Meta-writing and language conflict

2018-06-02 @Blog

Once again I let the habit of writing daily slip - a habit that’s meant to reinforce writing abilities and creativity, irrespective of how miserable the day’s output may appear. I’ve extrapolated similar advice across a number of blog writers - write daily even if you produce mostly garbage. (Don’t necessarily publish.) Through practice you will eventually create the flow for quality content. One blogger may suggest setting a tangible goal of two pages of questionable content daily. Another suggests writing nonstop for some predetermined time frame. Ultimately, no combination of these approaches limits you as to how much you can produce on any given day. The advice aims only to set a lower bound. Seems palatable.

Yours truly has not produced something like that for some time… mostly due to quality control directives imposed by no one. I’ve recognized the need to write a minimum amount of content, but neglected to emphasize the simple act of writing over quality. In most cases I have struggled to establish a theme for initiating a post.

That’s not to say that I lack topics at my disposal. I have dozens in the backlog, accumulated over time through idea gathering. But as I set myself to write, I’m rarely predisposed to any topic in particular. The majority require some research and deeper introspection, or at least a few hours of focused brainstorming before I can begin to craft content even.

I could argue that simpler introspection doesn’t require any premeditation. Blogging, in a traditional sense, seems to suggest a simpler narrative or a rant of daily observations, experiences, or inequities. Sometimes I succeed in producing that sort of content. Some of it doesn’t turn out poorly either, insofar as my capacity to entertain myself.

And yet most writing I feel the yearning to pursue involves a scale of greater complexity, a notion entirely inhibiting to the task of producing a daily core dump of mental backlog.

The predicament causes me to continuously resort to meta-writing. I write not about my preferred topic but the difficulty in the process. Soon I’ll struggle to sustain the level of meta-writing I deem acceptable and will have to somehow elevate the meta coefficient, increasing the level of abstraction: meta2-writing. I don’t suppose there is a limit. Any metan-writing is possible, a fact easily provable by induction. [Update: My meta-writing definition doesn’t completely respect the official, but I’ll keep it. In fact, I was unaware the term officially existed until after the first draft.]

The environment I create around writing plays a significant role. I should avoid writing initial drafts on my laptop at all cost. I can disable internet access in the firewall, occupy the entire screen with the text editor, but I’ll still find means of distraction. I can open a new terminal and play with Lisp code, explore an already opened browser tab, peruse endless archives of offline notes, or discover novel ways of automating some recent task in Linux.

The paper notebook has been a viable option for some time, but more so when I have a rough idea behind the topic. In such a case I can proceed at slowly penning word by word, emotion after emotion, enforcing patience and care.

Now when I lack as much as a clue on what to write, I feel the need to stream a large quantity of noise before I can even hope to arrive at some degree of novelty. A paper notebook cannot satisfy the required mechanical requirements of writing at a sufficient speed.

When feeling creatively cornered, I tether a small Bluetooth keyboard with my 4-inch screen Android phone, open the Google Documents application, and simply type, in a way that I’m prohibited not by words per minute, but by honesty alone. I find the keyboard more comfortable even than the laptop, and loath the smartphone experience sufficiently to consider exploring any background distractions. As I type in front of a tiny kitchen table, the phone rests against a candle, a small cup of coffee stands to the side, and no other distraction looms short of possibly the imposing 1979 Guide to the Theory of NP-Completeness by Garey and Johnson that caused me to arrive at an impasse sometime ago. A slight anomaly in the traveler’s toolkit, this is the sole paper book with which I travel.

The above present some technical and environmental considerations for the difficulties I make up in failing to write daily. However, I will highlight one other peculiarity, perhaps the fundamental, that I’ve struggled with for a long time in developing a writer’s identity.

In the process of writing daily that many writers swear by, the question of language doesn’t normally factor into the workflow. Typically one language best expresses the writer’s spoken and written voice, among polyglots even. I refer not to the ability of simply writing for the purpose of communication, but writing with sufficient quality to feel the language and publish.

I can produce written content in English that adequately expresses my thoughts and ideas, although in a rather formal manner. It facilitates the task, but doesn’t lend itself as the most natural and intimate language vehicle at my disposal. It doesn’t capture the full extent of my voice. My basic human thoughts and emotions (and strictly those) are better - more naturally expressed in Russian, by means of which I often journal those entries that I don’t intend to publish. It compensates where English lacks, and suffers where English prevails. This state of affairs wasn’t always the case, but presently the dilemma lies as such.

I also cultivated three other languages, which although lacking the depth to feel and interact with at an intimately powerful writer’s level, carry a strong enough presence to create an even greater linguistic imbalance. With respect to journaling, I utilize all languages, depending on the circumstances and my country of residence, although not necessarily at a publishable level.

If a single-language writer expects to write much superfluous content on a daily basis before starting to produce something of quality, how does someone like myself develop a writer’s voice while constantly inhibited by language collision?

I struggle to identify my priorities. I want to develop a strong writer’s voice in a language. And I want to maintain a strong connection with all of these languages. (I don’t even mention the abstract computational models or mathematics. All are languages in a formal sense.) Is it possible to carry out both missions while also constrained by time? The question drains energy and generates conflict. Time will ultimately settle priorities, I suppose.

I have read of various multi-language writers possessing a strong voice in each language. Most are constrained by two. Regretfully, I lack any information on their daily practices, how they maintained each language at a consistent level, how they developed their voices and practiced daily writing, and the extent of their other priorities. Were any writers burdened by a language identity conflict?


Questions, comments? Connect.