I don't know if it's a rule for everyone who starts a project or an organization, or just for me, but I'm happier and I do better work when I have heroes. I like my heroes to be strangers. I like them to be people who make stuff. And I like them to challenge me to stretch a little further. The best heroes are the ones who gently help you realize that your worldview is too small and show you how to see a little further, a little wider.
My first such hero was Ray Bradbury. He was the first author I read whose words whacked me over the head and change the way I saw words and books forever after.
The book I read was Dandelion Wine and I was about 13. It's about a kid about the same age who realizes he's alive. That's it. That's all. It's summer. He's in the woods with his dad and his brother. And bam, he changes.
It was the first time I realized that big epic things like "I'm alive" could be best found in tiny, honest moments like berry-picking. It was also the moment that I decided thinking about life and big things was totally okay for a 13-year old. TV didn't tell me that. Magazines didn't tell me that. The news didn't tell me that. Bradbury did.
He taught me that run-on sentences, in the name of a good idea and poetic license, are not only tolerable but also desirable.
Bradbury made me think about things I would never normally think about - Martians, for example - because the writing was so good and the characters were so honest that the oddity didn't matter. I hated sci-fi. But I read every single book Bradbury ever wrote. Which taught me that style and form can lure you in, even when the topic makes you feel creepy and uncomfortable.
My mom once went into a bookstore while we were travelling and bought all the Bradbury books in stock (that was back in the olden timey days before mail order books and Kindles gave you easy access to an author's works). The girl at the cash said she loved Bradbury and had a chance to meet him once.
"I told him that I never got my driver's license, just like him!" she said.
"That was stupid," Bradbury reportedly replied. "I've always regretted it."
So he also taught me that you shouldn't copy your heroes just because. Good advice.