In April, 2005, I created my own blog site as a way to entertain myself and a handful of friends and family members online.
My inspiration came from a buddy of mine named Paul Shields, a comedian/song writer/meth lab disposal technician, who was gracious enough to allow me to contribute to his hilarious blog from time to time.
I never would have guessed back then that those first clumsy attempts at writing would eventually lead to an online archive of hundreds of blog posts, a gig as a newspaper columnist, and the publication of three books.
I owe my friend Paul an immense debt of gratitude for helping me find an outlet for my creative juices.
When I first met Paul through mutual friends who were hosting a poker game, I had no idea what to make of him. He was a slightly awkward but friendly guy who possessed an endearing, self-deprecating sense of humor and even fewer card-playing skills than I did.
Many laughs were had at his expense, and he was perfectly okay with it. Little did I know then, there was much more to Paul Shields than I could have imagined (besides the fact that he would go on to become a tournament-winning Texas Hold ‘em player.)
It was our mutual friend Jerry who first told me about Paul performing a one-man comedy act as “Paul & The Violent Farmers.” Take a moment to visualize, if you will, a smallish, Asian-American man with an acoustic guitar taking the stage in front of a room full of confused stand-up comedy fans.
Paul nervously introduces his first song: “I wrote this when I was drunk.” Then this timid, unassuming little man proceeds to sing one of the raunchiest and most uproariously-funny love songs you will ever hear in your life. Paul prefaces all of his songs the same way, although he almost certainly wasn’t drunk when he wrote them. Paul isn’t really a big drinker. Losing a kidney (and nearly his life) to cancer tends to make a man want to limit the damage alcohol could do to his remaining kidney. The truth is that it was his battle with cancer that lead him to comedy.
As Paul recuperated in bed, he taught himself how to play guitar. Eventually, he started writing lyrics and composing original music. Being naturally humorous, Paul couldn’t help but write funny songs.
Shockingly funny songs.
And when he wasn’t writing songs, he was writing for his blog.
It was Paul who inspired me to express myself creatively. I began as a contributor to the Violent Farmer blog and went on to write over 500 blog posts on my own site.
As I gradually fine-tuned my writing voice, I mustered the courage one day to ask Boone County Journal publisher Bruce Wallace if I could write a weekly column for his newspaper. Bruce, in the politest way an editor-in-chief could, said no thanks.
A few years later, after writing and publishing a semi-autobiographical novel that sold literally tens of copies, I asked Bruce again to allow me to write for his paper, and to my great surprise, he acquiesced.
He’s probably regretted it ever since.
This month marks thirteen years since I began my writing career. Between my blog, my column, my books, and my notebooks full of rough drafts, I have written approximately one thousand original works—including a musical comedy that I co-wrote with Paul and a stand-up routine I performed on stage with the Violent Farmer himself laughing and cheering me on in the audience. And I have Paulie to thank for all of it.
Serendipity is defined as the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
I became a writer after meeting a man named Paul Shields at a poker game. I became friends with Paul through my co-workers at an automobile auction. I began working at the auction after leaving an apartment maintenance/grounds keeping position when I was literally caught laying down on the job.
I started the apartment job after growing tired of being a grocery store meat cutter. I became a meat cutter after working as a grocery store clerk. I began working as a grocery clerk after filling out a job application that I’d picked up one night while I was at the store getting change for—you guessed it—a poker game.
I always thought that when it came to poker, I had nothing but bad luck. Turns out I’ve been pretty lucky all along.