Archive for creativity

I Seem to be Taking a Break

Posted in addiction, alcoholic, alcoholism, anxiety, creative writing, sober, sobriety, social anxiety, Uncategorized, writing craft with tags , , , , , on December 5, 2017 by Robert Crisp

A break from creative writing, at least, and I’m good with that. It all started a few weeks ago when I received the weekly poetry market update newsletter from Duotrope. I scanned the list half-heartedly. The idea of going through poems to see which ones would be a good fit for a particular market made me tired. When I sat down to write, nothing came. I shrugged and moved onto other things.

I’ve been shrugging and moving on since then, and I’m not worried about it. I’ve spent many years in anxious turmoil over my writing, pressing myself beyond healthy limits to produce. When I turned thirty and hadn’t published anything, I went into a tailspin of depression. Ditto that for when I turned forty. Then I got sober, went into therapy, and discovered an effective combo of meds with the help of a wonderful psychiatrist. These days, if I skip a day or two of writing, that’s just the way it goes. I’m on the hunt for a full-time job, I’m raising two young children with my wife, and I have a lovely coterie of animals I care for. I have a full life. And I’m sober, to boot.

I’ve been thanking God lately, in particular, for the ability to let a particular story line go. I don’t mean fiction; I mean the story line of my life that dictates that I have to a Writer. The capital letter is important. I’m already a writer and always will be, but I’m also other things. Robert the Writer, though, is hyper-focused on getting published to the exclusion of other things. Rober the Writer won’t rest until he’s exhausted himself mentally and spiritually, racing to beat the clock, up against self-imposed deadlines. Also, Robert the Writer is a selfish bastard. I have no more use for him, so I’m letting that story line go (for more info on story lines and attachment, check out this article by Pema Chodron).

I couldn’t have been this kind to myself without getting sober, and I also imagine that I couldn’t have done it (sober or not) in my thirties due to a stunning lack of emotional maturity. Not that I’m a paragon of emotional maturity these days, but I’m a hell of a lot easier on myself than I used to be. I accept and deal with my anxiety which springs from a variety of sources, but I no longer give myself panic attacks for missing non-existant milestones in my life. I don’t have a book deal at 43? Fine. I only publish poetry on web-based journals? Cool. I can look at other aspects of my life and celebrate them and not dwell on things I thought I needed.

Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking of myself as more than just a writer. Currently, I prefer the term “creative.” I’m a creative. I write poems, stories, and songs. I draw cartoons. No matter where my life takes me, I’ll always find ways to express creativity. Writing this blog is another way.

So I’m going to take a break from creative writing because the still, small voice inside me says it’s time to. I spent many years ignoring that voice and drowing it with alcohol. These days, I do my best to listen to it.

The Whale-Shaped Man (fiction? poetry? both? neither?!?!)

Posted in character development, characters, creative writing, daily writing, flash fiction, poem, Poetry, short stories, short story, surreal, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , on November 30, 2017 by Robert Crisp

The Whale-Shaped Man

Is he in his office? asked the whale-shaped man.
Is who is his office? the woman in sparkly pants replied.
You know.
I don’t.
That doesn’t clear it up.
The whale-shaped man grimaced. I’m talking about your father.
Oh. Why do you want to see him?
To ask for your hand in marriage.
That’s stupid, the woman laughed.
Why would I marry you? You’re shaped like a whale.
But I love you.
That doesn’t change anything.

So the whale-shaped man left. Inside his office, the woman’s father sighed in relief.

Baby Omar Frees His Mother…and Some Other Thoughts

Posted in creative writing, poem, Poetry, writing, writing craft with tags , , , , on September 13, 2017 by Robert Crisp

This morning, I read an interesting and encouraging article about rejection and the writing game entitled “I’m Almost 40 and Still Getting Rejected–Am I Running Out of Time?” Hell, I’m 43 and get rejections at least once a week, and I don’t think I’m running out of time.

That doesn’t mean I don’t understand the writer’s anxiety…I’m just not in that place anymore. Rewind time to twenty years ago, and I was terrified that I was running out of time. I compared myself to other writers who had prizes and accolades and book contracts. Surely, their lives were perfect, and I was slowly sinking into obscurity, destined to be a chain-smoking, hard-drinking writer who would never find success.

