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This post has been a long time coming. I’ve been fighting against it for a while, but it looks like time has won. I have to put Metabook on hiatus. Despair not! It’s not done, it’s just taking a different form for the time being.
You see, I’m running yet another blog, a blog about being a freelance writer. During the course of my freelancing, I got offered a permanent position. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop freelancing, but it does mean that I’ll be able to afford a few luxuries, like meat and hair conditioner. Unfortunately, it also means that I need to clear out my schedule a bit, or I’m going to go insane. Ironically, I’m just running out of hours in the day to write. I can’t physically press the keys on this keyboard fast enough.
This means that, while the posts on this site are irregular at best, they’re going to be downright non-existent for a little while. “What will live here?” you ask. Well, every new story I write is going to find a home here. The links to my Metabook research are going to go here.
Oh, what? Right, I said that was done for now. The writing is, yes, but the interviews will continue. MB has always been about the process of writing a book about writing a book. Right now, that means taking time away from writing that book. However, I still need to gather information. So, I’ll be posting these interviews on YouTube. Here’s a list of them:
It looks a bit stumpy, but it will continue to grow as I up-date it. If you’re going to miss me, then you can find me here:
You see, there’s really no shortage of my gibbering. I can’t wait to get back to this project. Hopefully by then, I’ll be a little wiser, a little better informed, and a little less like a chicken with no head.
The thing about an on-going project like this, with an absolute record, is that it will change. All projects do, but here, you will see the seams. I’ve marked them in bold and pasted them with care. There’s nothing to hide, so there’s nothing to redeem me. I approached this with all the objectivity I could muster under the circumstances, but I’ve realized that this project is me. That’s the thing about a blog; it’s alive. I could try, from day to day, to disguise that fact, but you will see what I’m thinking through it all. You’ll read my thoughts, and, for those of you that are sensitive to this sort of thing, you’ll see me. So, I might as well embrace that fact.
I was watching Doctor Who today. I’m not a huge fan of Series 7; it requires some suspension of disbelief to truly enjoy. It’s a little too predictable, a little too in love with itself. That’s fine, though, because so, so many people are. It follows the traditional Conan Doyle method of mystery writing. That is, it gives you tid-bits of information, while leaving out the important bits. However, if you know the tropes well enough, then you can read the story. “Spoilers”, as our dear River Song would say. Ironically, the better you are at telling stories, the more likely you are to not be able to predict the ending. When you write books or tell stories, you slowly learn to see the narrative possibilities split off from each other into infinitum. What can a single symbol mean? Look up “Ankh” on Google. Remember, also, that the Ankh is metonymy for entire cultures and many philosophies besides. Now, look at a pen, a bag or a monitor. There’s potential unbridled in everything we see, if we look hard enough.
Given that range of possibility, the hardest thing for you to do, as I said last entry, will be to temper that potential. In the process, though, you’ve got to think about what it means. You see, while I make jokes about the usefulness of my English degree and others may scoff at its practical value, there’s something you must realize. The word is powerful. It’s not just written. Video games, music, movies, ads and comments; textbooks, reviews, novels, short-stories and manuals: they all contain the gift of narrative. They’re all forms of communication. They are, in essence, what we do as writers. An English degree may be a precarious thing on its own, but combined with a little knowledge, it’s a powerful tool.
So, think, what are you going to do? Be very careful. Through narrative, we teach people how to love. How to laugh. How to deal with trauma. How to approach pain. When to end a life. How to take one. How to use toasters and on which side the butter goes. We also let them know how it lands. Yet, you’re thinking this is hyperbole. People experience life and learn from that. Of course they do! That’s where our experience comes from, too.
What if you don’t know? What if you have to Google it? What if you’re reading a review? How about if you’re unsure about something? Have you ever been on the fence about something and been influenced by a good story? Have you ever captured a heart, made a friend or fallen in love through a story? With a story? If you’re on my blog, then I presume you like writing and reading; so, I’m probably preaching to the choir. I sure hope so, because what we write matters. How we write about things, doubly so.
When I watch the News or read an opinion piece, I can feel how they want me to feel. I know when they’re being alarmist; I can tell when they’re placating me. Not everyone can, though. More frightening, I still feel, a little bit, the way they want me to. Yes, there is an irony here, but I don’t want to scare you or stop you from writing your thoughts. Quite the opposite, I want you to write as much as you can. I also want you to think about what it means and what it can do. I want you to be okay with that. Because, if it’s written and read well enough, then you will change someone’s world. Just a little bit.
