#127: Final Fantasy

I’ve loved video games my whole life.

The first game system I ever received was a Nintendo Entertainment System. I must have been three or four years old at the time. The first video game I ever remember seeing was Super Mario Bros. I remember watching my parents play it once in the living room together, with my mom not doing very well and asking my dad questions about how to play it. Funnily enough I don’t have a specific memory of playing the game, although I must have at the time. I do remember my earliest memory of playing a game, and it was Mega Man II, also for NES (although at the time we all just called it the system “Nintendo”). I remember sitting in my mom’s room, with the game hooked up to a television on her dresser, and watching the opening scene of a camera panning up a building to Mega Man standing with his helmet off on top of the building.

I remember how difficult Mega Man was. I could never get further than one or two levels in, and once I actually managed to make it all the way through to the final level and couldn’t beat it. I remember playing the original Super Mario Bros, and an old lady who babysat me tried to teach me the trick to getting 99 lives with a turtle shell. The second video game system I got was a Sega Genesis. In the early 90’s, everyone picked a side in what became known as the “console wars”: either you were a Nintendo person, or a Sega person. It’s not that you necessarily only liked the games from one system or the other, everyone loved all the games, it’s just that the systems were so expensive that no one’s parents could afford to buy them both. To have both was a big deal. I only happened to have both by luck, because my cousin, whose name is Andy (and who will reappear soon in this story), was getting rid of his Sega Genesis and sold it to my mom. I’m not sure for how much but for some reason my memory tells me 50 bucks. I have no clue if that’s true or not.

My first Sega game was Sonic the Hedgehog 2, along with Taz-Mania, a game about the Loony Tunes character Taz the Tasmanian Devil. Fun fact: I was surprised to learn Tasmania is an actual place later on in school, I always assumed it was a made-up place from Looney Tunes. Anyhow, a lot of people fondly remember the first Sonic the Hedgehog, and it’s opening level Green Hill, with nostalgia, but for me it was the second game. I actually never even played the first game until years later in elementary school, and was kind of aggravated by the lack of a spin dash ability.

I loved Sonic 2. I played it constantly. Eventually my cousins who were around the same age as me wanted a video game system, so my mom came up with a rule that I could only have one of my two game systems at a time, and if I wanted one, my cousins got to use the other. I still think that was a stupid rule, particularly because I always chose my Sega Genesis, and eventually my Nintendo just became their de facto possession, and they lost it.

Not that I’m still bitter about it or anything.

But it was mine.

Just saying.

Anyhow, like I was saying I loved Sonic 2. I loved the levels and the characters of Sonic and Tails, and during school I used to draw pictures of Sonic running around on the back of my school papers. I don’t know if schools still do this but at the end of the year the teacher would give our parents a folder filled with all of our work from that year, which make pretty great keepsakes. My mom still has many of my Sonic the Hedgehog drawings, which I was constantly getting in trouble for doodling.

The thing that I loved most about Sonic, though, was the music. Chemical Plant and Mystic Cave Zone especially. My aforementioned cousin Andy (the one who sold my mom the Genesis, not his two sisters who always got to keep one of my game systems) always knew more about video games than I did, was always a more skilled player than I was, and always had something interesting to show me. I used to watch him play in awe, and I was very entertained just watching. He revealed to me that there were cheat codes to Sonic 2, which he had memorized, and he would sometimes put them in and show me Super Sonic, who could jump incredibly high and fly through levels at triple the speed of Sonic. I was amazed by Super Sonic, by his shiny yellow hair and his ability to float in the air as stars rippled past him, and by the way he would cross his arms and stand on his tiptoes, looking regal and powerful, when you stood on the edge of a clif. I also loved the Super Sonic music that played, and I would go to the sound test menu and turn on the Super Sonic music, then turn the volume way up on the television, and run around the house as Sonic, jumping on the furniture and making up stories about Sonic’s adventures.

Incidentally, Andy refused to tell me the cheat code and never did, I learned them when I got older and found them online. He did input them for me and let me play as Super Sonic sometimes, but he seemed to enjoy not telling me and keeping the information a secret from me. Once, after I begged him incessantly, he finally wrote the cheats down on the back of an envelope, and it turned out they were completely fake and not the real cheat.

Not that I’m still bitter about it or anything.

But really, he should have just told me the damn cheat codes.

Andy was to be a pivotal player in my love of video games. He always had the newest systems and the newest games, and he would always let me play them, though usually I had to spend most of the time I visited watching him play, but even still, I was fine with that. I never really got to play much of the Super Nintendo, I had an aunt and uncle who had one along with Super Mario World, and on a few occassions I would visit and get to play, but I never had a Super Nintendo of my own. I still loved playing Super Mario World for the limited time I could, though. Anyhow, Andy eventually got a Sega Saturn, which I was entirely interested in due to it’s complete lack of Sonic the Hedgehog games, though I did watch him play Panzer Dragoon, and was pretty stunned by the graphics.

