Beginning Again

One of the the things that always came up during my monthly (or so) phone call with my dad was that he’d mention how I’d stopped updating my blog. He was right, of course; my last post was in May of 2017 and since then, I’ve been silent.

I don’t remember what I said each time he mentioned it.

Maybe something about how writing for my blog had felt weird lately, the fact that I was no longer comfortable writing my thoughts and sending them out into the open void. The internet got a lot more unfriendly after 2016 and given that it was never particularly friendly to begin with, that’s really saying something.

Or maybe it was something like how I just didn’t feel like I had that much to say anymore. That’s always been a common problem for me and in the past, I’d fill it up by looking around for something that made me angry and then I’d write about that. You don’t have to go back very far to find posts like that. I’ve disabled access to a couple of the ones that make me cringe the most, but otherwise I’ve left them alone.

I don’t know why I stopped, really. I could say I was too distracted (probably true, I’m frequently distracted) or I just didn’t feel like it anymore (also probably true, there are so many video games I’d rather be playing at any given moment). But that’s all just probably and maybe. I don’t really know, because I never really decided. I just stopped.

But I do know that my dad never stopped asking me about why I’d stopped and that meant he never stopped checking in.

The relationship between my dad and my writing has always been complicated. He’s never read any of my work, to the best of my knowledge. I wrote my first fantasy novel when I was sixteen and started six or seven other projects since then. I don’t remember if he read it at any point. Maybe I showed him a chapter or something?

Unrepentant was the second one I finished, but I was ready to move on from that world by the time I had a finished second draft, so I posted it up here for the hell of it. And there’s my current project, a fantasy novel with dinosaurs, which I’m pretty excited about even though at this point it’s been a couple of years since I started. No one has seen that yet, not even my wife, although I’m close to having a draft I can share.

The truth is, most of my writing is littered among half-finished projects that I never got around to finishing. So it’s not surprising that my dad never read any of those. It’s not like I was going to share them.

But he always kept coming back to this blog. He never stopped asking about what I was doing here.

I don’t think he realized it, but it kind of annoyed me at times. I don’t really consider this ‘real writing’ in any sense. It’s just something to do, something that leads to real writing the way running on a treadmill on a rainy day leads to going out on a hike when spring rolls around. It’s not writing, but it’s better than what I usually do when I sit down at my desk, which is play video games. That almost never leads to writing, not since I put my fanfiction days far behind me.

But even though I didn’t consider any of this to be my writing, it was interesting to my dad and he never stopped asking about it. I think he might have been my only dedicated reader.

The fact is, I’ve been sensitive about which of my things he showed an interest in ever since I was that teenager working on that first fantasy novel. At the time I was finishing up my first fantasy novel, I’d developed a bad problem with wanting to be good more than I wanted to learn how to be good at writing. I’d already decided I was a good writer at that point and I was hopelessly insecure about it. And the only thing that alleviated that insecurity was praise.

Have you ever had a moment in your life where you heard someone else tell a funny story or a joke or something, and later on, because it’s so funny you want to tell someone else the story you heard, but you realize it won’t be as funny if you say “my friend told me about this time . . .” so you just go ahead and make it a story about you instead? I don’t think I’m the only person who’s ever done this (I hope), but maybe I am.

The point is I wanted praise more than anything and at some point, I remember reading this short story that I thought was so goodso goddamned good that the ending gave me chills and I wanted to share it and talk about it. So I printed it out, but when I went to give it to my parents, I told them it was something I’d written, not something I’d found on the internet.

They loved the story. My mom said it was good enough to publish. My dad said it was the best thing I’d ever written.

I got the praise that I did not earn. They could tell at the time that I was upset by this and asked me what was wrong, but I didn’t want to admit that I’d stolen the story and lied to them about where it came from. I said something about how I was mad that something I’d put “no effort into” got all this attention, while the novel I’d been working on for a year wasn’t as good.

Which, if we’re willing to take the Obi-Wan Kenobi approach, might be true enough “from a certain point a view.” But let’s be honest: it isn’t true, not really.

I don’t think I ever told them the truth about that story. Maybe I told my mom at some point, I don’t know. Maybe they suspected the truth since I never brought up that particular story again after that day.

