I asked him how he came to be a painter. He said, "I liked the smell of paint."

Anne Dilliard, This Writing Life

In the third grade, I had a binder full of paper. I had lined paper with reinforced edges. This paper was pure white, and I used it for final drafts. I had lined paper without reinforced edges. This paper was light brown, and I used it for first drafts. I had white printer paper for doodling, construction paper for crafts, and graph paper for math. I had far more paper than I could ever use in a single school year, but I relished the excitement of opening the binder for a new project.

The late Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, in his legendary lecture Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, describes how "most of what we learn, we learn indirectly." He calls these experiences "head fakes"; he values the communication skills, sportsmanship, and perseverance playing football taught him far more than his three-point stance.

How will I know if I can write a book? I can think of worse starting points that an obsessive attachment to paper. In fact, the first question my Deliberate Innovation professor Merrick Furst asks startup founders is who do you care about? It is the caring that precedes the doing.

I thought I was writing a book to announce the richness of my talent. I hope my talent is apparent, but I believe the true gift of writing a book will be the release of the ideas that have held me hostage. I am not writing this book to be a writer any more than Randy Pausch played football to be in the NFL; I am writing this book because I believe these essays deserve to exist and because of all of the essays I read and reread. I'm writing this book not because I'd like to wear a hat that says author; I'd just like to make a small collection of paper.