It’s funny now to look back at older video games and think of how stunning the graphics were to people at the time. But good game designers have tried different ways of creating beautiful games, and some of them have stood the test of time. For instance, I still think Super Mario World looks incredible, but unlike many other games it isn’t because of superior graphics as much as it is superior art design. The characters and environments are drawn in a style similar to cartoon animation, which means that they hold up over time. The opposite of this would be games like Doom or Goldeneye, who tried to go for a very realistic aesthetic, and as such look like paper mache pasted onto polygons now. I think that games that use an animated style, or any style that resembles animated art rather than realistic art, hold up over time.

I had only ever heard of Zelda as a game for the Gameboy, a device which I found fascinating. Gameboys were the first real handheld video game systems, apart from little handheld poker or Yahtzee games with little light up screens that had the game built in to the system. The first Gameboys were massive and heavy, with tiny little screens that were always green, and the games were black and white except for the fact that the screen was green, so they were more black and green than anything else. There was also a slew of accessories, my favorite of which was a huge clip-on magnifying glass that went over the screen and made everything look bigger, along with “worm lights,” which were glorified reading-lights that plugged in and lit up your screen in the dark (back-lit screens, surprisingly, would not arrive until much later). I had an aunt (Andy’s mom) who apparently loved Zelda and though she never let me play it I’d seen her playing it on her Gameboy (the game, by the way, was The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening). I later saw the original Zelda for Nintendo but never found it terribly interesting, and always died very quickly, along with having no clue where to go.

Andy had a Nintendo 64 and I saw him play a lot of great games: Wave Race was the first one I saw, followed by Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, and then shooters like Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Forsaken, and many others. In those days video stores still existed, and in video stores there was a video game section where you could rent games. I both watched and played a lot of Nintendo 64 games through Andy, who would let me play his consoles while he was busy with something else when I visited him.

Andy eventually moved in with me and my mom when he was sixteen and I was about seven years old. He’d had a falling out with his mom, and in my family throwing your children out is a somewhat common occurence, so my mom took him in. I fell in love with Andy. He was the older brother I’d always wanted. I actually had an older brother but he’d been adopted before I was born by a relative who lived somewhat far away and didn’t allow us much contact, so Andy became my older brother. I totally worshipped him. I followed him wherever he went, I listened to his music and sang along with him, I watched movies with him, I read his video game magazines and played his games when he was busy, I watched eagerly as he played and asked questions which he patiently answered (being an adult now and having played video games next to kids who are around the age of seven, and listening to the endless barrage of questions, I understand just how patient he was with me, which is kind of surprising because I remember him not having too much patience).

Andy’s influence was a really big part of my life at that age. Because I didn’t listen to anyone but him. I wasn’t a bad or disobedient kid, it’s just that I did what Andy said, when he said it, and I did it happily. I loved his approval, and I did not question or argue with him. My mom probably used this to her advantage a few times and had Andy order me to do something that I wouldn’t do when she asked. Andy also began to go through a phase that a lot of white guys in the 90’s went through of adopting a lot of mannerisms and speech patterns of black culture. In the south, they have a word for this, which is “wigger,” a very crass portmanteu of the words “white” and, well you can guess the other one. He started listening to a lot of rap music (although he also listened to a good bit of alternative 90’s rock, provided it was a male artist, so I heard a lot of Third Eye Blind, Sublime and Sugar Ray in those days), and went through a very long Insane Clown Posse phase. To his credit, he never became the kind of cult-like devoted “juggalo” follower the band is known for having, he just enjoyed getting high and listening to their music and laughing at the absurdity of it.

My world changed in a profound way one day when I came home from school. I walked into the living room to find Andy just starting up a game. I was surprised to see it wasn’t a Nintendo 64 game, it was actually a Playstation that he was playing. I do remember seeing people with Playstations around that time, and I remember seeing games like Crash Bandicoot and some of the wrestling games that had a huge surge of popularity in the 90’s (along with professional wrestling itself, which was more or less a glorified soap opera with people throwing each other around and bouncing off of ropes), but I don’t know if it was before or after this moment.

This moment was important. This moment is imprinted on my memory. It’s the moment that everything in my life came into focus. It’s the moment that I became a writer, a musician, and an artist. I didn’t know all of that yet, but this is the moment that it started.