That’s why I love Doctor Who. The world is a terrifying place. Looking outside, there are forces and technologies at work that I can’t begin to fully understand. There are political intrigues and personal connections holding the world together and tearing it apart. There are stories and dreams that are horrible and false, beautiful and tragic, that run and define people’s lives. We’re approaching a time unprecedented; we are barrelling toward a future that no one person fully understands. Put your hand on the canvas of the world and you can feel the vibrations of it all. Society… the universe is a moving, living, shaping, wriggling thing. It’s absolutely terrifying, and we are such small, powerless, absolutely insignificant things.
Yet, we can alter things, send shock-waves through existence. We don’t have to, and we should consider why we do, but we can. Oh God, can we. Terrible and benevolent, we are.
What is it that I love about Doctor Who? What is its message? When it’s being created, by a writer mind you, and being watched, by us, what is it trying to tell us? Be brave. Don’t be afraid. Yes, the world is an Eldritch thing: an unspeakably complex, infinitely confounding thing, but that’s okay. We’ve got science. We’ve got words. We’ve got stories. Even if you’re afraid, especially when you’re afraid, we’ve got courage.
It can be hard to find work as a writer. It’s more difficult still to find what you want to say. It is infinitely more difficult than even that to maintain your integrity, your standards, in the face of everything. Sometimes you won’t. Sometimes, you’ll be true. Sometimes, you’ll sell out. Sometimes, it’ll be to feed your kids; sometimes, it’ll be to feed your ego. You will fail. But, that’s okay. It really is. You can learn from that. You can change things. You can count on the fact that another writer, of equal skill, exists that will oppose your words. Not all stories have happy endings. Not all of them have to.
So, don’t be afraid: write.
Word Count: 3966
End Chapter 1
However, the problem with rolling a ball is that, first, you’ve got to decide where you want it to go. So, in the case of this project, I took some time to gather some data and get a rough idea where I should throw it. You see, when I first described this project to some of my peers, I got three reactions:
Why do you have to meta everything?
Why don’t you just write a book?
What are you going on about?
Sometimes, I would get them all at once. Then, once I’d posted the opening paragraphs, I had to ask myself the same questions. Although I had been thinking about them since the inception of the idea, answering them with something approaching tangibility and cogency seemed beyond my grasp. So, I did some thinking.
First of all, if you got a chance to read my break-down of meta, then you’ll know that almost everything is already meta. Meta is a just a perspective you can use to make sense of a phenomenon that manifests from the culmination of the mechanical interaction effects of related systems. Geeze, that’s a mouth-full and not altogether coherent. Okay, if you envision the system you’re looking at as a tower with each set of systems (ideas, rules, mechanics, social graces, etc) supporting the ones above it, then using a meta-perspective is just looking down to see what the hell is holding you up.
I kind of addressed the book-thing already, but I wasn’t very clear. So, to muddy the waters further, I’m going to use a metaphor to explain what I mean. To me, a well-written book is a unified thing. Many of its components flow into each other. Now, that’s not always true, because we have things like anthologies and serials, magazine columns and diaries. These things are pretty close to identical reflections of what I’m doing here, the diary more than most, because what’s really important in this work is the spaces in between my posts. The posts are important, yes, but the blank spots in time impart unique meanings themselves. Since going back and editing would damage the integrity of the whole project, the author is an evolving process, as well. I’m sure there’s going to come a time when I’ll want to go back and rip all the words off the screen (I’ve hit that point already in some cases), but the book must go on. So yeah, this is a diary whose only special features are its topic and the fact that you get to read and comment on it. That being said, have you ever read a diary and looked at the gap between two dates and thought, “Hmm… that looks significant,” but not been able to nail down why?
