Writing and Alcohol

Well, there’s no Internet at my favorite coffee shop (at least, not for me, and I don’t want to fiddle with my laptop anymore). It’s not that big of deal; I can start my post here in Word and copy it over. Annoying? But at least I’m off work for the week, and I have a chance to do things like this. If I manage my time well, I’ll be able to make some music and work on a story of poem…and maybe fit in a nap before going to my son’s Thanksgiving party at school.

Things are going pretty well this week. I’m not dreading Thanksgiving (too much), though the occasion calls for me to be around a lot more people than I think I’ll ever be comfortable with. As my wife tells our oldest, it’s only a few hours out of our lives. He doesn’t want to go, either, but not because he’s freaked out by people. He wants to stay home, play video games, and have pizza for Thanksgiving dinner. That sounds great to me, but I’m going along with the plan. The event should be relatively stress-free as far as drinking is concerned. The strongest thing available will be sweet tea.

I’ve been thinking about my writing a lot lately, and in particular the books I’ve written. Not counting the book I wrote with my high school friend or the solo book (and its miserable half-finished sequel), I’ve written three books…and all of them deal with alcohol in some way. In my first “real” book, a main character is an alcoholic mother whose drinking resulted in some pretty severe disabilities in her son. My second book—the one I edited and sent out to agents and met with some interest—has a main character whose mother (again) is an alcoholic. In my third book, the main character’s mother is—guess what?—an alcoholic.

There’s no alcoholism in my immediate family, let alone my mother, who to my knowledge has had perhaps five glasses of wine her entire life. My paternal grandmother died from emphysema and alcoholism, and my second cousin tried to get sober without medical help and died from a seizure. His father, in the words of my grandmother, was never without a drink in his hand. So the disease has its claws sunk deep in my family on both sides, so I’m not surprised that I struggle with it, too. What I do wonder, though, is why mothers appear as alcoholics in my books? Why not fathers? Or cousins, uncles, brothers, or grandmothers? My own biological father left us when I was three or four, and as a result, a lot of my work either has absent fathers or shiftless ones.

On top of all this is the feeling that I still need to exorcise some demons through my writing, and my sense is that I should write a book about someone (a man or woman, a parent or not) in the depths of alcoholism, but who gets sober and rebuilds his or her life. Writing a book is a commitment, though, and I’m not sure if I’m up to it yet. I wrote a book this time last year while I was pretty much non-stop drunk, and I haven’t been able to look at it much since then. I have no desire to work on it or revise it; I’m willing for it to be a stepping-stone in my journey as a writer.

I suppose in the meantime, I’ll continue focusing on poetry and write stories when I feel like it. As I’ve said on my other blog, I can finish a poem, but I usually let stories linger incomplete. I lose focus on them and move on, ready to listen to whatever other voices are speaking. Oddly, novels are easier to write than short stories…or, I should say, novels are easier to write than writing good short stories. I forget what writer said (perhaps Stephen King) that writing a novel is just picking a subject and throwing words at it. Narrow the range and focus, and the art gets harder. Quality short stories writers are rare gifts in the world, and I love reading their works. I’m quite happy to be a poet who dabbles in stories and writes the occasional novel. While I’m keen on publishing poetry, I’m not motivated to publish poems or novels. That may change one day.

Until then, I’ll keep up the craft. Writers can’t wait for inspiration any more than an athlete can wait for physical strength and skill to suddenly appear. Practice, practice, practice. Show up prepared at the blank page every day, relying on creative muscle memory, and the Muse may appear. Or she may not, but you’ll certain to miss her if you’re not present and doing your part.

I wish everyone a happy, sober, and safe Thanksgiving. Thanks for taking time to read.


About Robert Crisp

Just a lad who likes to create.
This entry was posted in addiction, alcoholism, sober, sobriety, writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Writing and Alcohol

  1. I so agree about showing up for writing. You just have to sit down and write no matter what comes out, you can always edit it later. I’ve also done a plan for a novel with an alcoholic mother, I think because the effects on children can be more catastrophic, especially if the mother is alone. http://bit.ly/1ER5cLY

    Liked by 1 person

    • Robert Crisp says:

      In my last novel, the mother’s husband left, and she drank to cope with the death of her two sons. She shut out her daughter (who narrates most of the novel), and the daughter becomes a successful writer but also an alcoholic. She finally returns home to deal with the death of her brothers and she has to either decide to get sober and deal with what really happened or continue to kill herself by drinking. It’s ghastly and depression, and with ten months sober, I just don’t think I’m ready to deal with it.


  2. Hi, Robert.* I wonder if you couch your own experiences drinking in female characters because of the Way you drank. You’ve mentioned to me more than once that your style of drunk was more akin to the stereotypical woman’s drunk. I wonder if female characters ARE helping you to tell your story, even though you feel one step removed because of gender? Perhaps you’ve been telling your story all along? …. As for short stories, check out ‘The Miniature Wife & Other Stories’ by Manuel Gonzales. The first story, especially, knocked me over. There are a couple of others that were also string. Let me know if you read it. Would love to hear what you think.


    • Robert Crisp says:

      Hmm. Perhaps you’re right. I don’t discount what I’ve written before (publishable or not), but I know I’m not done with the topic in my work. Maybe I’ll never be done with it. Drinking doesn’t come up in my poetry at all.

      I’ll certainly check out Manuel Gonzales. Thanks for the tip. : )


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