The game was called Final Fantasy VII (Andy had to explain to me what roman numerals were, and that the symbol meant “seven”). It was the start of the game, and Cloud Strife had just hopped off of the train and stood with his back to the camera. His blocky, pixelated form didn’t look silly to anyone at the time, in fact the graphics were great. The first thing I noticed was his spikey blonde hair. Now, I hadn’t watched Dragonball Z at the time, and didn’t know anything about Super Saiyans, but I remembered thinking that I recognized the game he was playing and said “Hey I know that guy! Who is it?” but I’d never heard of Cloud. Looking back, I must have thought it was Super Saiyan Goku, although paradoxically I don’t remember seeing the episode of Dragonball Z in which Goku goes Super Saiyan until a bit later, and I THINK that I was watching the show as new episodes came out.

At any rate, I was intrigued by the spikey blonde haired character, and sat down to watch Andy play. I had never seen a roleplaying game before, and I was confused about the fact that instead of actually moving around and slashing the sword with the buttons on the controller, Andy was selecting commands from a menu, and then the characters would go forward and do what he told them. Even though it was new, I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed watching a green aura swirl around Cloud as he did his magic incantation pose and throw lightning bolts or blocks of ice at enemies.

Final Fantasy VII quickly became everything to me. I think that what did it was the music. The music was so beautiful, so intensely beautiful, so world-changingly beautiful. I’d never heard anything like it. The song that always stands out the most in my mind is called Anxious Heart. It plays several times in the game, but it’s the area music for the Train Graveyard. I remember watching Andy play this area, and my mom was chatting with someone who was in the room, and actually made a comment about how these new video games had this cool incredible music. I’ve never forgotten her saying that. It was true, the music was incredible.

My favorite was the battle theme. I heard it constantly because there are endless amounts of battles in the game. I remember one morning when I woke up, and I heard that battle song as I woke up, and I instantly became filled with excitement and ran into the living room, jumping up onto the couch beside Andy to watch the action. I would stand in the living room floor and watching the battles, singing the battle music in “dum dum dum”s and mimicking the actions, standing in battle position and moving like I was slashing a sword, doing the character’s victory poses.

I loved Final Fantasy VII in a way I had never loved anything before. I was completely enraptured, watching this game. I was fascinated by everything, by the characters, by the battles, by the monsters the characters fought and summoned, by the villain Sephiroth, who was cool and soft-spoken and terrifying, by the artwork in the game’s manual which I tried to copy in my sketchbook and draw pictures of. I even drew little figures of Cloud and Sephiroth in battle, holding their swords, and I cut them out of the book and made the two little flat drawings fight one another.

Andy bought an unofficial strategy guide which I used to gleefully look through, looking at the pictures from the game and the incredible illustrations of items and materia, which I thought looked so beautiful and real. And even to this day, I think that the pre-rendered backgrounds of Final Fantasy VII are beautiful. Some of them hold up better than others, but the decision to put the game on pre-rendered backgrounds filled with lush forests, barren snowscapes, and brilliant skylines was a great one, and it’s caused Final Fantasy VII’s environment to age significantly better than, say, Tomb Raider, which looks like a pixelated polygonal mess now.

Andy beat the game, and then some. He did all the sidequests, he spent a long time breeding and racing chocobos. One day he was racing chocobos all day, and during that day he made us lunch, a huge pot filled with barbecue sauce, spices, and cut up hot dogs, which was so incredibly hot and spicy that I had to drain an entire glass of Sun Drop with every bite. It was a bright day, there was a sliding-glass door in the living room, and everything was perfect and bright and happy. I was so happy watching Andy play Final Fantasy VII. Everything in my life just came into focus when he was playing that game.

He wouldn’t let me play the game on my own because he was afraid I would overwrite his save file. I know he restarted the game many times, and I remember one time he restarted the game and gave the characters funny names, which he and his best friend, our next-door neighbor, found amusing to no end. It was kind of funny to see the characters all calling Cloud “Asshole,” Barret “Dr. Dre,” and Tifa “Bitch.” I mean, it was juvenile, but we were literally juveniles. Me much more so than them.

I remember one night I was watching television and I heard the opening music of Final Fantasy VII in the other room, and immediately bolted into the living room to watch Andy play. My older brother did actually come to visit once, and while Andy was away we played his Playstation (which I was EXPRESSLY forbidden to do when he wasn’t home, and I was PARTICULARLY not supposed to play Final Fantasy VII because I might scratch up the game disc or mess his Playstation up in some way). My brother and I played through the opening section in Mako Reactor No. 1, although I think I did most of the playing, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was I doing well, I actually beat the guard scorpion, the game’s first boss. Andy found out about this and got really angry, because from that point on, his disc 1 would always lock up at the FMV scene where the bridge breaks on Mt. Nibel in Cloud’s Nibelheim flashback. He blamed this on me mishandling the disc.

