Back when I was a snot-nosed kid with a severe case of liplicker’s dermatitis, I wanted to be a pro wrestler. Twenty years later - and now sans the snotty nose and rose-red ring around my lips - I still do.  
But I’ve had to settle for second place:  I’m a lawyer; a Ph.D. candidate who recently landed the tenure-track job of his dreams; and the co-curator of the Moustache Club of America, a website that publishes “edgy” fiction and nonfiction.

It’s the last of these ventures that’s relevant here, since the good folks at Stymie Magazine—a wonderful, sports-themed literary project I endorse with the entirety of my heart—have asked me to write about why I write.

If forced to answer that question in public, I’d mumble some noncommittal response about doing it to pass the time.  And I suppose that’s at least part of the answer, given how few meaningful hobbies I have.  But it’s certainly not the largest or most significant part.

When my friend Ryan Powell and I founded the Moustache Club back in 2002, we lacked a clear sense of what we were doing.  Ripping off better writers whom we admired, I suppose.  Writing bad, derivative, and offensive fiction, no doubt.  Type type typing away with nary a useful insight great or small to say, certainly.

Yet it was while I worked long into the night on the Moustache Club that I began to understand one particularly poignant passage in John Barth's short story collection Lost in Funhouse:

“He wishes he had never entered the funhouse. But he has. Then he wishes he were dead. But he's not. Therefore he will construct funhouses for others and be their secret operator -- though he would rather be among the lovers for whom funhouses are designed.”

 For so much of my life, I found myself wishing I hadn't entered the funhouse.  Nevertheless, as I collaborated with Ryan on the project that came to define all of our subsequent creative work, I realized that there wasn't much I could do about these confused feelings.  Nothing, that is, except "construct funhouses for others," which in this case consisted of the corpus I was slowly but surely producing.

And wasn’t this business of “construct[ing] funhouses for others” not unlike wrestling a professional match in front of an audience?  Wouldn’t these two wrestlers—who were up there acting out a soap opera-cum-passion play—also rather be in the crowd, sitting “among the lovers for whom funhouses are designed?” 

Perhaps I’m taking that analogy a bit too far.  At any rate, creative writing serves as a welcome break from my academic career, which I enjoy greatly but which can also prove frustrating and tiresome.  And through my work at the MCoA and elsewhere, I’ve tried to do something that I don’t believe is done often enough:  to render the lives of complete losers with sincerity, accuracy, and as much sympathy as I can muster.

When I'm not doing that, I write deliberately unsentimental-sounding–yet-secretly-very-sentimental pieces about wrestling for places like Stymie.  That’s a heck of a lot of fun, too.

Oliver Lee Bateman is currently an Andrew Mellon Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh.  Starting next August, he will begin serving as Assistant Professor of Legal and Constitutional History at the University of Texas at Arlington.  He and his good friend Erik Hinton co-curate the Moustache Club of America, an online literary magazine that has published over 220 essays and short stories.  He is a columnist for The Good Men Project and The Pitt News, and a regular contributor to Stymie.