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Why I Write (Or Spring Break 2003)

At the beginning of Goodfellas, narrator Henry Hill says "As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster". It would have been nice to start this entry off with a similar line, but it wouldn't really be true. I wanted to be a superhero before I wanted to be a writer. I also wanted to be a mathematician, which worked out better than the superhero thing.

My interest in writing did start before 2003. I wrote for school papers in college, including one I interviewed the Ramones for, and took a lot of writing classes. I was briefly a journalism major.

But it was during the second week of March in 2003 that I was exposed to two role models and had two conversations that cemented my motivation to write.

Media Play was having a going out of business sale, and I bought the DVD American Splendor, a film about comic book writer Harvey Pekar.The most powerful scene for me was when he was in a grocery store, pissed off about waiting in line and about his life in general, and a cartoon version of himself appeared over his shoulder and started yelling at him. "You've got to make your mark on this world".

And of course he did, by writing the American Splendor comic books.Comic book writing made him more than a file clerk.

My sister had gotten me a copy of Moneyball for my birthday. The book was mostly about the recruiting system that the Oakland A's used to get a winning team for very little money. One of the characters in the book was Bill James. Like Harvey Pekar, he was an ordinary guy with an ordinary job ( a night watchman). He had a passion for baseball, and self-published a series of books called Baseball Abstracts. After a few years he was picked up by
a major publisher, and ultimately his ideas were used by Billy Beane to recruit his winning Oakland A's team on a shoestring budget.

Neither Bill James nor Harvey Pekar anticipated the acclaim their writing would win them or the influence it would have. They just wrote out of passion for writing (in the case of Pekar) or passion for the subject matter (James).

I had two conversations during this time where someone said to me "You know, you should write this stuff down". One was a conversation with a neighbor about how to achieve happiness in a life filled with misfortunes and tragedy. I told her I didn't believe in pursuing happiness, and that the best way to achieve it was by being open to it and learning to recognize it. I must have phrased it more eloquently then than I did now, because that's when she said "you should write this stuff down".

The other conversation was with my sister, and the subject matter was not quite as lofty. I explained to her my theory about the money/sex ratio. This is the ratio of the number of thoughts a man has about money to the number of thoughts he has about sex. It's my theory that the older a man gets, the larger this number gets. Inexplicably, she said "you should write this stuff down", and I actually believed her.

So those are some of the reasons I keep this blog. I saw how two people made unexpected positive changes in their lives by writing, and two people I know told me I actually have something to say (please forgive them).

I realize this is long. Perhaps someday I'll be able to write an entry called "Why I Edit".