“In poetry you get a lot of random aesthetically beautiful lines –not all of them are going to work, but some of them could be enough for an idea that sparks an entire poem.”
Steve Rusky, junior in English, started taking courses in creative writing at a community college his freshmen year and realized he wanted to major in English to further develop the writing he enjoys doing. In the following interview, Steve elaborates on the kinds of creative writing that he does, which includes poetry and short stories, and his writing process.
Oana Ionut: What kinds of writing do you do? I know you write creatively outside of school. Could you elaborate?
Steve: Yeah, I mean it started of, as most writing does, therapeutically. I started writing in my free time just because it’s a way to release or express myself and keep it there. It really didn’t start until I went to community college and started taking courses in short fiction and poetry, and that kind of led me in that direction towards doing it outside of school and doing it on my own. Then I started getting a feel of what’s good what’s not –what can I work on? How’s this helping in my other writing? And I think it is.
Oana: What kind of creative writing do you usually do?
Steve: I’m more of a poet, I guess in that sense, because poems are shorter. But I noticed that my writing –and not just creative, but academic writing– is very wordy. So I find it easier to write poetry because I can obsess over one or two lines and obsess over making it as small or concise as possible and just get those right words. I can focus on that a lot easier than I can on entire pages or sections at a time. I’ve tried in short fiction. I’ve written stories and stuff. I have more of a connection with my poetry than I do with my short stories, but short fiction is something I’m still looking towards working on. I’ve always got something brewing that I’ll let sit for a while, and I’ll come back to edit, start something new, leave that aside, and come back to it.
Oana: How do you think you go about writing your poetry? What kind of forms do your poems usually take?
Steve: It always starts for me with a subject –whatever gets the creative juices flowing. That usually comes about with the form. I’m in a poetry workshop course and sometimes we’ll just do free verse, sometimes we’ll just do form. So it’s very random in that sense, where in the workshop and outside of the workshop, I can be doing stuff on my own time and then kind of say, okay well maybe I could try working on one of these, you know like a sonnet or something, because I haven’t worked on one in a while. It usually just depends.
Oana: How would you describe your writing? Do you feel like it’s more cathartic? Do you think it can help organize your thoughts and ideas more when you do it?
Steve: Yeah. Another problem I have, besides being too wordy, is whether or not everything is coherent and flows. That’s something I find easier in writing essays and academic writing. I mean, I like to look at it in the same sense. Poems and short stories are the same as essays in the sense that they are structured, and they need to flow coherently, so it does kind of help because I’ll start with an idea and go from there and let it be random, and it’s easy to see where my mistakes are when I just let it flow or let it go. I can find out how to make it flow and it kind of helps me see that bigger picture. So it starts off a little bit more cathartic in that sense because it’s just a mash of ideas, and when I get excited about a topic, I just scramble it down, and usually it starts with a line or two, or a word, or an idea, and it goes from there.
Oana: What struggles have you experienced as a writer?
Steve: I guess coming back to a work once I’ve finished it because you kind of cement in your head that it’s done, and it can’t get any better. But then if I leave something and let it marinate for like a week or so and come back and read it, I’m like, “wait let me change this.” So, that’s hard for me because of my chaotic life as a student. I’ve got work and I’ve got other things to work on at school, and it comes down to just remembering to come back to a piece of work, if I really am passionate about it. Odds are, if I’m passionate about it, I’ll come back to it. If I’m not, I probably won’t, which is something I’m working on. For example, if I don’t like a particular work, but it started off as something I really wanted to work on, I need to get better at forcing myself to get back on it. A lot of creative writers, or writers in general, face that problem. If you write an essay early, you’re probably not going to come back to it, or even if you do it’s a very light hand that you take at editing it.
Oana: How have your experiences with writing influenced the way you tutor, or vice versa?
Steve: It definitely has to do with structure, since we read a lot of essays at the Writing Center. It’s influenced by my own method of writing, and that’s just the way I go about tutoring. I kind of map out the essay or the poem. In other cases, more so with essays though, I like to outline them, not just talk about them and brainstorm, which is what I like to do in the tutoring session. I like to map it out. It’s easier to see when you have a thesis, and then topic sentence 1, 2, 3, 4…counter argument, and conclusion. It’s easier to have that outline when you see it and then talk about it because when you talk about it you forget, and that way you can go back and look at it.
Oana: If you could use one word to describe your writing what would it be?
Steve: If I could pick one word to describe my writing it would have to be…I’ll say “chaotic” because it’s all over the place. But I think the reason I picked that is because I think there’s beauty in chaos, too. In poetry you get a lot of random aesthetically beautiful lines –not all of them are going to work, but some of them could be enough for an idea that sparks an entire poem, or an argument that sparks an entire essay. So I’d have to say chaotic because it’s all over the place at first, and may still be at the end, but there’s still some good stuff in there.