The Writer’s Desk features the desks and writing practices of Gemini Ink faculty, visiting authors, teaching artists, volunteers, students, interns, staff, partners and more. Receive new posts in your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter at bit.ly/geminiinknewsletter.
September 5, 2023
We are thrilled to introduce Catherine Burianek as our new Partner Classes Program Coordinator at Gemini Ink! And excited to share this short Q&A with Catherine for our Writer’s Desk feature. It’s a great way to get to know her and see her love for literature and the arts. We hope it helps you connect with Catherine and appreciate her incredible energy for our organization.
Welcome, Catherine! Thank you for participating in our Writer’s Desk question session. Let’s dive right in: Do you have a preference for meticulous planning or going with the flow? Does this approach also extend to how you structure your stories?
I definitely prefer to have some planning–like a framework–but beyond that, I tend to go with the flow. If at that moment I don’t need to do it and I don’t feel like doing it, why should I not do what I’d prefer? So, in other words, I don’t plan out all the details, but I don’t fly by the seat of my pants, as they say. I find that this attitude applies to my writing. There are times when I get a hare-brained idea and just go with it–no planning! Eventually, though, if that idea is any good, I go back and make a plan, usually in the form of an outline. This applies to my painting process, too. Growing up, I hated outlines because they seemed pointless. Now, I see how useful they can be.
What habit do you have now that you wish you had started much earlier?
I just started a Morning Pages routine this year. I write a journal entry each morning that is 3 pages long. This new habit gets my brain thinking and working through things. I have found that it is like a foundation for my day and enables me to be more productive and creative when I maintain the habit. I wish I had done this since at least adolescence. I’ve always been a journal writer, but I made entries before I went to sleep. It is an enormous difference in the effect it has on me when I do this. Who knew!
Describe your first writing desk. How is it different (or not) from your current writing desk?
My first writing desk… my lap! Haha! If I wasn’t writing at school, then any writing outside of assigned writing was done on my lap or on my pillow in my bedroom. There was always the kitchen table, but I never felt comfortable letting my family know I was writing things when I was young. The writing desk I use today is an antique desk with a very small space for a chair. I like that it has lots of drawers. I use the desk for both writing and visual arts. I like that I don’t have to use my lap anymore (unless I want to!)
What is the one piece of writing advice that you value most?
The one piece of writing advice I value most is not really just for writing; it works for any creative art. Show up every day.
Everyone has to build a habit, and it has to be sustainable and realistic. Sometimes, just showing up is all we can do. If we demand more from ourselves and are unable to produce, we may get discouraged, and it can take years to even try again. If we start by just showing up, we are building a strong foundation and a small but achievable habit and goal. This advice was given to me by a visual artist who read about it in the book Atomic Habits, in case anyone wants to learn more about its effectiveness.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve heard or read recently?
The most interesting thing I’ve heard recently is that bees may have consciousness. Consciousness has more to do with the number of neural connections in the brain than the size of the brain. Some people have known all living things possess a level of consciousness, but for science to affirm what has been considered a spiritual belief is amazing.
Who are your favorite writers? And who is your favorite hero/heroine in fiction?
My favorite writers are William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Philip K. Dick, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, Li-Young Lee, Neal Stephenson, Junji Ito, and I’m really starting to get into Silvia Moreno-Garcia. A little all over the place, I know.
I’m not sure I could pick a favorite hero or heroine, but I do really like Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. It’s such a fun play, and I just love how Viola is able to play a man’s role, hold her personal boundaries, protect herself, go with the flow, and yet convey empathy and sympathy for the other characters in the play. Plus, imagining a young man playing a young woman pretending to be a man is just something I find amusing. These are some of the reasons that Shakespeare is one of my favorite writers.
Catherine Burianek is an artist, educator, and former editor with a MA in English from UTSA. A few of her poems appear in Sagebrush Review and Borderlands. During her free time, she works on projects, paints, reads, and plays board games with her family. She’s wanted to be a part of the Gemini Ink family since first learning of the organization 20 years ago, so this job has been a literal dream come true.