Regardless, since then I’ve always been a bit sensitive about which of my work gets attention and what doesn’t. And if you’re thinking, yeah, but you never invite people to see most of your work and you don’t really seem keen on finishing most of what you start, so are you really that surprised if the blog is the only thing your father asks about, given that it’s the only thing you ever ‘published’ in a way that was accessible for him?

And I’d say those are all really good points, annoying voice in my head. Well said. But he still could have asked about any of the manuscripts. He only ever asked about the blog, the thing I didn’t even really care about. The thing I stopped liking in 2017. For some reason, that’s what my dad liked.

And so he’d ask me, hey, when are you going to update your blog again?

He’d say, you haven’t updated your blog in a while.

And I’d say maybe someday I’d get back to it.

I’m getting back to it today. It took about a year and a half, but I got back to it. A year and a half is a long time when you’re a kid, less so when you’re an adult. But it’s enough time that a lot can change.

I’m a father myself now. My son is four and a half months old. His birthday is July 21. He’s taking a nap beside me as I write. He’s a good baby. I like him a lot. His mom and I are very happy.

I think my dad would like him, too. And I think he’d be pleased to see I’m finally back to updating my blog.

I say I think that’s how he’d feel, because I’ll never really know for sure. My dad won’t see that I updated my blog again and he won’t see any of my stories, because my dad died on July 24th, three days after my son was born.

I wish I’d started writing again sooner. I wish he’d lived long enough to see one more post. I wish I’d written something for him to read.

I wish he wasn’t gone.

I wish, I wish, I wish.

There’s a lot I wish was true. I wish I could say sorry it took so long for me to get back to this. Sorry for not thinking it mattered, even though it mattered enough to you to ask about it, to keep checking in.

But I’m here now. Picking it back up again. Writing down what I’m thinking, not knowing who it’s for or who (if anyone) will read it. Maybe my son will discover it some day. Maybe I’m just talking to myself at this point. I don’t know. But it feels good to do it again, regardless of the reason.

4 thoughts on “Beginning Again

  1. Matthew, I was so very, very happy to read your post. Well, I was first very happy, but then as I read and reread your thoughts, my feelings ran the entire gamut of happy, sad, proud, admiration and shock!!! I will start by saying it was great to read about your thoughts. I always loved to read your blogs and it was such a good feeling for me to see that you have started this again. With you being so far away and our lives being lived in two different cities, it is always fun to read about your life in a quiet moment. I was sadden by the hurt that I felt in your words…..enough said about that….you know my heart… he knows what you are doing and is proud of you. When your words of becoming a new dad were shared, my heart was so proud of you. Let me say that I have always been so very proud of you and your writing. I have always been your biggest fan, and one of the moments that I shall always cherish is the gift you gave me on one special mother’s day when you dedicated your first completed novel to me. It was so special and I will always hold that day dear in my heart. Admiration is probably not a big enough word to share with you what is in my heart….even more so now as I see you becoming a wonderful father to that very precious son of yours. I like him a lot, too. The shock part comes with your “confession” of which story I read that was not yours!!! I have been racking my brain about that one…nope, I don’t think you told me which one! So , I am gonna take a stab and ask you if it was the one the ended….Let there be Light???

    Please continue writing….in every format you can….you never know who is reading

    1. The short story was “Palla,” not “the Immortal,” which is the one that ended with the line “let there be light.” It’s originally from a video game that I really enjoyed; in fact, it was the same game that inspired me to start writing my own novel. The novel didn’t use any content from the game other than originally starting as fan fiction. The short story was entirely plagiarized and did not contain any original content, which is why I never talked about it again after showing it to you. There was nothing about it that was mine.

      If nothing else, it was a valuable lesson in how painful it is to receive unearned rewards.

      Interestingly, the Immortal basically did parallel a short story called “the Last Question” but I hadn’t read it at the time. The fact that the plots are basically the same is a coincidence.

      Palla would have been around 2002 or so, which is why it probably doesn’t stick out in your memory. Everything else came much later.

  2. You are not talking only to yourself, Matt. I am glad to see you updating your blog also, because I enjoy reading what you have to write (and have, since I read your story “December” oh how many years ago now?) I am grateful you are sharing your thoughts here. Please keep doing so!

    1. Thank you. This is very helpful to hear. It’s a little early for new year’s resolutions (and I usually don’t make those anyway), but I’m really trying to commit to this idea of sharing my thoughts and work more. If nothing else, it’s good practice since my current project is on its second draft and I’m almost done.

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