It didn’t really matter that I rarely got to play though, because I loved watching Andy play so much. He did manage to do everything there was to do in the game: bred a golden chocobo, got the master materia, and beat both Emerald and Ruby Weapon (Ruby Weapon was a long process of trial and error, and I happened to be out of the room when it happened but I remember Andy’s exuberant jubilation).

There are so many parts of that game that recall certain memories. I loved the music of Cosmo Canyon, I remember watching Andy battle these clowns that draw cards from a deck that have different effects, I remember the first time I saw Andy fight the final boss, Safer Sephiroth, and was stunned to hear that there was actual choral singing, in the music. I was stunned: people were really talking, IN A VIDEO GAME! There were actual voices.

I could probably go on for much longer about watching Andy play Final Fantasy VII. Suffice it to say, it became everything to me. When I was alone, I played pretend games of FF7 with myself, being Cloud or Sephiroth, turning sticks in the yard into swords and standing in place until my “attack” or “magic” command was selected from an imaginary menu, and then I would rush forward and slash my sword, then jump back into place to wait for my next turn. I also played the opponents usually too. I know it’s a common sight to see a little boy holding a stick and pretending it’s a sword, jumping around and swinging the stick through the air shouting like he’s fighting monsters, but it must have been a strange sight to see a little boy standing in place, assuming a battle pose, waiting for a command that came from himself, then rushing forward to slash and jumping back into place to wait for the next command.

Andy was playing Final Fantasy VII, fighting the red dragon in the Temple of the Ancients, on the day that my mom called me into the kitchen and, along with her aunt who was there, told me that I was going to be staying at a mental health center in the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation that my therapist had recommended, and that she couldn’t come with me and I’d have to sleep there and be away from my family. I was terrified buy they gave me a teddy bear, and I made everyone hug the teddy bear several times, so that if I got lonely, I could ask my teddy bear for a hug from Andy, or from Mommy, or from one of my cousins, and he would relay the hug to me.

It’s sad, I know. The experience at the mental health center (which was actually just a floor of the hospital) was horrifying, but it’s another story for another time. When I came back, I was anxious to see what I’d missed in Final Fantasy VII.

This is how it started. Final Fantasy became important to me, and changed my life. It made me creative. It inspired everything I did from that moment on. I wanted to create my own fantasy stories, I loved magic and swords, I wanted to make my own stories like Final Fantasy, I wanted to be a video game designer and work for Squaresoft, the company that made Final Fantasy. I read all the video game magazines and loved anything mentioning Final Fantasy. I resented Final Fantasy VIII when it was released because it wasn’t a direct sequel to VII, and how could anything be better than VII? I did eventually come to love every entry in the series, though.

Years later, I started learning to play piano because I wanted to be able to play music from video games. The music from Final Fantasy VII, from Sonic the Hedgehog, from Kingdom Hearts. Kingdom Hearts is it’s own story. I went absolutely nuts when I found out Cloud was in the game, and he had a voice. I could HEAR Cloud’s voice. My brother played a mean prank on me once, by pretending that he was actually Cloud, that he’d traveled to another world, and that he could morph between my brother and Cloud. I completely, legitimately believed him. I was heartbroken when he revealed to me that it was a lie, and cried my eyes out. Incidentally, he also pretended to morph into several other Final Fantasy VII characters. It’s a pretty funny story. Apart from me being heartbroken, anyway.

I printed out the sheet music to the Final Fantasy VII battle theme and put it in front of my chorus teacher, asking if he could play it on piano. He did. It was the first time I’d heard Final Fantasy music played on a real instrument, not coming through the speakers of a television, and not in the form of those wonderful MIDI sounds that I loved so much, but here on a real instrument. It was a different sound, but it was magic. I was hooked from that moment. I had to learn to play this song.

And really, that’s how it all started. I started trying to write my first novel when I was twelve, and it was a story heavily influenced by Final Fantasy. I started learning to play piano because I wanted to play music from video games. To this day, I’m still playing Final Fantasy, and I’ve never stopped playing the games from the 90’s either (although admittedly I rarely play Final Fantasy VII anymore, it’s a bit boring to me now and I don’t find the battle system as fun or engaging as others in the series).

My story with video games continues from here, but I’ll stop there for now. There were other games that had a big impact on me, other games that helped me create beautiful memories, and there are plenty more memories associated with Final Fantasy VII and it’s profound effect on me. When I started experiencing depression and became reclusive and afraid, I hid inside the world of Final Fantasy VII. At one point I even believed Cloud was real, and I begged that he would come and rescue me from this world and take me to his. Final Fantasy gave me a safe place, a place that made sense to me, a place where the things I loved were, where I was special and cared about and had magical abilities, and could do the things I wanted.

