The following is a guest post by Addison Rizer, whose short story “We Float Alone” appeared in issue 19 of Typehouse.
My primary emotion as a writer is guilt. I am guilty when I don’t write and when I have written, but not enough. When I have written, but written badly. When I meant to write but got caught up doing something else. I am guilty when I have no ideas and when I have so many ideas I can’t write them all and also when I have one idea, but can’t figure out how to write it.
Mostly, I am guilty when I do anything that isn’t writing. When I watch movies, read books, play games, go bowling. Because I am not writing and could be, the guilt consumes my enjoyment in one large swallow.
At the beginning of 2019, the guilt was so bad I’d deny myself anything fun before I had written, and then, because of the guilt, I’d be unable to write at all. It had built it up in my mind, the act of writing and how many words I needed to write and how perfect they had to be, I couldn’t bring myself to try.
So, as an experiment, I decided to write a poem after every movie I watched for the entirety of the year. Yes, every single one. Yes, even ones I hated. Yes, even the ones I loved.
Now, I am not a poet. As such, many of the poems were terrible. Some were only two lines long. Others went on for many horrible pages. I experimented. A lot. The quality didn’t matter. These poems were simply an excuse to let myself do something other than writing. It was okay, to take a break, because I was using these movies to create more, not less. I wasn’t procrastinating, I was experimenting. The guilt ebbed. I began having much more fun. Writing got easier, when I wasn’t so guilty about every facet of it.
And, though many, many of them were bad, some of them were good. Good-enough-to-be-published good. Good-enough-I-was-proud good.
I realized, then, how necessary consumption is to my creative process. I can’t be all output and no input. The water flows both ways, for me. It must flow both ways or else there will be nothing left but a dry riverbed from which I am expecting myself to produce the miracle of water.
If I had not watched those movies, I would not have written about aardvarks, about birthdays, about cowboys on the run, about Franca Carrozzini. I wouldn’t have considered these topics at all. It wasn’t only guilt-relieving, it was inspiring.
In the end, I wrote 10,000 words in little bits and pieces of poems. I watched eighty-six films. I felt less guilty. I realized, for me, production and consumption will always have interlocked fingers.
This year, I’m writing blank-verse sonnets. They are harder, these poems. They are just as terrible. But, I am having a lot of fun and feeling less guilty and I’m writing, I’m writing,and isn’t that the point?
Addison Rizer is an administrator in Arizona with a B.A. in English from Arizona State University. She has had pieces published in Taco Bell Quarterly, Typehouse, Hoosier Review, Little Somethings Press, Hashtag Queer Vol. 3, Canyon Voices, Libraerie Magazine, Anatolios Magazine, Strange Creatures, and Kingdoms in the Wild. She loves writing, reading, and movies critics hate. Find more of her work on her website at www.addisonrizer.com.