It’s been over a year since the day my wife and I were watching TV and it went out. It made a little clicking noise, and then it went black.
The TV had died.
There was a moment of panic: “What will we do?! Civilization will crumble without TV; this is clearly the beginning of the end!”
Fortunately, it was a beginning.
We decided to not rush out and buy a new TV. Instead, we decided to write, read, and workout in the evenings. No matter how much I tried convincing myself that as long as I was watching the Discovery Channel or History Channel that I was stimulating my brain, I came to realize how much more productive I could be without television.
If you’re looking for more time to write, consider cutting back on these 5 things:
1. Television. Television is great. You love the characters, the settings, and the stories — everything you love about writing. So it’s natural that you’d love TV. And there’s nothing wrong with loving TV.
What matters is how much TV you watch.
If television cuts into your writing time, or comes before your writing time, ask yourself how serious you are about writing. Write first, and then enjoy your favorite shows, knowing that you’ve taken another step toward your writing dream.
2. Videogames. I don’t own an Xbox 360 for a reason: I’d play it!
When I had a regular Xbox (still do — it’s packed away with the Sega and other systems), I leaned toward playing racing games and other games that allowed me to play for 20 minutes and then get to writing. (Yes, I gamed before writing at times.)
If you’re somebody who can only play 15-20 minutes of Halo, good for you — you’re a rarity! But be sure to put writing before gaming, or try playing games that you can play a short time and then set aside to make room for writing time.
3. Movies. Like TV, movies can help with writing. It’s probably safe to say that I’ve been influenced more by film than writing. But with Netflix and movies streamed online, it’s easy to sit down and find yourself a couple hours later being able to talk about what you watched, not what you wrote!
If given the choice of watching a 2-hour movie, or writing for 2-hours, I’ll take writing.
4. Internet. I’m guilty — the Internet is my time suck! Catching up with friends’ e-mail, keeping up on Facebook and Twitter, and checking news is my “TV time.” That’s why I write during lunch or when I wake up; that’s why I’m writing this blog post before checking my blog feeds.
5. Reading. There, I said it!
Yes, I know that next to writing, a writer’s job is to read. And I love reading. Hanging out in the living room with my wife in the evenings and reading beats hanging out in the living room with my wife in the evenings and watching television. (And remember, I love TV!)
Don’t feel guilty spending hours with your nose in a book, but only read after you’ve written.
How to Cut It Out
It’s easy to say, “Just cut back on these 5 things,” and everything will be better. But many people don’t realize how much time they spend watching TV and movies; playing videogames; reading books; or spending time online.
TV and Movies: Figuring out how much TV you watch shouldn’t be hard. Tally all the shows you watch during the week and figure out how much time each show runs. Add it all up. Same thing with movies — figure out how many movies you watch each week and tally the time.
Do you write as much as you watch TV and movies?
Cutting out a couple shows, or watching even one less movie gives you more time to write.
Videogames: If you’re like me, you can lose track of time when playing videogames. Set a stopwatch, or write down what time you started playing and what time you stopped playing in a notebook.
Compare that number to your time spent writing. If you’re not happy with the results, change things!
(If you’re okay with it, then game on!)
Internet: Time yourself with a stopwatch or alarm, or download an Internet timer. If your online time cuts into your writing time, ask yourself how serious you are about writing.
Reading: Simple solution — write first, read later! Do as much of both as you can!
They Aren’t Bad
TV, movies, videogames, the Internet, and reading can help with storytelling. These 5 things aren’t inherently bad. You can learn a lot about writing from each medium; the trick is to not let each medium cut into your time showing off what they’ve taught you.
Now stop reading this and get writing!