I never stopped believing in that world. I don’t believe it’s real anymore, but when I was a teenager I had an ardent wish. There’s an area in Final Fantasy VII, an area outside Nibelheim, where the green land drops off in a cliff and the ocean stretches out. I know that in the game, it looks like a bunch of polygons and textures. But it didn’t look that way to me. It looked like real green grass on a real rocky surface, overlooking a real, beautiful sparkling blue ocean, lit by the sun, with the Main Theme of Final Fantasy VII playing in the background behind it.

And one day, when I was fourteen, standing outside in the cold morning and waiting for my bus to come and take me to school, I hoped that Heaven would be that place. That when I died, I’d go to a personal Heaven, where I could finally live in the world of Final Fantasy VII. Even now, the memory of that wish still lives in my heart, though now I’m ostensibly an atheist so I don’t know if I believe in anything after death, or in real transcendance anymore. But it didn’t matter then. All that mattered was that I loved this world, and that I found beauty and joy and happiness and safety and security there.

Final Fantasy VII gave me hope, and it still does. During a difficult childhood, it gave me something that made sense, something to love. And the thing is, it’s not like I just started developing a fondness for it out of a need to cope (although I completely believe that’s probably what happened), it’s that I fell in love with it INSTANTLY. I was hooked from that first day. I was spellbound by the characters, by the places, by the music.

And I’ve never stopped loving Final Fantasy, or fantasy itself. And right now, a fantasy story lives in my heart, a story with my own characters and my own places, all of whom borrow concepts and ideas from Final Fantasy, but which are mine. I don’t have to be ashamed to take from Final Fantasy because all art draws from all other art. I try not to outright copy the series, but in my mind I always see a future critic of my novel that hasn’t even been written, saying that it’s a blatant copy of Final Fantasy. But I know that my vision, even if it borrows heavily from Final Fantasy, is unique, and that it will become clearer the more I write, the more I try, and the more I explore. As time has gone on I’ve drawn inspiration from many more sources than just Final Fantasy, and I will continue to do so.

But Final Fantasy will always be special to me. It will always be that safe place, that place of numbers and menus and RPG mechanics that gave me something to focus on when I was feeling scared as a teenager and gave my time structure, that place of beautiful music and scenery and adventure that captivated me as a child and made me want to explore the fantasy realms in my mind, the place that I started writing fanfiction about as a teenager, creating my own stories with these characters, borrowing them and placing them in a world where I coexisted, creating my stories out of thin air as I danced barefoot through the wet grass in the morning, slashing a stick through the air, and adventuring with Cloud and the other Final Fantasy characters.

#126: I’m A “Full-Time” Writer Now!

Look at my “serious writer” face

So I’ve come up with a little idea.

Far and away the worst problem I have as a writer is the motivation to sit down and write. Every single day I come up with ideas for blog posts, ideas for my stories, ideas for my novel, ideas for music, but I never sit down and do it. So in order to help keep me focused on writing, and also to help my writing ability improve, I’ve devised a system that I think might help me.

One of the things that has really inspired me most as a writer is hearing about comedian Mike Birbiglia, who wanted to devote his life to his comedy and to writing, so he started doing it as a full-time job. He rented an office space, set up an office, got up in the morning and went to work, and sat at his desk and worked. And that’s what it is to be a writer. And that’s what I want to do.

However, I’m also not oblivious to the fact that my writing muscles have not been getting stretched a lot, and because of that, my writing itself has suffered. Not so much the fiction, I think that I tend to write fiction in short bursts when I’m feeling inspired, but on days like this, I want to create a blog post and I have ideas, but when I sit down to do it… I just feel yucky. I feel like my voice isn’t on, like my writing ability isn’t with me, and I can tell from the quality of my writing that the style is conversational in a way that makes me feel I could do better.

But a long time ago, I heard an interview with Gregory Maguire where he said that the number one thing to do if you want to be a writer is to write. Write every day. Write something. It doesn’t have to be a novel, but write something. Work those muscles.

So my plan is to combine these two approaches: that of Gregory Maguire and Mike Birbiglia, and hire myself as a full-time writer. My job will be to write something every day, Monday through Friday, with weekends off, unless I feel especially inclined to write on the weekends.

This is necessary for several reasons. Firstly, because I have a Patreon, and because people are literally paying me to write. Not much, of course, because I only have a few patrons, but still, they’re giving me their money and expecting writing in return, and even if it isn’t all top-shelf, I can’t actually CREATE great short stories, poetry, and novels if I’m not constantly writing.

