The writer writes.
As an on-and-off again fiction writer, that very obvious notion eluded me for years. I put writing aside, put it off, did something else, cleaned, cooked, watched television, worked out or just about any other activity that didn’t involve writing, all the while wondering why I couldn’t finish a story.
Then I read “Ron Carlson Writes a Story,” by Ron Carlson, and everything changed. It wasn’t just the book, though. Without fully understanding it, I was at a crossroads, on the cusp of making a decision: Go that way and continue on the path of not-writing or go the other way and do something different.
I went the other way.
Over the years, I’ve attended numerous workshops, finding myself in the midst of people who called themselves writers but for whatever reason, could not carve out the time to write, to sit down daily and make a practice of it, to commit to jotting notes in the middle of grocery shopping or right before falling asleep, to anguish over words and revisions, to prioritize the writing over almost all else. They are writers, I believe it. They just haven’t made the mental leap.
I did. And I’ll tell you how I did it: I stopped watching TV. I made a decision that writing came first, not the Sopranos, nor Mad Men, nor Breaking Bad, nor Game of Thrones, nor House of Cards, nor American Horror Story, nor any of the other “OMG you have to watch this series, it’s so good” shows. I’m bereft of pop culture references. But I’ll you what I’m rich in—finished stories.
Here’s something to consider. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends almost 3 hours a day watching TV. And if you count up all of the minutes that the average person devotes to leisure activities, like playing sports, working out, reading, playing games, or even socializing, watching television trumps all of that time combined.
Studies show that binge-watching makes you depressed.
I work a full-time job, run a creative writing workshop and volunteer one hour per week at a retirement community, leading a memoir writing workshop. That leaves little time for much else, and if I spend just one or two hours a day watching television, my day is over and it’s time to go to bed.
You might be reading this because you saw the title and thought maybe you’d find some great advice about how to carve out time to write. This is it: Stop watching TV.
You need some time to decompress? Go for walk. You know how many great ideas have popped into my head on a walk? So many that I dictate them into my phone and have a running list of hundreds of notes that I’ve had to transcribe out of fear that my phone would die and all would be lost.
You know I’m right. There are times in your life when you know what you have to do, even when you haven’t admitted it to yourself, even when you’ve convinced yourself of everything else. This is one of those times. Turn it off.
Credit: Lauren Manning/Flickr Creative Commons