• Whither My Jockstrap?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Rants & Raves     Comments 12 comments
    Aug
    17

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the differences between “creative” writing and book reviewing, but first I should address the elephant in the room. Good day, elephant; you represent the fact that I haven’t written a legitimate blog post since May 10. Much like my good friend acquaintance Nate, my own blog contains little evidence these days of my presence, but is instead a whirlwind of Jennas, Katies, and Michelles.

    Which is not so bad. Nobody besides myself has been wondering “Where the hell is Duhr,” and Jenna, Katie, Michelle, et aliae, have provided, and will continue to provide, fresh, interesting and amusing content.

    But just like Jenna wrote about yesterday, I feel like I’ve lost my writing voice. And my blogging voice (my bloice). In the past couple of months I’ve sat down dozens of times intending to write a post welcoming myself back to the blog, but no matter how hard I strain, the only thing that comes out is a little bit of pee.

    And it’s not just blogging. Outside of Including book reviews, I haven’t written anything “creative” for months. Which brings me back to my point. If I even *&$&%$ have one.

    I used to write fiction all the time occasionally rarely almost never but enough to get by. (Yes, I realize I am overusing the strikethrough function. It’s a character flaw.) But that almost never is now totally never. I’m talking nunca. Mad jamas. I haven’t finished a short story in … man, I can’t even say. The last time it happened, Anna Nicole Smith called to congratulate me.

    Meanwhile, I’m editing and publishing some genuinely exciting work at Fringe Magazine and the Texas Observer, reviewing some riveting new novels and story collections, and reading excellent new work from WriteByNighters. My life is consumed with new writing produced by others. It’s fulfilling, it’s challenging, it’s so much better than parking other people’s SUVs or mopping up hurl at a bar on East 6th here in Austin.

    But does it keep me from getting in the game?

    Sometimes I feel like the equipment manager of the football team. I’m useful. I squirt water into the players’ mouths when they come off the field, I tie their shoes during timeouts, I hand them towels when they step out of the shower. But while they dry off, I stare at their dongs and wish my own were bigger.

    So, what am I talking about here? Am I saying that as I go deeper and deeper into editing and criticism I become less and less of a writer? Is reading and editing this much new work somehow sapping my motivation to create my own? Do I spend so much time laundering other jockstraps that my boys are safe without one?

    Editors and book reviewers, how do you strike a balance between championing (or Dale Pecking) the writing of others and creating your own fresh work? Does editing/critiquing–outside of time-management issues–ever keep you from producing your own writing?

    And since I don’t want to end a blog post with six straight questions, here’s a declarative sentence.

     

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    Nate St. Pierre

    I finally got my sorry butt in gear and did something about it. I now write for myself at http://natestpierre.me.

    Three posts, baby! There may or may not be more coming.

    Brad Green

    It’s hard, man. Yes, editing keeps me from my own work sometimes. A lot of times. But it’s also a fuel. When a great story comes across the pike at PANK or Dirty Noir, I find my hands tightening over the keyboard in a fit of jealousy. Why didn’t I write that? Almost always that leads to me actually writing something. I’m eternally grateful to be made jealous. The larger question is whether publishing these short works (or long) matters or not. I don’t have an answer for that. One can write a story, but getting people to read it… Read more »

    David Duhr

    Thanks Brad. I often get that “Why didn’t I write that?” feeling … I just need to find a way to make the jump from there to the keyboard. I’m glad it happens for you. (Note: The Anna Nicole Smith thing is just a tasteless joke. I wanted to name someone who’s been dead a few years, and someone who doesn’t make you think of reading/writing. Which she doesn’t.) You’re right, too, in that getting people to read these works is one of the hardest parts. Christ, think of how much time you spend each week on Twitter/Facebook just sending… Read more »

    Jenna

    You just hit on a point that’s been bothering me for a while. There’s so much literary noise in the world that writers without big names have to push and shove to get heard. I’m thinking of creating a sub-reddit or something where writers, especially folks new to the business, will be encouraged to share their work and *actively* review other writers’ works. I’m sad to say that I’m guilty of mostly reading works by big names, simply because it’s easier to gauge on Amazon and such if they’re worth the read.

    Rigadoon

    Everything takes away from writing, my friend. Although I do not work as an editor, I also have to go through 25 – 75 manuscripts per week, probably more… (in addition to other tasks as part of my job as Copyright-Nazi) and it takes away from my writing by a) making me sit there for 9 hours a day in a cube and b) going through so much less-than-interesting prose. Our jobs differ in that you seek out the quality work… something new, something with ‘something,’ whereas my job is to simply license everything which meets certain requirements which rarely… Read more »

    David Duhr

    “Live as a writer rather than a human being.” I like that. Sounds like something straight out of Cowley.

    I do not envy you that job. You don’t have to read all those manuscripts, do you? You just have to read the sections where the author wants to use lyrics? Or read the synopses? Regardless, I’m sure it’s depressing.

    My solution for you: eat a lot of Mexican food. If you get so much work done on the crapper, you may as well milk it for all it’s worth.

    And go take a nap, man.

    Then come visit WriteByNight.

    Carol

    Bloice???

    David Duhr

    BLogging vOICE = bloice

    Just some simple (or simple-minded?) fun with words, Carol.

    Amanda Smith

    I had a little chuckle at this blog, only because I’m having just about all of the same issues. I haven’t been consumed by editing and reviewing books. Instead, I became an English teacher, which apparently produces very similar results. I spend so much time talking about writing, grading writing, and teaching writing that when it comes to my own writing, I’m too exhausted to even think about it. As a side job, I’m paid (fairly well considering how minimal my writing responsibilities are) to blog for a business. My sole duty is to write and post two blogs per… Read more »

    David Duhr

    It’s good we feel each other’s pain … but what do we do about it? I would find it difficult to blog regularly for a business not my own. Doing occasional guest posts is hard enough, but your situation? You’re like a twice-weekly gust blogger. Ugh. I hope you care about the business; if you don’t give a damn about it, I cannot imagine how much harder that makes the process. As far as the fiction thing goes, don’t underestimate the benefits of a writing partner, someone to whom you report each day on your progress, and someone who won’t… Read more »

    Laura

    I go a little crazy when I read and edit too much and don’t do my own writing. And then, I do something REALLY crazy, like joining a 3-day novel writing contest and get random strangers to sponsor me to do it. (I’d refer you to my Kickstarter campaign, but it just closed yesterday. $130 out of my $120 goal, w00t!) I do NaNoWriMo. I do 1,000 word-a-day challenges issued by fellow writing bloggers. I buy a typewriter for $25 and start writing haiku in red ink. I get fired up. I guess what I’m saying is, when you feel… Read more »




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