Why “On Lives”?

“On Lives” started out as a blog back in 2009. I wanted to get into the habit of writing something every day and completing it on a deadline so I started writing small posts about anything that inspired me. The first post was called, “On Walks and Walking“, the second post was called, “On Dishwashing“, and so on.

After a couple of weeks, I contacted Dan Tarnowski, an old friend of mine who had recently graduated from art school, and asked if he wanted to create a piece of artwork each day to accompany my writing.

Over the course of the next year, we wrote and illustrated dozens of essays on a multitude of subjects, sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, and turned the blog into a fully-fledged website and small press dedicated to “creating artwork on a regular basis, online and in print.” We culled together 10 of our favorite essays and illustrations from a batch of about 60 or 70 and printed 300 copies of the “On Lives Subway Supplement“, a 24-page color booklet “designed with the subway reader in mind.” We trotted around Manhattan in the fall of 2010, heading into local bookshops and showing off our finished project, eventually gaining the support of shops like Bluestockings and McNally Jackson. Every six months or so, we found ourselves restocking and repeatedly selling out of the booklet. We expanded our distribution to other bookstores in other cities and following our continued success, we put out a couple more booklets under the moniker “On Lives Press”, and repeated the process until we sold out of all the copies of all the books in our stock.

When I started On Lives, I never imagined any of the above as an outcome. Nothing of what On Lives grew into and achieved had ever been part of any planned goal. Even looking back now, when Dan and I were running around NYC with the completed Subway Supplement in hand, those days feel like a distant dream. But they feel the same way all good writing makes me feel: like something unexpected is happening, in a way I could have never imagined.

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