Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Experiment

Well, it's been a while since I last posted. I blame a combination of deadlines and falling under the weather repeatedly. But I'm back with a new update.

My husband and I are trying something new. We've found ourselves trancing in front of the television in our spare time, to the point that plans to be productive after watching our favorite show are all too often sabotaged by our need to get through the backlog on our DVR. It's not uncommon, I think, given how convenient and tailored TV watching has become, but it was becoming an umbilical cord that kept us anchored in the living room and not working on other things. So we decided to do something dramatic.

We got rid of our living room furniture and our cable television.

That's right. Now, the only comfortable place to sit is at our desks where the projects we've been neglecting wait patiently, like some loyal moll ready for an ounce of attention. Without the constant distraction of my favorite shows, some of which are guilty pleasures I will take with me to my grave, I've found myself being more productive with this newfound free time.

I'm writing more.
I'm reading more.
I'm composting ideas and doodling more notes and focusing on the changes I still want to incorporate in my life.

I'm also eating less. Food became that companion to our evening TV watching, somehow becoming so ingrained that it felt weird to watch TV without some hand-to-mouth action included. I've found myself snacking less out of boredom or craving that delicious bacon fest at Denny's and then going to the fridge to make my husband and I the awesome breakfast for dinner meal.

The point is that it's a disruptive choice. It's not been comfortable. I really do miss curling up in front of the TV. But I cannot deny that I've been more productive with my projects-- particularly my writing and the necessary reading that accompanies such a profession.

I've made time where I once didn't have any.

It makes me wonder if as a society we've become pacified with a constant barrage of entertainment to the point that we're not creating or mending or being productive in other ways during our spare time. I don't think that TV is a great evil. Not by any means. I think it became a way to numb the brain and escape after a long day of work, but eventually that escape became necessity, and the equivalent of sticking a pacifier in my brain so that it wouldn't stomp and cry and ask for something else.

What do you think? Have you ever done anything drastic for your art?

Photo courtesy of Terra Younger.


  1. While I applaud your experiment, I think the vilification of Television is overdone. I certainly appreciate the fact that it has improved your efforts in other areas and that is a laudable goal.

    The pacification you mention is a product of the world we live in. Our parents have raised us with the idea that reading more = smarter and watching tv = dumb. I could find 24 hours of television every day that would expland your mind just as much as a book would, but somehow it remains the "idiot box".

    If anything now the thing we are pacified by is the constant stream of information provided by the internet. Constantly refreshing for the latest bit of news/weather/information/school closing.

    There are certainly other benefits to cutting the cord though. That goes without saying. Cable Television, as well as Netflix, and other information providers are experiencing a financial heyday and customers are only now coming around to the fact that they don't need to pay the high costs associated with it every month. I read a statistic the other day that said "Cord Cutting" could reach 10% by 2015. That might be some bogus stat-for-stats sake-ery but there certainly is a trend away from giving Comcast, Cox or Time Warner a large cut of your monthly income.

    In the end though, I suppose I don't believe that the "next big thing" is the evil that has come along to mollify us into lambs to an information slaughter. I just think that as the world around us changes, we change with it. It makes the past harder to compare against the present and although we change and evolve as a culture, I don't believe we evolve away from some core goodness or inteligence. We just evolve into what we are going to be next

  2. I have a mixed reaction to this news as well, but if it's improving your life, I'm for it. Only you know what is best for you. It seems you thought out the decision and executed it together, and that's what matters.

    I have so little free time at home and am incredibly discerning about what TV shows I'll invest that time in. Making such a cut in my life wouldn't make too large a dent, and in the end would deprive me of one of the only low stress activities I have at the moment. I try to indulge myself in a few of these "time for nothing" activities in order to balance my life, without them I think I'd burn out quickly.

    At a recent conference I attended the keynote (Herb Broda – Professor of Education, Ashland University) discussed the "nothing time" concept and how our society has devalued and slandered the concept for years. Plainly put, we don't take time to watch the trees sway and we feel guilty/lazy when we just sit and take time for ourselves. Americans, he says, putting too much emphasis on a scheduled and regimented life. Herb even presented research to support the health benefits of balancing life in this way, and I've been much more intentional about allowing myself this kind of "nothing time" since hearing him speak.

    In the end it sounds like a bold and brave move on your part and I'm anxious to hear how it progresses. I trust you find relaxation and balance in other areas and look forward to hearing about all the the exciting projects accomplished with your new found time. Best of luck!

  3. I appreciate the heartfelt comments. It's very cool to see how others feel. I do want to reiterate that I don't think that television is the great evil or an idiot box. There have been some compelling story lines for television: Six Feet Under and Sopranos, to name two. Nor am I saying that watching TV is a bad thing or that down time is a bad thing. I think Jessi has a great point: we Americans do tend to feel guilty about our free time. And Sudrin, you are also correct in saying that in this day and age, we are inundated with information and entertainment.

    I think for me, personally, it became a distraction that also triggered some bad habits. I have little free time already to focus on my writing-- at least, if I want to remain plugged in to real life relationships and have energy to help keep house with my husband. We haven't cut out movies entirely. We still have Apple TV and a Netflix subscription. I'm just cutting down on some bloat that, in my eyes, was an easy excuse to not do something I really want to finish.

    I appreciate your input. It's given me some thought.

  4. I will definitely miss the shows that expand my mind... I daresay that besides my guilty indulgence (WWE) most of what I watched lived in the History International, Nat Geo, and Discovery spheres. Well, that and wherever Law & Order was playing.

    I'm not interested in ditching entertainment, by any means. I love a good story and sometimes I want to be entertained. I think a larger part of our experiment is the whole 'cutting the cord' value wise. Most things I want to watch I can get online or on Hulu only a few days after broadcast (sooner with favs like Jon Stewart). Documentaries, series, older movies all live in Netflix streaming for cheap. When I want to rent, I have an AppleTV with selection as good as any Blockbuster I've used.

    So the question became... Why cable? And if I had to think about what I wanted to watch, make a point of picking something rather than just channel surfing, would I watch as much? Might I pick up more books? Enjoy the outdoors a little more?

    So for me it isn't a lack of desire for free time, nor is it disillusionment with tv as a whole (okay, if I have to watch any more "So You Think You Can Dance" I might go a little crazy...) but rather a desire to force me to open up my recreation time to things that are still fun and lazy and enjoyable, just a bit beyond my sofa.

    And I will have furniture in there again soon. Oh yes.