Tuesday, June 17, 2003

 The Pitfall of Metawriting 

1.) Just Don't Do It

Part of what motivates me to maintain this blog is merely knowing that it is here and regarding it as a conscience-lever for prying thoughts from my head. However, at the same time I find myself fearful that I'll end up not really saying much of substance, but rather writing more about the process (especially the difficulty) of writing. Metawriting, if you will. It's not so much that I don't think of anything else worthwhile in the course of a day, nor come across something worth emphasizing or illustrating. I suppose it comes down to my ingrained habit of rationing my time, and deciding that I will only budget a certain amount of time for expressing a thought. And so, when I do express that thought, the desire is that I get it "right" the first time, hastily if need be, since I don't want to waste time editing, rephrasing, rejiggering, and worst of all, deleting chunks of text that may take several precious minutes to write.

At that point the realist (or pessimist?) in me comes out, and says, "You're not going to be able to say anything all that intricate, cogent or eloquent in 20-25 minutes, so just cough up some more self-deprecating patter and move on to the next distraction." OK, so that sounds a bit harsher than what I'm really thinking, but you get the idea: that my inner critic is already forcing me into writing something I'm not all that happy about, just for the sake of getting it out on the site.

Very well then. As Dieter would say, this conversation has become tedious.

2.) Kicked Out

Cindy had her women's group meeting tonight at our house. She's hosted a few of these meetings, and when she does, I as a male am not allowed in. On other occasions that hasn't been much of a problem since I don't get home from work until late-ish anyway, and the meeting usually wraps up by that time. But today I worked from home, so when 6pm rolled around I had to make myself scarce and find someplace else to go on a weeknight. That turned out to be a blessing, and I spent a fair amount of time strolling around downtown Santa Cruz. It made me realize I should do that far more often than just for women's group meetings. Yep, I determined that I need some of that much-talked-about "me time".

I stopped at Bookshop Santa Cruz and picked up a couple new books, one on writing (The Writer's Mentor) and a humor book by Mike Nelson (Mind Over Matters). I'll update here on how these read, but the writing book is unique for me in that it is the first book I've bought (and hopefully the last) on the very topic of writing. I really hope I don't need to buy and read many books on writing, since that topic strays way too close to "metawriting", which I promised myself I would neither need nor desire to spend time doing. Sure, I can use some instruction and guidance, and when talking amongst writers the topic is inevitable; but I would hope that I spend more time actually writing instead of reading about writing, or even writing about writing.

Years ago I made the same observation about myself with regard to climbing, my obsession of old. I came to notice how many times I bought books on climbing, or renewed my climbing mag subscriptions. It seemed silly for someone like me to spend so much time thinking or reading about climbing, when actually going to the gym or out to the boulders was so much more satisfying. The memory of that experience stays with me even now, and I can easily see how that habit of vicarious enthrallment could carry over into writing. This blogging exercise is about flexing that cognitive muscle that I've let atrophy for so many years -- and keeping me away from whiling the hours at messageboards, where I spend too much time merely marveling at the expressiveness of others' instead of honing my own ability. I'm not sure I really move towards that stated end if I also gaze too long into the writer's mirror.

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