So that’s the plan. As of now, I’m a full-time writer. Well, full-time in the sense that I have to write something at least once a day Monday through Friday, but of course I don’t actually make enough money (YET) to do it as a real job. Still, this will be good for me, for my writing, for my creativity, and hopefully for the people who enjoy reading what I have to say.

At this moment I have a list of things I want to talk about. I have four lists, for what I’ve been reading, listening to, watching, and playing. To tackle all of these in one post would be messy and would probably require more time than I’d be able to put in, but this is a good starting place.

I’ve tried several times to “number” my blog posts. I’ve come to accept that just isn’t going to work. The first reason is that it’s difficult to tell WHAT constitutes a blog post. I have several posts talking about music and books I’m reading and rants about social issues, but also entire posts just dedicated to telling a story about having a meaningful or intense sexual experience. Does one count as a blog post and the other as a journal entry? Where is the line? I’m not really sure. At most recent count, the number of “blog posts” (meaning: not poetry or fiction) numbers somewhere in the 200’s, and as I’m writing this, this post is literally number 303. I couldn’t really make a big deal out of my 300th post because I honestly didn’t know which post WAS the 300th. And right now there are a few posts I’m considering deleting, as they’re just pieces of yet another rewrite of my novel.

I tend to get into this “ranting about blog numbering” and “complaining that I’m not writing enough” thing a lot, but the reason for that is that I take such a long break between actually posting. I’m hoping that by giving this little explanation and by preparing myself for daily work, it will help my writing to be more interesting, and help me to get better as a writer, and ultimately this will help me get better and knowing when to follow my inspiration and sit down and write, as well as develop the discipline to do so. And it also means that what I create will be better-written, because I’ll be used to flexing those muscles.

So, that’s the plan. And though today’s post is short, I’ll stop there for now, and I’ll be back tomorrow.

Thanks Gregory Maguire, and Mike Birbiglia. One day I’ll be a real writer like you guys.

Patron Blog #7

Where have I been? Why haven’t I posted anything? Am I still writing my novel? What happened to my musical projects? Have I joined a Dionysian cult and wandered off into the hills to participate in ritualistic blood orgies?The answer to those questions and more, in this exciting patron update.

So first of all, hi. I know I’ve been absent for a while.

Truthfully I’ve been absent for a long time. Most of my blog posts begin with an apology for not having written more. But honestly, the apology is to myself. Because I want to write. I want to write badly. I just do these that keep me from being able to, or I try to put too many rules on myself and never end up writing.

For example. I’m best at writing in conversational style. A really professional looking, article style blog post, is difficult. It’s difficult to get my thoughts together enough to even begin writing. And the irony is that writing is HOW I get my thoughts together.

I’ve tried several times throughout the course of writing in my blog to create little “series.” I’ve attempted several times to number my blog posts, but then I get caught up trying to figure out what actually COUNTS as a blog post (fun fact: I recently went through my blog and counted. This is the part of the paragraph where I would tell you what the total number was, but as I just now discovered, I have no idea where I put the notepad document with the number on it. Anyhow, it was over 200)

There are a lot of series or features I want to write on my blog: I’ve wanted for years now to do a thing called “spotlight” or possibly “let’s talk about it,” where I just pick a topic (usually a thing, like a movie, an album, a video game) and just write down my thoughts about it. No pressure, no outlines, just conversational. I also want to do top ten lists about songs I love or albums I recommend. I want to do a series where I just rant about religion and about society. I have notes written down for all of these, but I never get around to posting them. I took some notes during my trip to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC that I want to post, but again, I haven’t gotten around to it.

So why am I not writing? I want to write. I see things every day I want to write about. I have thoughts I want to chronicle. But I freak myself out by attempting to give the writing structure before I even say what I’m thinking. And then there’s the fact that some days I just write better than others. As you can see, today is not an eloquent, professional day, it’s a scatter-brained, almost illegible day.

But that’s okay. The most important thing is that I write.

So. Where have I been?

I went on a trip, back to Delaware to stay with my two friends who I lived with for a year. And joining me was a very special guy who lives in England, who came to visit me and some of our mutual friends. We had an amazing time together. Two weeks. We went to Washington DC, we saw some monuments, we went to the Holocaust museum, we went to a lot of restaurants, and I tried my best to fit in everything American I could imagine while he was here. We went to the beach, we went to an island where wild horses live, and we did a lot of kissing, snogging, and making out.

He snogged me so hard that his chin stubble rubbed my face raw. It was terribly painful. But I still think that’s a pretty cute story.

