I was a young, out-of-work writer, desperate to make my mark on the world. And so I answered the ad. All I had to do, the ad said, was—get this—write short Internet profiles of businesses, and they would pay me in cold, hard cash.
When I met the editor, some kook named Jerry, I sensed a sucker the moment I laid eyes on him—that loosened tie, that bad mustache, that pathetic picture of his wife and kids on his desk.
“So,” he said, “it doesn’t pay much.”
“How much does it pay, Jerry?” I asked.
“Thirty dollars per write-up.”
“Jerry,” I said, “are you telling me that you will pay me thirty dollars every time I write one of these short little business profiles for you?”
“Assuming the copy is clean, yeah,” he said.
The next day, I showed up at the office with 500 business profiles that I had plagiarized from the Internet. Just like in college.
“Here you go, Jerry,” I said. “That’ll be $15,000.”
He laughed like it was a joke and said he would get back to me. They always laugh at the guy who changes the world. Later, Jerry agreed that three of the pieces were “somewhat usable,” and so I received a check in the mail for ninety smackaroos.
Money is a powerful aphrodisiac, as any would-be-Fitzgerald will tell you. With those greenbacks spilling out of my pockets, I had a realization that would change my career forever: I need more money.
That’s when I had another thought. It was this: I deserve more money. I have an English Lit degree and a sense of entitlement. I deserve to be rich!
That led directly to thought number three: Why not steal money from other people?
So I did what a writer does best. I started a blog. I made up some story about being morbidly obese and not even government insurance would take me, so I couldn’t pay for whatever treatments that diabetics need. And I asked for a little money, sent to my PayPal account. “Would you please help a dying citizen by donating today?” I typed, LOL-ing all the way.
I didn’t care if 99.9 percent of the world thought I was a fink. I was going to rip off that .10 percent of suckers. The money rolled in. Tens of dollars from loopy aunties all over the world.
To celebrate, I bought stepped-on cocaine and cheap champagne. You have to understand, these were heady times. We all were high on the haze of ambition and creative prowess. The music was funky, and the outfits featured snaps.
I was so hung over the next morning. And I needed more money. It was then that I got another idea. I knew where the real money was at: with the people who ran the big Writing Companies.
I gave them a chance, I did. I wrote emails to them that said, “I would like to write for your Writing Company. Hire me immediately. And give me a pretty fucking secretary, too.”
They had no respect for a young gun like me; they didn’t even respond! I knew I had to do something different. So I thought, I stole money from other people. Why not steal from them?
Through a little writing research, I picked out the top executives at these Writing Companies. I planned to follow each and every one of them when they got off work – and wait for the right moment to pickpocket their fat wallets.
The first guy I tried to rob was this athletic executive-type. It turns out that he knew jujutsu, and so I ended up with a broken thumb and a police record.
Once again, I was a penniless writer. But I had undeniable ambition and a new idea. I would put on a seminar, Get Rich Quick Through Writing, and I would charge $500 to any sucker who wanted to take it. And to all of the suckers who did—one guy, actually, which totaled five hundred smackaroos in my PayPal—I told him how to make it as a writer:
“Use your imagination,” I said, “to steal money from other people. Steal it, and run. Just as I am about to do here today.”
Then I went out—ran out, actually, because that guy was pretty pissed, the stupid sucker—and I bought some champagne and cocaine. That’s when I got my DUI. It was while I was in jail for the second time that my father came to see me and said, through the bulletproof glass separating us, “What in the fuck is wrong with you?”
And I was like, “Pa, nothing can stop me now!”
Then I got the best idea of my life. It was a concept for a story I would write. The idea was this: I would write about how I became an out-of-work, felon writer. It is the story of America.
And I will charge tens of dollars to any sucker willing to buy it.