"'Write Jim,' she told me. 'It'll help you through your problems.'" James Snyder softly explained when he first began writing seriously. "This older lady was just an acquaintance really, but she knew me well enough to know I was in real trouble.
"I was so desperate, I picked up a pen and paper and started writing that day."
Actually Snyder had written most of his life, but just poems to that point. Many writers express their own feelings or opinions in their work. Snyder chose to use writing more as an escape from himself and his crumbling life.
He scripted over a hundred cartoon style short stories about a five-year-old private eye named Levi Smart. But Levi Smart couldn't solve Snyder's problem. He had to do that himself.
Snyder was deep in the throes of drug addiction. The high school dropout started using marijuana in high school partly due to peer pressure and thinking it was cool.
Eventually he went to methamphetamine and was using it daily. His wife, the mother of two of his four children, left him.
"Meth was the demon," Snyder said. "The root of all the evil. I got to the point I couldn't concentrate. Couldn't spell a simple word that I knew. I was skin and bones and I was driving my family crazy because I was depressed and crying all the time."
Snyder finally reached the point of no return. Over the years he had been arrested seven times but spent little time in jail.
"The last time, I knew I was either going to have to quit drugs or I was on my way to spending the rest of my life in prison.
"Judge Stelle and Prosecutor David Thomas had always been good to me and tried to help. David wasn't punitive. He talked with me, worked with me and genuinely tried to help me. But I wouldn't listen.
"This time," Snyder continued, "David made it clear I was looking at a possible 11-year prison term. That scared me. Really scared me. So I promised to quit the drugs, and I did. I was given 15 months on home arrest and one more chance. That's been over six years ago."
Snyder started turning his life around. His wife and children returned. He has a good job as a roofer and carpenter. Through it all he continued to write.
Several years ago Snyder bought a guitar. He taught himself to play a little and started writing songs. He put music to some of his poems and wrote some new lyrics.
"I make pretty good money as a roofer," Snyder said. "But I want to be a writer. I want to write music, books, comedy, maybe someday even a screen play. But songwriting is my favorite."
Snyder has a good start. He sent some of his lyrics to Top Records where he is a member of Top Records Songwriter Association. Top is a company that will put music to lyrics and try to market the material. They offered Snyder a contract for four of his pieces.
He played one of his songs to demonstrate his work. The country sounding lyrics with the pop-rock style music made an interesting combination.
He has not yet accepted Top's contract offer because he wants to try to write his own music for the lyrics and he needs to get everything copyrighted. Snyder has a year to sign the contract.
"I think the writing kept my feet on the ground," he said. "It kept me here on earth. Suicide had come to mind at times. It's hard to believe what goes through your mind when you're on drugs. Writing gave me a focus and a reason to get up in the morning."
When asked what his goals were Snyder said he plans to work and make a living for his family. But he will continue to write music and hopes that someday he can make his living from writing.
He also wants to try to use music to influence his children.
"They're talented," he said. "And I want them to know there's more to life than just going to work everyday."