Here’s a writing tip: Stop with the television. I’m serious. Turn it off. Walk away. Call and change your cable subscription. Smash the damn thing. This goes for Netflix and Hulu and all the streaming services, too. You need to call it quits, it’s killing you as a writer. Here’s two reasons why:
I read recently that the average American spends five hours a day watching television. Five. I sincerely hope that is not true, because that is terrifying and disgusting. When I get home from work I have about five hours left in my day, which would mean I would turn it on and keep it on until I go to bed. Is that what’s happening? Because I have other, better things to do – like write novels and get a masters degree. Watching television is killing production, and when people claim they don’t have enough time in the day to finish everything I would ask them to look at their TV watching. I have seen the best minds of my generation binge-watching some pretty stupid stuff when they could be, oh, writing books, meeting with friends, serving the community, working on a business, working on relationships, reading, you name it. I remember a friend looking at me once and saying, “You don’t watch TV – what do you DO with all that time?” Productive things. Who wouldn’t want “all that time,” seriously? I don’t get it. Now I’m not saying to completely stop watching TV (go for it, if you like), because I have a few shows that I do watch (Gilmore Girls forever), but I’ll watch five hours a week, if that. I have better uses for my time, and you do too. And if you do watch TV, please pick the well-written shows? There’s a bunch of junk out there that will destroy your creativity (see below).
I used to be a TV watcher back in the day (read: Friends, ER, Mad About You, all the 90s greats), and I would look forward with such delight to that Thursday evening NBC block. The first things I wrote were television scripts. But then in the early 2000s something happened: One of my favorite characters died (Third Watch), and I spent the week grieving them. Actually grieving, depressed, affected, sad – and that’s when I knew something was amiss. This is a fictional character. So I gave up television. And something interesting happened that I couldn’t have predicted: My writing became much more realistic. When you’re watching TV and filling your head with the unrealistic narratives and characters that are on there, your writing becomes unrealistic, cliched, over-the-top. When I gave up television and began spending time with other people I began to see the nuances of character, the way relationships worked, the way everyday struggles affect a person, and that’s the kind of stuff I wanted to write about. My writing became human when I stopped watching TV.
That’s my advice and chide to you. Stop wasting your time on Netflix and go see what you can create.