The Calm Before the Storm

Comments 62
Like this. Only infinitely less cool.
Like this. Only infinitely less cool.

“His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already…” ‘Lose Yourself,’ Eminem 

Hundreds of thousands of people used to read my newspaper stories whenever they would get distributed nationally or globally by one of the news wire services.

My full name. First and last. There for a reader’s judgment.

But when you’re a newspaper reporter, most people don’t pay attention to the little byline.

All that matters is the masthead.

The Wall Street Journal. The Chicago Tribune. The Washington Post.

Or the papers I wrote for.

That’s who wrote all those stories in the minds of most readers.

The publications themselves.

I love when that little notification goes off on my phone letting me know that someone new is following the blog. Someone read something. It resonated with them. Then they hit the button.

Let’s see what else this guy’s got, they think.

Maybe they read some old stuff. Maybe they only read whatever happens next. I don’t know.

Slow, steady growth. That’s how business owners like to do it. It’s manageable. It’s sustainable.

It’s not scary.

But Sometimes it is Scary

I’m afraid almost every day.

I’m afraid of what you might think of me after I write something.

I’m afraid of what any friends I have reading this blog might think of me.

I’m afraid of what my ex-wife thinks of me.

Because now the masthead is me. I am the publication.

And even more?

My heart and soul lives in the words on the screen.

If people don’t like them, it means they don’t like me.

That always stings.

I Have No Idea What’s About to Happen

A WordPress editor contacted me last week.

She indicated she plans to shine a spotlight on the blog for a regular feature called Choosing the Perfect Blog Name. It’s something that was published at The Daily Post, and is the way I discovered a handful of really good bloggers.

She said she loved the name Must Be This Tall To Ride.

Choosing the Perfect Blog Name is such a popular feature, she said, that WordPress is going to start running it on its primary news blog in 2014 for a larger audience.

The number of people following that WordPress news blog as of right now?

13.4 million.

Holy. Shit.

I wrote about 500 words for a three-question Q&A. It’s scheduled to go live on Wednesday.

And then more people will read things I’ve written than ever before.

This blog has 500 and some followers and averages between 300-400 views a day.

I don’t have the first clue how many of those 13.4 million people might click through to the blog. And I don’t know how many of those might stick around to see what’s written next.

I just know that the unknown scares me. A lot.

But then something happened and I’ve felt better ever since.

A popular blogger—Opinionated Man at HarsH ReaLiTy (30,000-plus followers)—asked readers to, in less than 500 words, tell him what they would do with a larger audience.

“What would you promote or what are some of your goals in regards to blogging towards a larger portion of the world?” he asked.

I pondered that question for a minute.

Then I wrote him this…

What I Would Do With a Larger Audience

I didn’t start writing to help people.

I started writing to help myself.

But then, one comment at a time, the truth revealed itself to me.

When you tell honest, personal stories to people—to people who feel the same pains, the same fears, who have the same hopes and dreams—you help people by accident.

A selfish project turned unselfish overnight.

When your wife leaves you, son in one hand, suitcase in the other, your worldview is shattered.

She’ll always love me.

No, she won’t.

I’ll always be there for my son.

No, I won’t.

I have a bright future.

Do I?

When you have a wife and son, you have purpose. A reason for breathing. A reason for waking up every day and doing all the things we don’t necessarily want to do.

Go to work.

Pay the bills.

Run errands.

Maintain the house.

Without the family, you don’t have purpose anymore. It evaporates. Instantly.

You can’t make sense of it because she said “forever.” I’m sure I heard her right.

I never bought life-explosion insurance. So when the bomb went off, I didn’t know what to do.

I freaked out. Called a therapist. She found out I write. Encouraged me to journal.

Write for just me? Spew words onto the screen but don’t let anyone else see?

What’s the point?

I took her advice and started journaling. Only, dammit, it wasn’t going to live in the shadows.

THIS IS WHO I AM!, my writing would scream.

I’d cry the words. Scream the words. Bleed the words.

Because it has to matter. Or else, what’s the point?

I want people to know that I cry sometimes.

That I’m afraid.

That I’m insecure.

That I make mistakes.

That I sometimes get stuff right.

That I’m working harder every day to not be the kind of man another woman will leave. To be the kind of man a five-year-old boy can aspire to be.

I’m not courageous. I’m not.

But I’m not afraid to tell people who I am and who I want to be.

These are the things that move people. That stir their emotions. That light fires.

We connect.

And lift one another up.

One powerful word-inspired feeling at a time.

That’s how good spreads.

And despite my tendency to wander off into immature playfulness from time to time, at the end of the day, my writing exists to explore as much humanity as I can squeeze into a thousand-word post each day.

So, what would I do differently with a larger audience?

Absolutely nothing.

62 thoughts on “The Calm Before the Storm”

  1. Matt,

    This is like Brene Brown’s realization that her first TED talk on vulnerability involved some very personal revelations that ultimately went viral. You’ll be fine. You were meant to be exactly where you are. It’s so OK to feel any kind of fear. Who wouldn’t? Wow. I can’t imagine…nonetheless, the attention [in all respects] is due.

    The world is an unlimited nexxus of possibilities Matt. I’m happy for you!


    1. Aww, Mel. Thank you. I just get nervous when I’m dealing with the unexpected.

      No idea how this might go. But I’ll just deal. Thank you for being around.

      1. Don’t be nervous. New people will love you too, or just won’t read. Those people, who don’t read, they don’t really matter!

  2. It’s funny that wrote that most people don’t check the byline in the paper they are reading- I always check the byline of the articles I read- and often have emailed the person afterward to tell them how much I liked it, or thank them for writing something that struck a chord within me. I never thought I was the exception though.
    I was drawn to your blog by its name- I thought it was so clever and original.You shouldn’t change a thing- what you share as an exploration of yourself does help many others who are going through it too, or have been there- to revisit and re think things in the past.(that would be me) And make us laugh too.

    1. Yeah, but you’re extra thoughtful. 🙂

      There’s no reason to run and hide from it. I’ll take it as it comes.

      Should be an interesting week. So grateful you take time to read this stuff and say nice things.

  3. Awesome news, and well deserved. I follow lots of blogs, but I always scan the list and go to yours first. Because I know there will always be a gem there, and I’ve never been disappointed.

  4. I like your last line. I would do absolutely nothing. Unless you feel something that needs to be said, then what are you writing about? I’m guilty of writing about nonsense, but it’s for me. If someone likes it, is touched by it, then that’s a bonus! I like how you write, and admit that you are human.

    1. Overstatement. But I’ll take it this fine Monday. Thank you so much, Debra.

      Hope you’re having a good one. 🙂

  5. I for one always look forward to reading your blog and am a huge fan! You deserve a wider audience so embrace it. Your posts are so raw, so emotionally-charged. Your my favourite kind of writer- genuine. It’s so rare to find, especially in a man! 🙂

    1. That means a lot. I try to be just that. And it’s really nice to read that some people believe I’m succeeding at that.

      Thank you very much. Going to be an interesting week.

  6. Yesss! And so it begins. Can’t wait to smugly say “Oh yes, I’ve followed him from the beginning”.

    Not biased…just being honest. Congrats 🙂

    1. Thank you very much. 🙂

      I wish I had a sense of what to expect.

      I really don’t, though. Not even kind of.

      1. Isn’t that part of the fun, though? Well, maybe “fun” isn’t the correct word, but certainly exciting! I have faith you’ll handle whatever happens from this the same way you’ve handled everything else…the best and only way you can.

  7. Thank God! Because, if you did anything different, which many would because of the larger capacity to influence an audience, most definitely the authenticity of your writing would be compromised. I often wonder how mega-bloggers keep up with responding to comments? I’ve only checked out a few and notice that some don’t….I enjoy the intimate community of those I follow, myself, but gosh, how exciting it will be to see what comes of your new adventure! Another blogger friend of mine, Darla, from She’s A Maineiac, was given the same interview, and it was fun to read. Best of luck!!! XOXO-Kasey

    1. That’s how I found Darla! And yes. She’s awesome.

      This may turn out to be nothing. Or it could be, as you said, an adventure.

      We’ll find out in two days.

      Thank you for the good wishes, Kasey.

  8. I think (a lot sometimes) that as long as what you write is genuine you don’t need to worry about a thing. Some will like you. Some will not. Either way…it’s all you and that is what matters most.

    1. Yeah. I really need to get over this whole wishing-every-person-in-the-world-would-like-me thing.

      Just doesn’t work that way.

      Thank you, Dawn. I’m sure you’re right.

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  10. Hi Matt!

    Your beautiful, authentic words touched me. Thank you!

    I just took the opportunity to ponder about that question myself. What would I do differently if I had a bigger audience? – And, I agree with you: Nothing.

    Great blog! I wish I had discovered it earlier!

    Much love,

  11. This is just beautiful and touches my core. I too started writing for me, and had to let go of the anxiety about having to be an “expert” to have something to say. I’m glad you were featured today, and I look forward to being the next notification that jingles your phone.

    1. I wish I’d been able to say hi when I first got the notification. It’s been a wild week.

      Appreciate you note so much.

  12. I just happened on this blog prob because of the featured name, but not knowing what to expect. I too have a child (although grown) who seems oblivious to my presence. Her father left me when she was five. Alone, it is hard to feel purpose, many times it feels like I would not even be missed at all if I weren’t around. Yes, I have friends and things to do. However my housekeeping, cooking and all the rest just don’t have meaning like they once did. I was feeling extremely depressed but when I read that you feel like that too suddenly I felt understood in a way I haven’t been in many years, so thank you. I now feel like I can get through another lonely night. No motivation to do the small but significant things needed doesn’t feel as weird as it did prior to reading your blog. Thanks.

    1. Thank you so much, Lew. There are so many people out in the world feeling the same things. Critical that we realize we’re not alone.

  13. thanks for being honest…. the blogosphere really needs bloggers like you… I love the candidness….nice interview on Wp which is why i am here.. take care and keep writing

    1. Thank you, sir! Very nice of you to say.

      I don’t see what the point in dishonesty would be. Would hold me back and be worthless for everyone else.

      Appreciate this note very much.

    1. Thank you so much for the opportunity, OM. I’m really looking forward to participating.

      I’m still formulating ideas. Look forward to sharing the posts with your readers.

  14. Glad I found you from the feature. Here are just a few kind words from another person who has come to terms with being afraid a lot—Don’t change a thing… you are truly a gem and pretty darn fantastic.

  15. As everyone here has said, your blog is truly inspiring and meaningful and touching. I’m so glad they featured you, and just a bit disappointed in myself for not having found you on my own, sooner.
    I, too, started blogging to work out some things – for me it was anxiety, fear, stress, mostly from within. I can relate to those feelings you had about wanting to share your journalled thoughts; my therapist discovered I like to write, need to write, and encouraged me to get back to it and as I did, i thought, “I need to share this with someone.”
    Your spirit and humanity is I think what will continue to pull people in and your frankness allows all that to shine. But you’re totally right – at the end of the day, you are writing for you, so don’t think about the people who may or may not be reading when you’re writing something. Just write! People will continue to love it, I’m sure.

    1. You’re so right. I never cared in the beginning. But as time goes on I always wonder what people are thinking.

      Appreciate you being part of this. Thank you.

  16. I’m a new follower after reading your feature with “How to Choose the Perfect Blog Name.” I recently posted a blog titled “Wifey” that struck a cord with over 2,000 viewers in one day and though it was exciting it scared the crap out of me. My usual read is 40 views per day so you can imagine the shock! I thought your feature was honest and unapologetic which is why this single, black woman with no kids could find it interesting and want to follow along. Cheers to being unapologetically you!

    1. Can’t thank you enough for being here, for saying hi, and for the cheers.

      It’s awesome when one of your posts takes off organically like that. That’s only happened to me once.

      Congratulations on writing something that powerful. Would you please drop a link here to that post so others can see it, myself included?

  17. I happened upon your blog because of your feature. When I stumble across new blogs, I always do the same thing; scroll manicly down the page until something catches my eye. When doing so on your blog… BAM!! A photo of Eminem, my favorite artist… Immediately a reason to start reading.

    Great stuff, you have a good grasp of “who you are” which is hard to find in many blogs.
    I look forward to reading more

    1. Thank you for taking time to tell me this. Really appreciate it.

      I was pretty nervous about the new eyeballs. It’s worked out fine, so far.

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  19. I’m a newbie to your blog and only just starting to read through some of your posts but very much enjoying your writing, your honesty about your world and life in general. I think your son has a wonderful father to look up to. Looking forward to reading more. 🙂

    1. Thank you very much!

      I’m always trying to get better at everything. I hope I can be what that little boy needs me to be. He’s a good kid.

      I really appreciate you checking some of these posts out and taking the time to write and say nice things.

      Seriously. Thank you. I’m glad you’re here. 🙂

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Matt Fray

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