Today started off as one of those days where for a couple of hours I couldn’t get my brain out of second gear. First gear is barely enough to get out of bed and accomplish Activities of Daily Living (a phrase I learned from my psychiatrist recently talking about my need to drop one of my antidepressants). I had enough brainpower to safely drive to my morning errands, but not enough to write.
When I got home I sat in front of my “happy light” (a lamp to help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder, S.A.D.) I got out my journal and started writing “Morning Pages” by hand. My writer friends recommended this as a way of connecting one’s subconscious to one’s fingers, and make concrete whatever potentially interesting ideas might be floating around hidden below conscious perception. Mine usually start off as diary entries, and in the past I viewed that as gunk that wasn’t contributing to the “real purpose” of getting subconscious thoughts out in plain view. But this morning I realized that I could look at this as getting that “gunk” out of the way to allow the more interesting stuff out.
After that, I still wasn’t getting any story-related ideas onto the page. All I could think about is how, at the moment, I’m facing about a half-dozen story questions I have to answer before I can summarize the ending of my WIP as part of a synopsis that in theory I’m supposed to submit to my critique group next Tuesday. I have a list of story questions to answer (about 100 in all, for the full novel) and a few alternatives to each, but some alternatives for one don’t fit with some alternatives for others. I decided that what I need to do is look at the story questions and their alternatives in a different way: outline a few different endings, each listing which alternatives lead to that ending. It’s as though story questions and their multiple possible answers are two columns in a table; in essence, I had been focusing on story questions separately, when I should have been focusing on answers to those questions.
That lead to a realization that I was doing meta-meta-storywriting. “Meta” is a prefix that comes from a Greek word for “beyond” but which in Computing has come to mean “a ‘higher’ level that comments on or analyzes a ‘lower’ level of the same kind of thing.” So for data, like an image, there is meta-data, information about that image, like geotags and date it was created. Storywriting is the thing that matters most in the long run. Various kinds of writing preparation, like outlines, worldbuilding, and character sketches are meta-storywriting: writing about the storywriting. Planning how to do the meta-storywriting is meta-meta-storywriting.
So this morning I was two levels removed from what most people think of as writing, but it’s all part of the process a writer has to follow.