Joel Stein

How did you become a writer?

First I became a fact checker, which sucked. I thought my clips from my college paper – where I wrote a humor column that is just like my column in Time is now, only far more popular – would get me a writing job. That plus my impressive internships at a small newspaper and then Newsweek. I was wrong. I was two years into fact checking with no end in sight and starting to think about law school, when Time Out NY started and my friend (who worked on the production side at Martha Stewart Living when I was fact checking there) told me that I could probably get the job as the sports editor since the two women starting the magazine didn't care about sports, or know about it, and I could fool them. They were right. In fact, it worked so well that less than a year into my next job, at Time magazine, when the sports editor quit, the editor of Time - who knew and cared nothing about sports - made me the sports writer at Time.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

I was obsessed with Catcher in the Rye. Some of us don't become assassins. We become something nearly as bad: People who only know how to write in the first person.

When and where do you write?

It's 1 a.m., I'm in bed, my wife is asleep next to me and I'm almost out of battery life. So, anywhere. But usually at night. And this isn't writing. But you get the idea. Late. When it's quiet. Usually in my office, but sometimes in a hotel. My best writing gets done on a plane. I never buy the internet service. Ever.

What are you working on now?

I finished my first book, so I'm mostly working on begging people to read it, which is the first thing I've found that's more humiliating than writing. I got into writing specifically to avoid sales. But no one avoids sales.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

No, thanks to deadlines. The few times I didn't have a deadline and a promised paycheck, I guess I had writers block. But it was really just laziness.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Never accept the first amount the editor offers to pay you without first asking for more.

Joel Stein writes a weekly column for Time magazine. His first book, Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity, is out now, right here: