I have a sneaking suspicion that my Dad wanted to be a writer.
First of all, he’s fantastic at it. I have read letters, cards, and ephemera that my dad has scrawled in his typical caps-lock style for years, and his contributions are always witty, smart, and descriptive. This may seem like a small thing, as I thought when I was growing up – until I realized that not everyone’s Dad writes something in the card. Some dads just write their name.
Second of all, he’s told me. So I’m no Sherlock Holmes, delving into my family’s past. Shoot – Holmes never looked into his own family’s past. Who did? Nothing’s coming to mind. Maybe Poirot did, but I haven’t read any Agatha Christie. There’s Michael Bluth, I guess. But I don’t want to be Michael Bluth. I guess I’m a non-canonical Sherlock Holmes delving into my own family’s past. Dad told me he wanted to write. He wrote a couple television scripts for a class, and sometimes he tells me an idea he has for a novel that he won’t be prodded to write.
For this reason (not this reason alone, I have many shoddy reasons for wanting to be a writer) I have always wanted to write something that my Dad likes. I suppose it’s something like Dad-written-by-proxy. And I’m the proxy. Since I was a kid, I’d hand my Dad whatever I’d written, and I’d get some praise and a lot of red marks on my document, whatever it was. Here is a not-very-fair quote from an email that encapsulates this particular phenomenon: “Cute story – I just skimmed through it. A couple of typos (parents instead of parrots) and I noticed a couple of present/past tense issues.I gotta go back to work.”
When I finished writing my terrible first attempt at a novel that I wrote for my senior thesis, I remember my parents, and my Dad in particular, being the first people I wanted to read it. I even dedicated it to them. I had this fear of giving it to them, also, because I know they had just put me through college for creative writing, and my output was fine but nothing on the par of a novel. I can’t imagine what it’s like to read your son’s prose when it’s what he wants to do for a living.
I’m not a hand-wringing “My Dad never says he is proud of me” type of person. I know for a fact that my Dad is proud of me. Because he has said it on at least 4 or 5 occasions. I also feel successful in many different modes of my life, partly because my Dad is interested in what I do. But I really, really want to write a book that my Dad would love to read. Which is difficult, because I don’t really write stories that my Dad would be interested in. I think my Dad’s favorite bit of my writing is the travel blog that I kept while I was studying abroad, and I’ve always felt like that was cheating. After all, he was already invested in the main character.
Last year, inspired by some kind of madness, I asked my whole family to read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace with me. All 4 of us bought the book – but only my Dad and I finished. I kept expecting him to put it down. I’d send him cheerleading e-mails. I’d work progress reports into brisk conversations. When we were in the same room together, though, we talked about it for ages. The brilliance, the patience, the mind-altering prose, the mind-numbing details, the god-damned footnotes. We were frustrated together and in awe together. It was some sort of magical.
I do not write anything like David Foster Wallace. Maybe for a sentence or two, but then I go back to my particular amalgamation of Stephen King by way of Jerry Spinelli inspired by Roald Dahl (this is the equivalent of a band you formed in your friend’s garage 2 weeks ago saying your stuff is like Radiohead meets the Strokes). But I was hoping that reading Infinite Jest would make my Dad like my writing more. And that barely makes sense at all.
Here’s the gist of it. Here’s the brass tax. The type of Dad I have is the type who reads the stories I send him in emails. He’s the type of Dad who puts down what he was reading and picks up an 1,100 page book, just because his son asks him to. He’s the type of Dad who supports his son’s collegiate dream of going to school for creative writing 100 percent (not just emotionally. He paid for it. Well, both my parents did. But this is a father’s day post). I have a Dad who loves me, wants me to do what I want to do, and who talks to me about anything when I ask him to.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thanks for everything you do.
P.S. Someday, I’m going to write something you love. And not just because you love me.
I do the majority of my writing these days on the weekend, in Borders, where the wi-fi is fast (although I really don’t need wi-fi) and the coffee is terrible, because no one drinks coffee here, so it’s all brewed in the morning.
It’s weird to live in a city where no one drinks coffee. It’s also weird to write on my tiny computer with my outlines strewn around me, rather than on a bigger computer with my outlines taped to the wall.
I hate being an outline writer. Maybe that’s why short fiction has been so fun and distracting lately.
The best thing about writing on the weekend and not every day is I write for a long time without (much) distraction because I build up lots of story over the course of the week. I even jot details down sometimes on slips of paper that I eventually lose. It’s like I’m filling up a bucket with word water over the week and then I spill it all out on weekends onto my computer in a non-conductive way.
It makes me feel productive, even though if I could manage to write in short bursts over the course of the week, I would probably get the same amount done.
Anyway. That’s all. Time to write.