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?

No Responses to “The Power of Origin Stories”

  1. harleymay says:

    Re: The Sex Scene. Pics or it didn’t happen.

    Interesting post, Jamey.

  2. Penelope says:

    Girl is curling hair in living room while getting ready for work one morning. Girl totally freaks out when she hears a mouse scratching in her garbage cupboard. Instead of sending her best friend a normal e-mail in the morning, she tells her mouse story in more of a blog format and sends it on. Girl’s best friend insists that she start a blog because she loves reading her writing. Meet Single Mom Adventures. 🙂

    Clearly not interesting enough to be fabricated–this is true!

  3. Your blog story is much more interesting (and blue) than mine. You should write for the J. Peterman catalogue!

  4. The Gourmez says:

    Mine is also fairly uninteresting but ultimately boils down to the same thing: to get in the habit of writing regularly. Of course, where you have implied shenanigans with a grannie, I have restaraunt, wine, and cocktail reviews so that I could at least remember what I’d tried out for myself, but still the same impetus.

  5. Dionne says:

    My blog came about because I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with what I was thinking. I frequently experienced hand cramps when trying to write in my journal. I type super fast and that’s what led me to commit all my personal thoughts and experiences to the virtual page.

    I blog as a therapuetic outlet. I write about my trials and tribulations of dating, my dysfunctional family, and my hopes and dreams for my future. Even though “technically” the blog is out there for all to see, I’m glad that no one has (unless I’ve given them a direct link to the page)- I like it that way. I’ve had my blog for 5 years and will probably have it for another 5 more.

  6. […] blogged about it a few times (How to Get Someone to Say Yes, The Power of an Irrelevant Option, and The Power of Origin Stories). I also started reading his […]

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