Fortunately, I don’t feel that way anymore (and I got sober, but that’s a different story altogther). I identify as a writer and always will, but it isn’t my job. It doesn’t pay the bills. It’s something I do and will continue doing, regardless of publications.

According to Duotrope, I have a six percent acceptance rate. That’s out of 123 poems sent in the last 12 months, and I have 331 poems recorded in Duotrope, ready to submit at a moment’s notice. I could look at that six percent and despair, but I choose to say, “Hell, yeah! Six percent, baby!”

I linked to the article above to encourage others who might be in the writer’s position of dread and anxiety. It’s not too late to publish and find success, however you define it. Keep writing, keep submitting, and keep trusting your voice.

Below is a poem that was rejected a few days ago. I love it. Also, the fact that it was rejected by a market doesn’t mean it isn’t good or even worthy of publication. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong editor…take your pick. I’m happy to post my poems here, where they’re always welcome.

Baby Omar Frees His Mother

Baby Omar ate a dagger, which shocked us all.
That is, we never figured him for a dagger-eater,
especially since his father was so adverse to pointy
things, beginning with his head, coned and sweaty.
Moving on, Baby Omar’s mother was a nasty piece
of work, half-crippled and ruinous with grief, given
to making words up in prison: persmitten, verbonded,
One day, the guards ushered in Baby Omar.
“Pillious boy!” she said and covered him in hot tears.
Baby Omar vomited up a dagger, and thus his mother
freed herself, slashing at all in her way, her child grinning
like the wild thing he was, morphiat and cersicklind.

Best of the Net Anthology Nomination

Posted in creative writing, poem, Poetry, writing with tags , , , , on July 29, 2017 by Robert Crisp

I’m thrilled that Cold Creek Review nominated one of my poems for the Best of the Net Anthology. You can read the piece here.

Summer, the Death of Childhood, and Arranging Lines of Poetry

Posted in creative writing, poem, Poetry, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on June 15, 2017 by Robert Crisp

Well, there’s a post title that’ll draw folks in…or repel them. Either way, it would get my attention.

Being summer and all (or close enough), I’ve been taking my kids to the pool twice a week. I’m not terribly keen on water, whether it be in the ocean or the pool, and would rather just avoid it…but that’s not possible with my children. After taking them to the pool three or four times—and when it was time to do so again—I sat down on the sofa and said, “Look, we need to talk about this.”

My ten-year-old rolled his eyes. “We know, you don’t like going to the pool,” he said.

“It’s more than that,” I said. “Going to the pool entails a whole host of things, none of which I look forward to. And the so-called reward at the end of the preparation is getting in the water. I know you two like it, but I don’t. So when it’s time to go to the pool, I have to get myself in a mental state of–”

“You don’t have to get in the water,” my six-year-old chimed in.

“Yeah,” his brother said. “Just bring a book and your computer. You can write.”

I felt anxiety loosen its deathgrip on me. I can write. Hmm. And so we got ready, I put up with the squabbling on the way to the pool, slathered sunblock on the kids, put a life-jacket on the little one, got in the water with them for fifteen minutes…and then got the hell out, dried off, opened up the Surface, and started writing.

Here’s one of the poems that came out of a writing session. After I finished it, I began playing with the lines on the screen. I don’t normally format my poems in unusual ways, but this one sort of demanded that I do so. I’m posting the poem as a PDF, which I hope works. The poem itself can be taken in different ways, but when I finished it, it reminded me of moving from childhood to maturity and the sadness (and horror) that goes along with it.

