The Power of Origin Stories

A few weeks ago I read a blog entry on Dan Ariely’s site about a social experiment called the Significant Objects Project. The experiment entailed putting a variety of kitschy items on eBay and seeing how much they sold for. The twist was that some of the items were given elaborate back stories while others had simple descriptions.

The difference in final bids between the two groups of items was staggering. People were willing to pay way more for the items with the interesting stories. They found value in knowing an item’s interesting history (even if that history was completely fabricated).

Just the other day I found a music-related site called The Sixty One. Click the link to see what it looks like (music will start playing). Each page of the site is devoted to a song from an indie band or musician. Even though music drives the site, it’s quite visual as well, with photos and little stories appearing on the page every few seconds. Spend a minute looking over the page while the music plays and you feel like you truly know that band. You know their story. I think there’s a huge amount of value in that.

So it got me thinking: I need to share with you the [completely fabricated] origin of this blog. I’ll try to keep it brief:

Three years ago, I was rummaging through a yard sale in south St. Louis when I stumbled upon a typewriter. This was one of those really old typewriters, the kind with heavy keys that make that satisfying click sound when you depress them.

The odd thing about this particular typewriter was that it had a piece of paper rolled into it, paper the color of papyrus. It had obviously been there for quite some time. I turned the scroll, and as I did, I realized there was writing on the paper. It read:

My First Blog Entry

That was it. Whoever had started writing the blog hadn’t gotten past those words. Maybe something happened to them. Maybe they had no idea of what to write about. Or maybe they realized that they needed to write the entry on a computer, not a typewriter.

Whatever the reason, those four words struck a chord in me. I had been writing fiction on and off for a while, but I didn’t write consistently. I needed something that would push me to put words on paper every day. I had plenty of random thoughts and ideas that crossed my mind every day but no permanent medium on which to share them.

I didn’t buy the typewriter (who uses typewriters?!). But I did go home to buy And that, my friends, is how this blog came to exist.

(Note: I left the sex scene out of the origin story, but if you’re curious, just imagine me, the $3 in my wallet when I was at the yard sale, the $45 price tag on the typewriter, and the 68-year-old woman with whom I tried to bargain. You do the math.)

What’s your blog’s origin story?