I do a lot of meta-writing. I write about my writing process. About half of my essays here on Medium are writing-related. I do not write and share these essays because I think I have the best writing advice. I do not write essays about writing because I think others should approach the craft in the same way that I do. Writing is a creative process, and much of the fun comes from building your style — from selecting words to figuring out a workflow.
I write these essays because sometimes those are the words that come out during my writing sessions.
Writing is a way of thinking for me, and often I need to think “aloud” about the writing process itself. These kinds of brain dump writing sessions happen several times a week. I write just about every morning (no, I am not going to tell you that you need to do the same). I would estimate that about one-third to half the time I am just brain-dumping — talking to myself on the screen. The rest of the days I end up writing something that becomes a draft of something else, or an essay that I eventually will share.
These meta-writing brain dump sessions have great utility to me. They serve two main purposes:
- Meta-writing helps me stay consistent with my writing practice when I do not feel like writing.
On days when I am tired or out of ideas, I just write some positive notes to myself. I remind myself how great it is that I sat down to write today. I write about how proud I am that I am staying consistent with my writing routine. Sometimes, I write less positive things — like how much I hate x, y, or z part of some writing project. Other times I just write about what is in front of me. Writing is writing even when you don’t share it.
I value consistency in my writing above all else. I trust that the more I write, the more I will improve. I also know that the more I write, the more I will create in the process. So, the days when I “don’t write anything useful” are incredibly important to me because they keep me going in my writing process. If I didn’t write on those days, I would quickly fall out of the writing routine. I highly recommend Joli Jensen’s book “Write No Matter What” if you’re looking for a deep dive on how to develop a consistent writing practice.
2. Meta-writing helps me generate new ideas I did not know I had.
Writing is an active process of working through thoughts and ideas. It turns out that on many days when I write just to get something down on the page, I come across an idea in my mind that I couldn’t see when it was just swirling around in my brain. I have to get the seedling idea down on paper before I can really see it. Oftentimes, these brain dump sessions lead to a simple idea, maybe a short post, or perhaps even a sentence I will use in another writing project.
Writing like this is almost like a scavenger hunt except you don’t know what you are looking for. You just keep looking, slowly and consistently, without judgment and see what you find. It’s a lot like spending time in nature — looking around and observing without much expectation, but rather a deep sense of calm.
Incidentally, this post (as you might be able to tell), came out of a meta-writing brain dump session this morning.
I started by writing about how well my morning writing routine was going.
I brainstormed some titles for a book I have been dreaming about writing for years.
I reminisced on the “show up and write” sessions I used to go to while working on my Ph.D.
I reminded myself that showing up to write, even if just for 15 minutes, is the best thing I can do to keep up my writing momentum.
I allowed myself the freedom to write whatever came out.
I wrote, “just show up and engage with the material, even if it’s meta-writing like this”.
And now here we are. How’s that for meta-meta-writing?