I watch way too much TV.
And I mean, way too much TV.
remember when I advised that though authors absolutely have to read, and read a lot, and read in other genres and categories than we tend to write in, we should also consume other media including TV, movies, games, etc.? Well, I meant that, but in my case I let things slide entirely too much toward the TV end of the spectrum.
I work from home, primarily as an editor but also as an author, but in the past few years my own writing has taken a back seat to my editing/consulting business—and that’s fine. I love being an editor and educator. I love my online courses, and all my amazing clients. But I would also like to write more—lots more, actually. I also noticed over the past few years that while I was telling y’all to read more, I was reading less—and in this case I don’t count the books I read as part of my freelance editing business, but books for pleasure and personal enlightenment. So this time last year I set a goal on GoodReads to read 52 books in 2018—one a week. And guess what? I hit that goal! That effectively doubled the number of books I read in 2017. This is a huge positive—and shows that behavior can be changed for the better especially if you actually enjoy the thing you’re trying to do more of. I love reading, so reading more was not difficult to wedge into my life.
I also love being an editor—and I try to wedge in as much of that as I can. So then why am I always struggling to play catch up, always behind the schedule eight ball?
I love writing, but then why has my output been limited to this weekly blog post and the occasional poem or short story?
Circling back to the whole working from home thing…
There are great advantages to that lifestyle, and frankly, you couldn’t drag me back into a corporate office environment. But there are drawbacks, too, and the biggest one for me is distraction.
When my daughter wad diagnosed with ADD I read up on the symptoms and it was like a checklist that explained my own life since childhood. I grew up in the 60s and 70s, when kids weren’t diagnosed with stuff, but if they had been, I probably would have been.
Still, I have my little things I’ve learned to do to manage that, but looking back over at least the past three or four years, one thing has cropped up as the root of all attention deficit evils in my work-from-home life, and that thing is the television.
Thanks to modern technology daytime TV isn’t just game shows, soap operas, and I Dream of Jeanie reruns, it’s literally anything and everything you want at your fingertips. So many movies, the Golden Age of TV that’s unfolding daily right now, documentaries on any conceivable subject…
So I go downstairs for lunch and the TV goes on—no, see? I need to start changing my own language: I turn the TV on.
And sometimes I can keep it to a single one hour episode of something, and sometimes I can watch thirty or forty minutes of a movie then turn it off and get back to work, but sometimes I fall into what ends up being an afternoon “off.”
I’m not editing. I’m not writing. I’m not reading. I’m not even keeping up on chores around the house, taking my dogs for a walk, exercising, or anything else.
This is especially problematic when I’m under a deadline crunch (which is pretty much all the time, because I take too many TV afternoons off) and particularly demoralizing when I realize I just blew a work day rewatching something I’ve seen before—maybe dozens of times before.
But something about that screen, man, it just sucks me in.
TV is the one thing—not the device itself but my own relationship with it—that is at the root of all “evil” in my working life. This is the one thing I need to climb on top of right now to make 2019 a big year for me as an editor, author, educator… father, homeowner… everything gets pushed aside by the next full rewatch of a series I’ve seen all the way through at least three times. Why would I possibly do that? What does that actually serve?
But am I overreacting?
I wasn’t sure myself, actually, so I sat down and thought about how many hours I spent watching TV, after looking up the average TV viewing in America. According to Nielsen, the average is about five hours a day, or thirty-five hours a week. That feels already like too much time to me, so when I saw that I thought maybe I was overestimating my TV problem. Surely I was within a margin of error of average. After all, five hours a day in front of the tube (yes… I know they aren’t tubes anymore…) is a lot—too much, really.
But when I was finally honest with myself and sat down and really thought about it and added up each day—weekdays being different from weekends, etc., the number I came up with blew my mind:
That’s more than twice the average per week and it means that if I dial my TV viewing time back to average, I gain back exactly a full work week… every week.
And I know that number seems impossible, that that averages out to almost eleven hours a day—and yes, I do sleep with the TV on. If I sleep about 49 hours a week that leaves only 44 hours a week for everything else.
Just. Not. Okay.
Especially since that though there are a few tasks I can do while the TV is on, the one I end up doing the most is eating. I’m not eating right now while I’m writing this. I never eat while reading or editing. But sit me in front of a football game, a movie, or a Game of Thrones marathon, and you better watch your fingers because it’s eat and eat and eat and eat.
So, then, what are my usual resolutions: work harder, write more, read more, lose weight/eat better/exercise at all…
TV is the thing getting in the way of all those things.
So then 2019’s real resolution: Break the TV addiction, and break it hard.
There are things that get in our way as authors—as people in general. We all have challenges and they come, sometimes, in the strangest form, in ways that seem perfectly mundane. TV? Really? That doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Just turn it off and get back to work. I have maybe a dozen servings of alcohol a year—I’m just not a big drinker. Would say, “Alcohol? Really? Just don’t order a drink,” to an alcoholic? That’s not helpful. It’s not good enough. I have identified this as a real problem, and I need to address it as such.
Anyone else out there dealing with something similar? Some force that gets between you and your work?
Identifying it can be half the battle. I named my demon, and now it’s Phil vs. TV for the rest of 2019.
Wish me luck!
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