The next time, I’ll post the poem I wrote about my feelings regarding the pool. It’s…uh…not very nice. Until then, I give you:


Russell Edson and the Blue-Pencil of Consciousness

Posted in creative writing, poem, Poetry, writing, writing craft with tags , , , , on June 13, 2017 by Robert Crisp

I was going through some boxes of my old writing and came across The Tunnel: Selected Poems by Russell Edson. russell I had been searching off and on for the book. Like Charles Simic and Stevie Smith, Edson had and continues to have a huge influence on my poetry. I don’t  usually write prose poems, but I follow a strange Muse similar to the one that whispered in Edson’s ear. Here’s one of his poems, posted on his Poetry Foundation page:

The turtle carries his house on his back. He is both the house and the person of that house.
But actually, under the shell is a little room where the true turtle, wearing long underwear, sits at a little table. At one end of the room a series of levers sticks out of slots in the floor, like the controls of a steam shovel. It is with these that the turtle controls the legs of his house.
Most of the time the turtle sits under the sloping ceiling of his turtle room reading catalogues at the little table where a candle burns. He leans on one elbow, and then the other. He crosses one leg, and then the other. Finally he yawns and buries his head in his arms and sleeps.
If he feels a child picking up his house he quickly douses the candle and runs to the control levers and activates the legs of his house and tries to escape.
If he cannot escape he retracts the legs and withdraws the so-called head and waits. He knows that children are careless, and that there will come a time when he will be free to move his house to some secluded place, where he will relight his candle, take out his catalogues and read until at last he yawns. Then he’ll bury his head in his arms and sleep….That is, until another child picks up his house….

I love how Edson create his a little world in this poem, replete with its own logic. I’d like to think I do something similar in my poems. I also agree with what Edson says about the creative process:

My job as a writer is mainly to edit the creative rush. The dream brain is the creative engine… I sit down to write with a blank page and a blank mind. Wherever the organ of reality (the brain) wants to go I follow with the blue-pencil of consciousness.


To end, here’s an odd little poem that came to yesterday while my children cavorted in the pool:

Creepy Peter Licks His Last Cloud

“Listen,” the cloud said, “we’ve all
had a meeting and decided the licking
has to stop. No hard feelings, okay?”

Creepy Peter shot out his sensitive,
nib of a tongue and muttered mea culpa,
but the cloud wasn’t having that.

“Okay, actually, we’re in the mood
for a sacrifice,” the cloud declared.
Behind it, the other clouds grinned.

Creepy Peter deflated himself and made
for the farthest coast—somewhere near
Purgatory—and licked lazy flies instead.

We Spin On (word vomit)

Posted in creative writing, daily writing, poem, Poetry, Uncategorized, writing, writing craft with tags , , , , , on June 2, 2017 by Robert Crisp

Since I ended my job as a middle-school English teacher (I would love to say never again, but I know better), writing has been sporadic. Actually, that’s not true–I show up at the page every day, but the quality has been sporadic. On the last day of my job, I had cleaned out my room but couldn’t leave until the principal gave me the all-clear, so I had plenty of time to write. What came out was garbage. Granted, it was a lot of garbag (nearly three thousand words), but there was nothing salvageable. 

Perhaps, as my wife says, my brain needed a break. It’s only been a week since school got out, and my writing is still mainly junk. What follows is an example. It isn’t so much poetry as it is word vomit. I’m sharing it to encourage other writers to get out on the page whatever needs to come out, even if you look at it and say, “By Jove, that’s a mess.” A mess is better than nothing.

That being said, there’s still hope (I know I make it all sound dire, like I’ll never write anything I’m happy with. EVER AGAIN). As an editor told me once:

I dig the weirdness in [your] poems, but weirdness would be a bit of an understatement. It’s as if you’re using this idea of weirdness/strangeness to explore irreparable longing – perhaps irreparable longing is the glue that holds today’s world together.   – Justin Karcher, Ghost City Review

These words mean the world to me because that’s what I try to do in my poetry. It burbles up from my subconcious, fueled by the Great Cosmic Signal, and I do my best to convey the feelings inside me. My work is often dark and sad, and I do feel a sense of irreparble longing; it’s part and parcel of the human condition. Two things alleviate some of that longing: writing poetry and writing music. 

So…here’s some word vomit.

We Spin On

The vampire flowers made her sad,
and I ate another plate of fear salad.
This isn’t helping anything, said the erstwhile
Martian as he clung to the last thread of life.
The boulders of Colorado made a rodeo.
Eggs beat in rhythm to the veins of ocean.
More likely, the face of autumn.
The fan blew on the mighty moon, and
the tail of escaping steam was moody.
We spin on, the stars murmured. We spin on.