Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Gloomy Day at the Keyboard

Warning: I'm about to get melodramatic!

But I always do that, don't I? :D

Anyway, I think I'm just getting used to the fact that self-doubt never really goes away. It doesn't matter how many books I've published that nobody reads, how many useless degrees I've collected, or even how well-read I am, I'm always going to doubt my abilities as a writer.

That's kind of depressing, isn't it?

I had one of THOSE kind of days yesterday. See, now that I'm off of work, I expect a lot more of myself, creativity wise. The past few days I've been reading through my novel manuscript making notes for myself as to what to change and how to go about this enormous task of revising it. I took a step back from my work in the afternoon and just felt this immense lull of doubt, this urge to quit.

This sucks, Katie.

And, well, YEAH, it does suck. My first draft is shitty. But aren't most first drafts? Isn't that what I teach my students, that being a writer ISN'T about bursts of brilliance but perserverance, hard work, sweat, and, well, tears. Gwahhhhh.

But it's hard to wrap the head around sometimes, when you're knee deep in bad sentences and shallow characters.

For some reason, yesterday, I just couldn't get out of my funk.

Today's a new day. I slashed my novel up, cut out that 10% of it that really, really sucked. I started working on a new short story. I thought about poems. I spent a lot of time reading.

Each day's a struggle. Self-doubt never goes away. In fact, I think, for me, anyway, it's getting more intense because I expect more of myself now than I did, oh, say, 2009 when I started this blog. I wonder how much other writers struggle with this. Maybe it's just something we don't talk about. But anyway, I like being naked, so here I am, talking about it.

Being a writer is damn hard work, both mentally and emotionally. It comes with these crazy ups and downs, and certainly, no guarantees. Sometimes, being a writer really really sucks, and sometimes I think about throwing in the towel and picking up a more reasonable passion, like surfing Pinterest and making crafty do-dads all day. :-P


I'll get through this funk, though. I always do!

Friday, December 13, 2013

How Do You "Review?"

Katie the Critic is up to no good!
So a friend of mine asked me about how to write a poetry book review. Damned if I know! That's not a very good response, is it? So here's a nice blog post about my own process:

I don't think I ever learned a proper way to write book reviews -- I taught myself to do it, and it's a craft I'm still trying to hone. If you're wanting to write reviews, I think a good place to start is to read a bunch of them. I like the LARB.  Of course, writing a good review isn't all about emulating another person's style, but it's a good way to kind of get a feel for the genre -- and yes, book reviews are their own genre (at least I like to think so).

I start by reading the book just for the sheer enjoyment of it, cover to cover. Some people like to read poetry books a bit here and a bit there, but when you're writing a review, you're trying to get a sense of the whole, the book's argument. So you'll need to experience it as such.

Once I've read it through, I'll take a little breaksie. Sometimes that break is a day. Sometimes it's a week. But I need to have some time to muse and think about the poems and how they connect with one another. I can't just read a book and then go to my computer and type. I'm a reflecter, so, I need to reflect.

I read the book through a second time, but on this read through, I'm a bit more purposeful. I'm on the lookout for poems or phrases that stick out. I'm armed with post-it notes and highlighters. I'm reading the book in terms of something specific, with some sort of driving question. For example, with my most recent review, I wanted to think about the poet's use of metaphor. In the past, I've looked at how a poet deals with gender, how their work fits into the revisionist mythmaking tradition, how the poet represents culture. But there should be some sort of driving question about craft/content/theory. Figuring that out is probably the toughest part of writing a book review. Then I'll dogear pieces that support my argument about the text's use of craft.

My next step is to piece everything together. I'll usually pick two or three poems to offer a close reading of (ok, I usually pick like ten poems that I fall in love with, and then I have to narrow it down), and the rest I just pick out phrases here and there. Then, I actually write the review. Because I've already done a lot of the mental work, it's usually pretty speedy (maybe two days, an hour or so each sitting).

Revising for me is typically cutting things out because I'm a bad girl and go over word limits.

Then, polishing. I have to read my piece out loud to make sure it "sounds" good -- and yes, I look crazy doing this, but it's typically just me and the cats here in my home office so it's 'kay.

I send off to editor. I bite fingernails, thinking that editor will hate it, thinking that editor will tell me my review writing days are over.

Editor never says that.

And life goes on.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

End of the Semester "Now What?" Feeling



I know. I've been a punk lately.

I've been blogging, yes, just not here. Booo me.

Today marks the beginning of my vacation state of mind. It also marks the beginning of delving back into my crazies and thinking of myself as a writer again. Gone are the burdens of wearing pants three days out of the week! I have a month off from work, and I'm determined to make headway on my novel.

I know, I know, eyes are a'rollin' -- you always say you're going to work on your novel, Katie!

But you know what? Since I've last blogged, I've cranked out a first draft of my first novel X-D That's right, that's right, that's right. My plans are to revise it for the next six or so months, so by the time summer rolls around, I'll have another submittable manuscript in my hands. It's an entirely new project, and I'm a little excited about it. 

It feels eerily strange to have time to myself now, to not have a slough of student emails to answer, an enormous stack of papers to grade, though the expectation to actually get creative work done is, I'd say, equally stressful. But it's a good stress, right? Err... sure, keep telling yourself that.

In other Katie news, I'm now getting paid to blog over at Inside Higher Ed. My first post just went live today. I'm going to be covering poetry book review assignments. Why not mosey on over and take a looksie? Of course, because I love you, I'll still be givin' it away for free over here on my blogspot though :-) :-) :-)