On Being the World's Shittiest Editor

by Karen Gsteiger

So to those of you who actually read this website, and to those of you whom I made publishing promises that I did not deliver for like, oh a year and a half, I feel as though I owe you some sort of explanation for the whimpering, but temporary, death of this site. This will inevitably turn into a litany of excuses that you will either find affecting or pathetic--that's up to you. It is what it is, I guess.

When I started up this site, I was full of vigor and ambitions. I wanted to create a personal website to showcase my portfolio (such as it is) but also to share that space with other people who might want to see their work in all its glory on an obscure literary site. I realized at the time that sharing this space endowed me with a certain amount of responsibility to others that I was sure I could handle. Back then, and it seems like a million years ago now, I loved to fill my time going out with friends, exercising, attending various classes of interest, accomplishing major life goals, like learning to swim, and, of course, writing. Happy Insomniac was my pride and joy. I even loved the tedious hand-coding of all the HTML. I felt intimately involved with every line of this site.

Then in 2006, my husband and I bought a house, which is one of life's most stressful activities and led to an inevitable publishing delay. Then sometime soon after, personal disaster struck. I won't get into all the gory details, but I could distinctly feel my heart being ripped out of my chest on several occasions. There was a time when I felt extremely frightened and alone, and I didn't want to admit to anyone that I was frightened and alone, because that would really detract from my image as this Super-Sensible, Put-Together Person, and those closest to me had no idea that I was in crisis. And I was in that state because I was prideful and silly but also didn't want to admit the reality of my situation.

I pulled myself out of that nosedive within a few months, but I felt battered, scarred, too depressed to function. Although I had battled deep depression in the past, I decided that it was time to take more significant action to make myself feel better. I was not going to will myself out of this. I began a nearly two-year-long love affair with Lexapro, which certainly helped me heal, erasing the depression, easing my anxieties, and quieting my neuroses. Unfortunately, it also had some undesirable results. For example, no longer was I a happy insomniac. I wasn't even an unhappy insomniac. I was more like a 7 p.m. narcoleptic for quite a while. I gained back the weight I had previously lost and then some...bah. Eventually I forced myself into being active and took on a second part-time job, teaching delightful Korean-American students at a tutoring center. I enjoyed the work, but it sucked up pretty much all of my spare time. Happy Insomniac continued to collect dust.

Plus, I don't know if the medicine had anything to do with this, but I just didn't feel as though I had anything to say. I completely lacked all inspiration and found no joy in the prospect of writing. It was burdensome, and I hated the pressure I had put on myself since the fourth grade when I told myself that I wanted to be a writer. I hated the fact that I knew that I had a gift for expressing myself in writing yet had nothing good whatsoever to say. I actually wanted the gift to disappear rather than to go unused. And most of all, I hated this site. I didn't want to pull it down entirely, but it was a source of crushing guilt (as I had promised some people I would post their work but could not face the computer screen), and it was a symbol of my failure as a writer. Now, if you're one of those people who was expecting me to post something of yours, you might be thinking, "Jesus H. Christ, my poem was 10 lines long. Was it that hard to post?" The answer, unfortunately, was yes. I can't apologize for taking the time to get my head on straight, but I do heartily and sincerely apologize for not fulfilling my obligations to you.


It took a long time, but I feel like I'm getting close to being 100 percent again. I'm overbooking myself like an airline with two jobs, social activities, volunteering, etc. I'm starting to cut back the Lexapro (all good things must come to an end) with an eye to stop it completely, perhaps by the end of the year. I've even been going to the gym again. And soon after I vowed to give up writing completely and try to figure out some career involving dogs, I started to do some writing exercises and discovered the joy of writing for pleasure again. I had to kill Karen the Writer in order to save her, but I think I've saved her. And I hope I've saved this site. I've loved it all along.

So I will post the work that's been waiting impatiently in my inbox for so long, and I encourage you all to send me more. I will try my utmost to be more professional, to be not-so-shitty of an editor. Let's look for maybe a monthly update? I'd like it to be more frequent, but we'll start simply at first. For right now, I'm just happy that I'm not a failed writer. I might not be a successful one either, but it is just something I do. So that's all I have to say about the past. Now I am focusing on the moment and looking optimistically to the future.