I realized, while I was there, that I haven’t been living since I left Delaware. I shut down, emotionally and mentally, and I’ve been existing, but not living. And I realized that as long as I’m near my family that’s never going to change. So I made the decision that I’m going to get out. I did my taxes, and I should have a hefty return coming to me. I intend to use that money to get my car on the road again, and get the hell out.

So where do I go? Well, that’s been a big issue. Several friends offered to help me out. One in Portland, Oregon, one in Austin, Texas, one in Massachusetts, and another possibly here in North Carolina. It’s been difficult to know who to choose or what to do. Each option provides issues: some of them are just too far away to reasonably drive without spending a crazy amount on food or lodging, some of them offer great possibilities but are in an area where I don’t want to live, and some of them are with possible roommates who’s credibility I honestly can’t vouch for, and I don’t know who I can trust.

I waited for several weeks for my tax returns to come in the mail before discovering that in fact, they’d never been submitted, so now I have to mail them in. It’s been aggravating. I feel like my life has been on hold, and the worst thing is that I’m getting used to being here again. I’m getting used to living in my mom’s house, getting used to being… not dead inside, but silent. It’s like who I really am just burrows up inside my chest and waits until it has a chance to get out.

I have to get out. It’s a matter of survival. So, when I get the money, I’ll make a decision, one way or another, and get out.

What have I been doing?

Mostly nothing. I’m serious. I’ve been laying around, not exercising, eating poorly, playing video games, masturbating and watching quiz shows online. I have been doing a lot of reading, and I’m excited to do a sort of review about a series that I’m reading. But in general, I’ve stalled.

Like I said, being here just drains the life out of me. It drains my will to do anything, my will to better myself, my will to be alive. It’s the only way I know how to survive being in the presence of such a controlling and abusive person as my mother. I have to tread lightly to try and avoid upsetting her, but that’s unavoidable, as she is perpetually angry at someone, and always more than willing to blame it on me, or my sister, or whoever else is around her. I have to get away.

I just keep telling myself that I can do this. I can get away. I can survive. She will tell me that I can’t go it on my own, but maybe I can.

Amidst all of this confusion about where to go, who to choose to help me, I came up with a surprising idea.

I could just go it on my own.

Where?

There’s a place here in North Carolina which, from my perspective, is sort of the promised land. It’s a place called Asheville. It’s up in the mountains, and it’s apparently a haven for gay people, hippies, and art nerds. There’s a college there, and supposedly there are lots of massage parlors, vegetarian supermarkets, there’s a place called The Light Center in the mountains which is like a spiritual healing retreat. There are a lot of pagans there, and it just generally seems to be my kind of place. Also it’s supposed to be utterly beautiful.

I’m going to visit there first thing when I get my car on the road again. I’ve wanted for a long time to try and go there, and I just thought… maybe I should just do it. I’ll have a bit of money to fall back on, so I should just go, find a place, find a job, and start living. Maybe I don’t need someone else to take care of me.

I still don’t know what I’ll do for sure. But I know that I have to do something, and maybe this is what I’ve been waiting for. Maybe this is my chance. My chance to be alive.

As for my novel.

It’s been a difficult journey. This book and I are constantly battling one another. I want to write it, and yet I know so much and so little about it. I have years of notes, scenes, and scrapped chapters written, and still I’ve never truly gotten started on it. My most recent attempt was a bit of a false start. I got stalled in the first chapter and couldn’t get past it, despite trying to rewrite it. I’ve gone back to the drawing board and given myself an outline, and I plan to start again.

I don’t know how many false starts this book will have. I don’t know how many rewrites there will be. But one day, it will be born, it will be alive, and people will see it. And I will be seen. And I will be able to live on, because my heart will be written down.

So what am I going to do now?

I’m going to start writing, with a modest goal of doing a little writing every day, even if it’s something small. I’m going to go back to working on my health, and going to the gym on a mostly-daily basis. I’m going to try and help myself to get out of this situation, and I’m going to keep trying when I fail.

I plan to start writing blogs again soon. Updates about my life, about my interests, about my thoughts. Rants and ideas and recommendations, pieces of me, laid out for you to read. It’s what I want to do.

I’ll be back soon. Thank you for sticking around. There is more to come.

Patron Blog #6

Hey everyone.

So surprisingly I haven’t posted much in the way of updates or blogs, but I have actually started getting down to the business of some real writing. Currently sitting at Starbucks, my new favorite place to be creative (my room has a desk but it’s very cramped and claustrophobic, and it’s in my family’s house which is a pretty toxic environment. Also their wifi is much better here), but there is apparently a huge winter storm coming, so naturally all of North and South Carolina have to shut down the moment a snowflake hits the ground. As such, they’re closing early so I only have half an hour to write this.

