Most of you have no idea who I am (and don’t care).
Some of you know my name is Matt.
Fewer still know I’m Matt and I live in Ohio.
And a super-small group of you know my last name or actually know me in real life.
Does it Matter if it Doesn’t Bleed?
I don’t want to be critical of writers who entertain, inform or educate us. Those are great things.
But matters of the heart and mind are what I choose to spend most of my time exploring. I want to be a better person, and I’m sensitive to my flaws. I think it’s hard to be a human being, and it often gets harder in adulthood.
I think a lot of us frolic through childhood blissfully unaware, and then one inevitable day, that first tragic thing happens, rapes our innocence, and then we never get to be that version of ourselves ever again. Those moments take our breath away. They’re really hard. Some people freak out when life is really hard. They become addicts. They lose jobs. They have affairs. They commit suicide.
Awful things. Things I used to observe and think: What the hell is wrong with those people?
And the answer—in a macro-human sense—is: Nothing. They’re just people, and you can’t know how unmitigated fuckness feels until it’s stabbing your heart and mind mercilessly while you sob in the fetal position.
If you’re going to write about matters of the heart and mind, I don’t think there’s a lot of room for half-assing it. This is real life. When you strip away everything superficial about our lives (the jobs, houses, money, cars) the only things left are the people we love and our mental and emotional state of being when we wake up in the morning.
Mostly, we take this stuff for granted. Mostly, we feel just fine, with pockets of frustration and pockets of fun. Mostly, our relationships aren’t suffering, and people we love aren’t dying, and we’re not afraid of sickness or death ourselves.
No matter how many times a day we hear about some crazy-scary thing happening, or about some tragedy, or how many people around us get sick and die, we STILL just carry on in a That will never happen to me! sort-of way.
But bad things can and will happen. They test our character. They test our faith. They test our mettle.
And then we wallow and despair. Or we demonstrate courage. Or we climb our mountains with joyful hope. Often we do all of those things over a long period of time while we fight to find ourselves again.
THESE are the things that really matter to me. These are the things I want to write about.
I’m afraid of writing about those things, and then having my boss read them. I’m afraid of all the guys I work with, and imagining them laughing and snickering and calling me a pussy behind my back while they read about how I used to cry a lot after my wife left.
I’m afraid of my mom, or grandma, or aunts and uncles reading about how I lost my virginity or about doubting my faith sometimes or just all the bad words I use.
I’m afraid of my son reading it someday and being ashamed of his father. I’m afraid of other parents at his small Catholic school reading it and judging me. Even worse? I’m afraid of my son’s classmates reading it and punishing him socially for it.
Within the first few weeks of blogging, I stumbled on How To Be A TV Star by James Altucher and it completely changed the way I thought about first-person writing.
In the piece, he wrote about how he lied to get on television because he was afraid of flying after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. His boss was asking him to fly to a business meeting, and he needed a way out, so he lied to investor and TV personality Jim Cramer about how much investment money he managed.
He wrote this, and I’ve been hero-worshipping him ever since:
“Once Jim asked me to go on I couldn’t stop shaking,” he wrote. “I knew I was a fraud and I was finally going to prove it to everyone I went to high school with.
“I assumed they would all be gathered at the same place, eating popcorn and laughing at me.”
After retelling his experience on Cramer’s show, he said this:
“Afterwards two things happened. My dad wrote me an email congratulating me. Since we were in a fight and I tend to avoid people I’m fighting, I didn’t respond to him. Then he had a stroke and died.”
Something about it just slapped me across the face. Penetrated my soul.
THIS. This is how I want to write, I thought.
It’s Just About Time
Whether I wait until I publish my book, agree to let other publications use my first and last name, or finally break the seal here, the day I start publishing my full name draws nearer.
I met an editor at The Good Men Project who charitably praises my writing and has asked me to contribute regularly. I’ve agreed.
He has been kind enough to let me keep my last name off the work for a while.
My first post (repurposed content from this blog to start with) should run this week. It will be interesting to see what happens afterward.
In the meantime, there is only one way to write anything related to the mind, heart and soul, and have it matter: Honestly.
I hope I’m tough enough and brave enough to do so even after taking off that final mask and submitting to the judgment of internet commenters everywhere.
Even if those people can affect my professional future.
Or even if they used to change my diapers and tuck me into bed at night.