran it to let him know how funny I thought he was and how much I liked his site. We had sporadic email exchanges.

One day I sent him an email comment about something he’d printed on his site that stirred up some controversy.

Not long after, I had an email from him asking for permission to run my words, attributed to me. I gave him the okay, although I didn’t see why anyone would or should care about what I’d written.

A couple of days later I had an email from him. It started out, “Dude, the response to what you wrote was through the roof!”

Then he asked me if I would write a regular column for his site.

I didn’t know what to do—I had no interest in writing at all.

I hadn’t ever written anything that wasn’t assigned in school. And besides, what did I have to say that anyone would care about? But my friend Dana convinced me to try it.

I started writing a political analysis and opinion column for his website and it went really well; a lot of people told me my stuff was a must read (and I even got a couple of marriage proposals—it seemed women in particular really liked what I was writing). 

But more than that, I was getting requests from other website owners asking me to submit any new work to them as well. I did, and eventually at least a couple dozen sites were running my essays (I was getting paid exactly zero dollars for it, but my name was getting out there, as there were no such thing as blogs back then).

From time to time I run across some of my early writing and cringe at how rough it was. I try to remember not many people were doing that kind of thing yet, and besides, I got better as I went. I settled into a writing style that I thought was roughly journalistic, I wrote one in particular that people considered real journalism, where I actually went to a KKK rally, took photos and wrote about it. Here’s a link to it. 

From there, I was able to talk my way into writing for a small newspaper in Minneapolis. I became a political reporter, even though I’d never studied journalism.

At first, I wrote about local politics, but before long I was able to finagle interviews with national level political figures. Some of the people I was able to speak with were Madeleine Albright, Jesse Jackson, Walter Mondale, and then later, people like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

I had also branched off into in-depth investigations of legal and political issues.

Then I had a stroke, and was forced to relocate to Tacoma, Washington, where I still live. And you probably know the story from there. It didn’t take me long to connect with Brain Energy Support Team, and it didn’t take long for them to start urging me to fill their blog space. 

Now we reach the real point I wanted to make. 

A picture of a coffee cup and a notebook on a table Being a writer takes nerve, it takes will, and it takes lots of effort. In my case, it took the nerve to try out something new, the will to try to think big and go big, and the effort to follow through and constantly work to become a better and better writer. And it took the confidence at every stage of my writing career to believe I could be a good writer, even though I’d never thought about becoming one. Every phase of my writing happened because somebody urged me to try.

I’m not saying you have to attend a KKK rally, I’m saying be bold in what you do, and stick with it. Keep working at it and you will become better at it. Don’t be afraid to take chances and go into new territory. Every time you write, you will become a better writer. 

Take your best shot at writing. I can vouch that it’s great therapy and is a big part of my recovery.

But keep writing and keep taking chances. 

I’m still a writer, but in the near future I intend to become an actual author as well. I’ve had a small measure of the fame, but none of the fortune.

But I’m confident I can change that and I’m bold enough to try.

Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near  Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab and, also, welcomes reader comments. Email him at Read more articles by Isaac here;

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