If we could go into a little poetry analysis for a second, we might be able to make this idea a little more concrete. Without much of a segue, I’m a huge Doctor Who fan. Someday, I might have to gush about how brilliant and flexible the structure of the idea is, but what’s important here is that I also listen to Trock (Time Lord Rock). One day not so long ago, I was listening to An Awful Lot of Running by Chameleon Circuit… Okay, let’s be honest here… I was singing it while waiting for the bus, when I got to the lines:
He is like fire
Burning through time…
Now, music and poetry are technically different things, but they’re related enough to lend themselves to being analysed along similar lines. The difference here, though, is that lyrics don’t come with punctuation marks. Most of the time, this isn’t a problem. Context usually gives you enough information to figure out how you would write the phrase. However, in the case of these lines, it’s not clear whether the pause after “fire” is the result of the need for a comma or because of the rhythm of the music. So, you end up with a set of postulate phrases and no way to determine which one is the right one. In this case, the lack of specificity asks you to consider all possible interpretations. He could be like fire, and also burning through time. He could be like fire and literally burning time. He could be like a fire burning through time. There are more, but you get the point.
The space between these two phrases is left undefined, but, when we hear them, we make sense of them through it. Similarly, the space between posts is a verdant land where any number of burning Time Lords in need of a good soak may pop up. A book provides the illusion of the unity of time by filling in the punctuation for us. Sure, you may have written that introduction three months before you ever touched the first paragraph, but, in the world crafted and edited by the book, that time doesn’t exist. The book is a process that is made to seem holistic, like it just popped fully-formed out of mid-air. The content of that book may not reflect that. In fact, it may be much like this project, but by compiling and concentrating it in one place and time, it loses the slippery free-form of an on-going process. Or, at least, something that has the illusion of an on-going process. I’m not about to go into the experiential difference, because I’m not sure one even exists.
Here, I’m talking about how the reader experiences the whole thing. As someone who writes, that’s my primary concern. Yes, the whole point of writing this is to work through the process of creation, but, for me, the point of creation is communication. If the very act of putting my work in a book changes how my reader approaches it, if just picking it up as a book alters how you approach it, then that’s something I’m going to want to know about. It may be a subtle difference, but small differences build into each other over time. So, I guess, being clearly understood is what I’m going on about (Iiiiirony!).
Word Count: 1605
The world is changing. That’s sort of a trite thing to say, so let’s get a little more specific.
The world of literature is changing. Once upon a time, if you wanted to create something for the world to read, then you’d have to publish it on paper and disseminate it through physical copies. Now, though, if I want to make something available to be read, all I have to do is create a blog, bang out a few choice sentences, hit send and it’s just waiting for the world to see it. That doesn’t mean the world WILL see it, but that’s another story. However, there’s still something to books that makes them stand apart from blogs. By the same token, there are some things unique about blogs that make them entirely different types of experiences.
That may sound simple, but it leaves a lot unanswered. What are the differences? What do they imply? Are they irreconcilable? In reconciling them, would we simply create something new? That’s kind of what this whole project is about.
You see, I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I’ve got no experience in the matter. It’s hard to find the time, ideas, and publishers to put a book together. However, I’ve sure as heck run a blog. So, I want to write a blog about writing a book. The trick is, though, that the blog is the book. I’m going to collect the pieces of it and make it into something continuous. That’s not saying that blogs lack continuity, but there’s something special about a book. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. Everything in it is usually related to everything else, so all the pieces fit together. I know it’s printed on paper, but we’re still dealing with another medium. Blogs are continuous literary objects that evolve through time. They’re edited on-the-fly, so you can’t always go back and change things, because they’ve already come, been read and gone in the mind of the readers.
I want to marry these two concepts here to see what they can learn from each other. I want to see if this can be made into a book and, along the way, I’ll let you know what I find out. I’ll collect all the pieces together, timed and dated, and put them on their own page. That way, you can read them easily in a continuous fashion, since blogs always put the newest entry at the top and go backwards as you work your way down.
I’ll also be keeping a running tally of the word-count, so I know how long this has been going. I’ll find a way to turn the word-count into a page-count and let you know how long the book is. Then, maybe that’ll let us know when I should stop. That’ll give us our end and let me know what I should be writing about at the time.
Blogs happen over time, so feel free to leave your comments and ideas. If I end up using an idea, then I’ll integrate the comment into the page-text. So, you can see the evolving blog changing, even as the collection of posts on the page makes them more rigid and coherent.
You’ve probably also noticed that a book doesn’t include links. Sure, it includes pictures and references, but they’re not just a click away. I’m sure that will play a role, as well.
Alright, without further ado, let’s get this ball rolling.
Word Count: 582