Also between that paragraph and this one I completely forgot that I was doing this, and ended up writing someone a long Victorian-style letter on Facebook asking for dick pics. Because I’m not just sexually deviant, I’m CLASSY and sexually deviant.

So I’ve finally finally finally started writing my novel. No bullshit. And though it’s been a week or two since the last installment, that doesn’t mean I’m not working on it. I’ve started a project to transcribe all of the notes from my phone, computer, emails and various other places into one extensive document or set of documents, but that’s not even nearly complete.

I started writing my fantasy novel, which has for years been referred to as Fairy Tale or the Fairies Awakening. I don’t know what the title will really be and I’ve been reluctant to call the first draft by either of those names because I’m superstitious that it will inherit the problems of Fairy Tale rather than being it’s own project. As such I’m just referring to it as “my fantasy novel” for the moment.

Things changed when I got the idea of including a goblin as a character. I’ve noticed that just about any mythical creature or magical being has already been translated from it’s original folkloric form into something beautiful and modern: vampires, fairies, elves, werewolves, shapeshifters, and on and on. But I haven’t seen a lot of beautiful, elegant, and inspiring goblin characters. The only one I’m even aware of is David Bowie’s Goblin King from Labyrinth. I saw the movie somewhat recently but I didn’t actually finish it, and truthfully I found it a bit boring, but the Goblin King was the only thing that I really found interesting. So I thought it would be fun to try and translate goblins into some original. I’m sure someone else has already done it, and when it comes to fantasy it’s difficult not to trod upon ground that has already been done to death or that was already done better than anyone else can really hope by Tolkien, but it’s worth a try. And either way, it gave me the creative boost I needed to start.

I wrote the prologue a few months ago, and it’s still the same, I just excised a little expository passage from the end of it and started chapter one afresh. The new version of the story has a distinctly different feel, which both excites and scares me. But I’ve received good feedback so far from everyone who’s read along. I’m also learning a lot more about what my weaknesses are, which is scary but also a good thing that will help me improve as a writer. I’m also starting to figure out what it is I need to research, and I haven’t really begun that process, but I figure I’ll probably research as I go along.

And then, by accident, I started working on a SECOND book right after the first. This one isn’t a fantasy novel, it’s an autobiography. My life has a lot of pretty ridiculous stories, and people always enjoy hearing me tell them. I’ve thought about trying to tell them through standup comedy, but I’m afraid that they aren’t inherently funny enough to hold the attention of an audience with the expectation that they’re going to laugh. Margaret Cho can do it, but I don’t know if I’m quite ready. I still want to try standuop at some point though. But more on that later.

Fifteen minutes now until closing time, I have to hurry up. So anyhow, I’ve decided to start writing an autobiography focused around my ridiculous, entertaining, hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking sexual history. I like talking openly about sex and I accidentally discovered that writing this will give me the perfect platform to talk about my feelings on a variety of sexual topics: monogamy, polyamory, incest, pedophilia, bestiality, all of the things we don’t want to talk about, I want to really bring them out into the open and try to start an open and honest dialogue about them. Maybe it will destroy any chance I have of being a reputable author. I guess I can’t say that I don’t care, but I also know that I can’t remain silent when there’s something important that we should be talking about.

I also want to thank thank THANK you guys, I’ve received a few new patrons and a couple of BIG pledges, getting me past my first milestone goal of $20 per month. I just checked back and I’m actually back down beneath $20, so I guess someone must have left or changed their pledge, but either way it’s fine, my Patreon is growing little by litte, and I’m confident that if I keep providing, more patrons will come.

I don’t have much time to talk about anything else. I will say that I wrote another installment in my sexual memoir, but truthfully I’m a little afraid to post it. Put plainly: it’s about my brother. I was raised an only child, my odler brother was adopted before I was born and raised by a distant family member, so I didn’t really get to interact with him until I was thirteen and he was nineteen, and I was just coming into my sexuality, and I had a big crush on him. He was a beautiful guy who walked around the house half naked all hours of the day, and I was this shy awkward little gay guy who’d never so much as seen a guy with his shirt off, and I just couldn’t help but develop a huge crush on him. I know that that ruffles people a little, and I understand that. I talk in graphic detail about my sexual interest in him. Nothing ever happened between us, but I know that that could be something that might be disturbing for some people to read. But I want to TALK about it, so that I can understand my own feelings and maybe start a discussion on incest, and where the line is, and what’s healthy and what isn’t.

But I’m afraid to post it. And it isn’t even the biggest secret I plan to reveal in this book. So… it’s scary. Let me know if you’re interested in reading and I’ll try to work up the courage to post it.

Until next time, guys!