Where I Write: With Katrina Papouskaya
Where I Write, a series of short interviews with current students, faculty, and alumni of the Creative Writing Program. It is a discussion of place in writing. What our writing spaces look like can be as varied as the physical spaces that exist (or don’t!) in New York and beyond, and as varied as the mental and psychic spaces we occupy while we write. Set a timer to dream with second year MFA in poetry Katrina Papouskaya.
Where do you write?
In bed or at my kitchen table. The kitchen if I really want to be focused. In bed if I’m in a sort of trance about what I’m writing and I don’t want discomfort to be a distraction; it’s terrible for my posture but good for my imagination.
Stand, sit or other?
When at the kitchen table, sitting cross-legged on a chair. When in bed, lying down with my torso propped up, which feels like transcribing the usual stuff I’m fantasizing about when falling asleep.
What is your writing practice?
My writing practice is flimsy and often a hard-earned attempt at discipline. On the good days, I’ll set a timer and write for an hour. At the very least, I have to sit in front of a blank page for an hour with no distractions. Even if I only jot down a word, I can call it a successful writing day (I got this method from Elizabeth Gilbert). On the days my willpower or inspiration are depleted, I’ll give myself a doable minimum to say I wrote that day. Say, at least 15 minutes. I’ll usually find that I write more than that because in that time I’ve become engrossed in my story or poem. Outside of writing-writing, I’m constantly writing out my thoughts and feelings in journals, Word documents, and the Notes app. I have a Notes folder dedicated to funny ideas and another one to serious, “poetic” writing. The poetic one is twice as large as the funny one at the moment.
What are your favorite procrastinations?
I’m a big TV binger. My recent favorites have been Succession and Euphoria. I also love rewatching old favorites, recently the Shrek movies and Fleabag, which gave me a good laugh and cry. If I’m not doing that, I’m rotating between every social media app as constantly as breathing. It’s why I wrote my thesis on social media in poetry and prose — I’m trying to take control of the addiction by analyzing it.
We live in interesting times, which book/author keeps you sane/grounded?
My favorite read this year has been Salley Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You? It gave me a cathartic cry toward the end. I’m also listening to Glennon Doyle’s memoir Untamed right now and it is wildly inspiring.
What is your new skill learned during the shutdowns of the Pandemic
I learned how to clean better during the pandemic. I was usually bad at keeping things tidy but now my environment is often passably-clean. I realized I have a built-in sensor for when my environment is off-kilter and getting messy; I just ignored it until the stillness and silence of the pandemic happened.
What is your dream writing space?
I really want to write in a house near some woods but still attached to a suburb. Maybe somewhere the leaves change colors, and with a lake nearby, but it’s important that it’s not completely secluded. This is more of a fantasy about owning a house. I’ll take a dreamy house in Florida near the ocean with lush vegetation, too. That’s more of a fantasy about returning home. That’s the dream: to be at home, comfortable, so my imagination can go wild and I can privately go through any emotion I need to while writing. I also just love a good bookstore cafe.
Katrina Papouskaya is a Belarusian-American writer currently residing in Brooklyn with her cat. She just completed her MFA in poetry at The New School. She knows too much about the sinking of the Lusitania and is funny in an emergency.