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My Metaverse

My Metaverse
By Amanda Kabak • Issue #10 • View online

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know (or even really care) what Meta is in terms of the platform formerly known as Facebook. But meta as a general concept has been a force in my life for most of the last decade. What is meta? In its original Greek, it means “among, with, or after,” but as a Latinate prefix, it means more like “describing a subject in a way that transcends its original limits or considering the subject itself as an object of reflection.” Okay … what does that mean?!
In my professional life, I spent a lot of time thinking about metadata. In short, metadata is information that describes information. :) To put it in more concrete terms, I might store the number 4.378 in my database, but taken alone, that number doesn’t mean much. But if I also tag that number with metadata like “Pump 1,” “Pressure,” “psi,” I start to have a good picture about what that number means. I might also associate other numbers with it, say 1.5 and 3.7 as acceptable low and high limits for that pump. Now I know even more, and I’d better run along and turn off that pump before it blows!
Okay, I’m back. In my creative life, things can get pretty meta as well. Consider what I call “metawriting.” Now, tons of metadata exists around words and literature; think of how books are broken down into categories and topics for card catalogs and keyword searches. Literature, LGBT, Women’s Issues are tags (or metadata) that describe a lot of what I write, but metawriting is different. Consider that metadata is data about data, so metawriting is writing about writing. I guess that could pertain to things like craft books or book reviews, but for me, it is part of my creative process. For every piece that I write, no matter how short, I end up with two stacks of pages, one labeled “Draft” and the other “Notes.”
Notes are where I work things out. I write to myself about my characters, about where I am in the story and where I need to go, about how badly I’ve screwed up this time. Actual examples of notes are:
“Wow, that was really terrible.”
“Okay, we’ve gone off the rails.”
“With Diane, what do we have to establish, and what’s at stake?” Then, literally in the next paragraph, “So what’s at stake for Diane?” Then, in the next paragraph, “All that said, if her security and sense of self and safety in the world is at stake, we need to establish how precious that is for her, how hard she’s worked and continues to work, and that all is not smooth sailing.”
“When we’re done with the dinner date, we’ve pretty much covered establishment and have a lot of balls in the air. [Literal bulleted list of balls for each character.]”
Scintillating, I know, but metawriting is the only way I can make it through my projects, especially my novels, and turn them into something actually crafted instead of vomited up on the page. Sometimes I come up with a brilliant idea when I’m on my morning run, but I sweat it out by the time I get back. I need to make these thoughts tangible before they become actionable for me.
Actual page of notes/metawriting!
Actual page of notes/metawriting!
In a strange twist, I’m writing a new novel while I have another that is still a couple drafts (a year?) away from being done. I thought I’d dip into that one today and give you a peak at a different work in progress from what I shared last month.
I wasn’t always so angry.
As a girl, I’d had a sweetness in me that hadn’t even been much of a lie. I’d been helpful and mostly happy and optimistic, though that last one had a desperate tinge to it I’d inherited from my parents. What was the point of all the chess-like moves they’d made if we didn’t live with the idea that good things would happen, especially in a cosmic way that had nothing (or at least very little) to do with our daily, mortal lives. Karma but so much more. Karma for immigrants, which was doubly potent. In college, I’d hid this nearly religious optimism under a jaded exterior but it came out of hiding with Helen and reached epic, hormone-engorged proportions after bringing our Devya into the world.
But now, I’m seething even when I wake up, dreams rife with frustrations leaving my dark face furrowed with deep frown lines. Even Helen’s calm, which has always been a lifeline, chafes. My love for her mirrors my breathing and the unconscious beating of my heart. It is steady and undeniable and largely automatic, and if I think about it too hard it stutters. Sometimes the skip is a gut punch of pure happiness, but other times I panic until the usual rhythm of it resumes. I keep both to myself, savoring one and trying (unsuccessfully) to deny the other.
This, I think, is marriage. Being married while angry is the same disaster-waiting-to-happen as driving in emotional distress, but there’s no one around to take away your keys. After a quarter century together—most of them legal only because we lived in Massachusetts—there’s no way out except permanently, which is terrifying. I don’t want to leave Helen, but sometimes trying to temper my rage around her so our relationship doesn’t get swept up as tinder to my fury is more than I’m capable of.
Sometimes I want some elevated comfort food for my eyes. A book that I can relax into without that much effort but isn’t pure pabulum. This month, I’m re(re)reading Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, which might be my favorite of his books. It centers around a murder investigation in Alaska, but it’s not our Alaska. In the book, Jews were granted a slice of the Alaska coastline after they were purged from the failed state of Israel in 1948. They’ve been there for sixty years and now are poised at the precipice of “The Reversion,” where control of the territory will be reclaimed by the US. Ultimately, the book is a noir murder mystery laced with Yiddish and peyot (side locks) and cell phones they call “shofars.” It’s a wild ride and just the thing for a fun and engaging read.
As always, I’m still loving any ratings or reviews for my books. A simple click on a star even without a review blurb goes along way.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Amanda Kabak

Writer of software and literature - Novels: UPENDED and THE MATHEMATICS OF CHANGE. Denizen of the in-between. In ardent pursuit of making an impact.

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