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Inspiration Strikes On The 6:29

I had the idea for CHARLIE JOE JACKSON’S GUIDE TO NOT READING in September 2009, when I was squeezed between two relatively large people.

I was on a commuter train. The middle seat is my usual spot since I always get there at the last minute. I was on my way home from New York city, where I work making commercials for Broadway shows, heading back to Connecticut. The ride takes about an hour.

Typically I read a book on the train, but I always had my laptop with me, because I tended to do some work at home. And it came in handy in case I had one of my periodic bouts of inspiration. Which tended to happen a lot – I’d have an idea on the train, then jot it down on my computer. The problem was, by the time I got home, I’d have talked myself out of it. The idea was flawed, or had probably been done before, or I just didn’t have time right then. Whatever. The important thing was to find some way to get out of working on it. Which was probably why my writing output up to that point consisted of one finished musical and 3,294 unfinished plays, screenplays and novels. Plus one unfinished haiku.

I don’t know what it was at that particular moment that made me think of a book about a boy who hates books, but I can tell you the inspiration: my own three boys, Charlie, Joe and Jack, who all hated to read growing up. In any event, a thought flashed across my brain: a picture book called THE BOY WHO HATED READING.

I finished the book before we got to Greenwich. Boy, that was easy!

Okay, so fine, the picture book I wrote on the train that day bears little or no resemblance to CHARLIE JOE JACKSON’S GUIDE TO NOT READING, even though both titles end with the same word. And yes, instead of taking fifteen minutes to write, it ended up taking a year. But no matter! The inspiration that struck me that day was the one that got me to stop procrastinating, to stop making excuses, and to finally finish something I’d started.

So thank you, 6:29 to New Haven. You’re directly responsible for the Charlie Joe Jackson series, and the many millions I have not yet seen but will surely see one day (right, macmillan guys?). Inspiration can strike anyone, anytime, anywhere. It’s really weird that way. The important thing is to take that inspiration and turn it into dedication.

And you know what’s interesting? I still write on the train. And I still look for two relatively large people to sit between.

It’s not comfortable, but it’s comforting.


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