I knew that Ruin Your Life wouldn’t be a best-seller. It’s a book about quitting your job, drinking heavily, and going out with teenagers among other things. It’s the sort of book that even my own father would prefer not be in his house. I’ve written a book that tells you the absolute best ways to do all the bad things you’re not supposed to do. When they taught you to read, they weren’t thinking of a book like mine.
So why write it? If I knew going in that this book would not make me rich or impress my father and I’m already married so I don’t have any girls to impress, why the hell would I go to the trouble of spending hour upon hour writing the damn thing? This is something I’ve asked myself more than once. And not just about Ruin Your Life. Why is it that I feel the need to write everything I do when I could be spending that time playing with my son or having a few drinks or lighting things on fire? I’ve spent entirely too much time thinking about this (See ‘Overthink’) and I’ve come to some conclusions.
When I was a baby, I cried a lot. And when I say ‘a lot’, what I mean is all the damn time. I cried so often that in the days after my birth my mother was once given the wrong baby by the nurses because they just grabbed ‘the crying one’. I stopped crying a lot right around the time I learned to talk. Then I started talking a lot and I haven’t really stopped.
Talking and telling stories are things I absolutely love to do. Most of the people who’ve known me a few years have heard some of my stories enough times they can recite them. But while I know a lot of people and those people might also tell my stories, I know that writing things down is the best way to get a bigger audience.
I’m happy to say that enough of you have bought my book to make it actually a tiny bit profitable. You have no idea how happy that makes me. It’s one of the reasons I decided to offer my book for free online. (You can download it by clicking the ‘Ruin Your Life’ tab above.) But that’s not my favorite thing about the book I wrote. My favorite thing is that there are copies in Iraq and at least one copy in a prison. The idea that people I’ll never meet are reading and enjoying my work is better than anything else. The other day someone told me that he let his sixty-eight year old grandmother read his copy of my book and she loved it on a level that genuinely bothered him. This to me is the definition of success and a perfect example of why I write.
But it’s actually bigger than that. One of the books I own is The Journal of Lieutenant Isaac Bangs. It is one of 100 original copies. It was published in 1890 by the great-nephew of Bangs who found the manuscript in an old dresser. It is considered by many to be the best first hand account of being in the Revolutionary War. While there were thousands who fought in that war to form the United States, Isaac is one of the few who actually wrote down what was going on in his life and because of that, 232 years later I’m able to read what he went through. Writing is something that not only makes your voice available to people far away, it also makes it available to people who aren’t yet even born.
Ultimately the reason I write is simple: I write so you’ll read. Thanks.
Note: If you’re interested in reading the Journal of Isaac Bangs, you can download it, here