Roger Sippl–Interview

Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?

I try to have a keyboard with me at all times, not just a smart phone, but a real keyboard. With that said, in a pinch I have written poems on my smartphone, and I have handwritten poems or fragments on paper, and then typed them in to a computer later. An idea for a poem can hit me anywhere, usually when my brain is not procedurally active in a way that needs intense focus, such as while driving and listening to music, or while taking a shower.

What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type? What is your favorite writing utensil?

When I was in college, 45 years ago, I did keep a writing journal on my night stand and did find it useful, when I first woke up. Often, those poems would have something to do with dreams that I tried to remember upon waking. Now, I keep a laptop at my bedside and another one in my car, in addition to the computer at my desk. I keep everything in DropBox so I can get at it anytime, and all my machines always have the same stuff on them, because of the synchronization. Plus, it is all backed up all the time, as it is in the cloud.

What is your routine for writing?

I have to be “in the zone” to write poetry. Something has to strike me or be on my mind. Now, I have dozens of poems that were simply started, so I can “edit and revise” almost any time, and most of my “writing” time is spent doing that, sometimes changing poems quite a bit.

How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?

I started writing poetry when I was a freshman in college, in 1973. I was young and in love and many of my poems today come from notes I wrote back then. When the break up came a year or two later, I, coincidentally, had been diagnosed with Stage IIIB Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and then I had plenty to write about, faced with those two pieces of emotional adversity. Later, oddly, I went on to a successful career running software companies for four decades, some of them very successful, which was a completely different, but still intense, slice of life. Now that I have more time I am able to draw upon those experiences and the feelings I had to ignore at the time.

Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?

I think that is always a good question. A sideways way of answering it is to think about whose acceptance gives me the biggest thrill, when that acceptance comes. Often it is when a poem is accepted for publication, which is a big deal for me, since that means that someone who probably knows what they are talking about, poetry-wise, liked it. On the other hand, if someone I really like, who was perhaps an English major or an art major, thoughtfully likes a poem, that might be an ever better feeling—especially if it is someone who thought that I was not of interest to them before that reading my work, and after they want to hear what I think, about anything. But, of course, I have to like the poem myself. There are poems that I love that I have submitted over and over again, all to see rejection in return, but I love them anyway.

What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?

I don’t sit down to write if I have nothing to write about (i.e. am blocked), so one might say that “I don’t suffer from writer’s block.” I just have other things to do, including revising other poems that are in progress, an activity, which by its nature, is not blocked, because I am starting with something that at least at one time excited me. I start new poems only when an idea comes into my mind. I suppose it could be from a formal prompt, but I don’t think that often happens for me, other than being “prompted” by a billboard, the name of a city, the sound of rain on the roof or remembering a flight I took, and how I felt flying the plane (I am an amateur pilot.)

What other things do you do besides writing? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?

I currently sit on boards of directors for a living, and that interaction of people often starts a creative process. But I have flooded my life with experiences, intentionally, and I think more ideas come from times that I have put myself into a position where I might not have a unique point of view, but a rare one. I fly airplanes as an instrument-rated pilot. I have been a diver since I was thirteen, and have done over 2,000 dives, all over the world, swimming with just about every amazing sea creature man knows about. This includes rebreather diving and deep diving, where the deeper you go the darker it gets, and the more intense the narcotic of breathing compressed nitrogen takes effect. I also have played a great deal of high-stakes poker, and indeed I have been to Burning Man.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

The high I get when I get a great idea and then am able to express it in an effective way.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

I advise writers to write. I don’t know much about writer’s block, because I am too busy to spend any time with it, but to those who have trouble with it I would suggest writing anyway. When I was in college and did have to write every day in that journal, I think it was not only productive, but it trained my mind to be always thinking of a creative way to look at whatever was happening, or whatever memory or thought I might be having. If you can dream and then write, or alter your consciousness, not necessarily with drugs, but just with experiences and doing different things or doing things differently, then I think you are more likely to be always busy writing or revising, and you’ll never be looking at a screen with nothing to do. Do things that get you “into the zone” which is when your best work will come—engage that right half of your brain that controls your left hand, and is more in touch with your subconscious, and let what is in there come out.

 

Check out Roger’s work in Volume 4, Issue 1.

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