When I started this writing challenge yesterday, I had no real idea where I was going with it, other than the fact that I wanted to write more consistently. By restricting my participation in social media until after I write, I unintentionally touched on today’s topic: What crowds your time and makes it difficult for you to write?
I realized that for me, watching TV used to be one of my biggest time-killing creativity leeches. To be honest, we turned off our cable and haven’t watched a show on regular television in at least a year. We realized that we were spending too much time in the evenings, camped out in front of the magic box, allowing our time to drain away while we watched programming that did nothing for us.
So we pulled the plug.
It was difficult at first. My wife pushed for it – I was less than excited about the idea. She was getting increasingly annoyed by the frequency and content of commercials, and lobbied instead for watching things on Netflix or Amazon. I went along reluctantly, but the more we stayed away from traditional network programming, the more I liked it.
We found a variety of movies and shows that we liked and started watching them exclusively online – without commercials, anytime we wanted. We were spending less time watching, and more of that time was spent watching something that we chose, as opposed to whatever happened to be ‘on’ at the time. It’s been great.
Now don’t think that we’ve gone completely cold turkey here – we still enjoy watching a good series or movie. We actually tend to devour a good series when we find one – which has brought up a new problem.
We eliminated commercials and the random selection of cable programming – but we replaced it with a similar time investment in watching what we chose. We weren’t watching less, we were just watching less of what we didn’t want.
We were still spending a lot of time being spectators to someone else’s creativity, instead of being originators of our own.
Which brings me back to this writing challenge.
Yesterday I committed to writing and/or publishing something every day before I allow myself access to social media, i.e., Facebook and Fizzle.
But I completely forgot about TV.
Because we don’t technically watch TV anymore, I forgot that it was still monopolizing a good deal of my free time, and keeping me from writing. Much of our downtime in the evenings has been spent lately relaxing in front of the desktop, watching a show, trading creativity for entertainment.
So today I’m upping the ante.
In addition to limiting my daily social media participation until after I write, I’m going to include watching TV – or Netflix, Amazon, Hulu – whatever.
No streaming video – until I write.
Think about it. What do you really get from watching video? It’s completely passive entertainment that gives the viewer nothing to take away. It’s the visual embodiment of empty calories – tastes good, but no nutrition. What real good does it do for me to still have almost every episode of Gilligan’s Island memorized? Couldn’t I fill that gray matter with something more productive?
The answer is yes – it just depends on what I’m willing to change or give up. We get in the habit of watching TV – often to the detriment of our own creativity and productivity. I’m choosing to change that habit, in order to establish something better.
I’m not saying everyone should cut out all TV completely – but for me, I have to look at what things in my life are bearing fruit, and what things are dragging me down.
Finding time to write has always been a struggle, because until now, I haven’t made it a priority.
So I’m not giving up on entertainment – I’m prioritizing it. I’m not allowing it to come first, where it will distract me from doing what’s best.
What’s distracting you? What’s keeping you from doing the most important things in your life?