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Why This Novelist Stopped Watching TV

... When you're on your deathbed, will you cherish all the time you spent watching TV?...
n 2007, after a lifetime of watching of TV, I stopped watching. My habit was like any, like smoking or drinking. It was just something I did. No real thought about not watching. When I decided to stop, I went cold turkey. I had many weak moments in January and February 2007 but I eventually broke the habit. Whatever urge I had to turn on the TV completely vanished and I haven’t looked back.
But how could I? When I mention to people I don’t watch TV, they are incredulous or think I’m nuts. Well, it is true. I don’t watch TV and perhaps I am nuts but I have my reasons.
I had known co-workers and friends who had turned off TV completely. I read about journalists and writers who did the same and I always thought they were a touch nuts but then I read Stephen King’s book On Writing. In it he says, and I paraphrase, if you want to write novels, what the hell are you doing watching TV? It got me thinking but still I watched.
I watched the cooking channel or the talking heads. I watched the nature shows and tales about Egypt. I watched nonsense when I couldn’t sleep. I continued to watch, but I realized my addiction was destroying me. I had become a zombie. I had deactivated my brain.
The cooking shows became more about theatre and staged drama and less about technique and ingredients or how to cook. These folks fell for the world of reality TV and I began to hate it.
I watched all the politcos talk and talk, but there was never any sense of meshing out issues. It was staged theatrics. Everybody involved had their side and pushed their manure regardless of the smell. Those watching weren’t engaged in reasoned thought because they had their side and were spectators of a fight.
And think about all the commercials. There are the commercial breaks with unrealistic ads urging us to buy this soap or that beer, but it doesn’t stop there. Everything is a commercial. The pundits pushing a political party. The activist pushing a cause. The religious. The movie and TV stars. The bands. The chefs. The writers. The charities. Shows were nothing more than commercials wrapped around commercials with coming-up-next commercials to keep you watching.
What was I gaining from all this time sitting in front of a TV? Not much it would appear.
I know the names Snooki and Kardasian, did I spell them right?, but they are nothing more than names to me. Have I lost anything because I know nothing about these people? I don’t think so.
If I want to know about what is happening in the world, what’s the latest news, I find it’s much easier to read about it than sit through a TV news broadcast. With the internet, the sources for news have never been more accessible. I can learn more in fifteen minutes of reading then 20 minutes of news with its 10 minutes of commercials.
If I want to be educated on a topic, or even entertained, there are plenty of books and web sites and they work much better for me than TV. If I want a laugh, want a thrill, want to sway to the music, there are far better choices than broadcast TV. The best times, I’ve found, are usually with friends, chatting and laughing and not a TV in sight.
There’s always the risk one replaces one addiction for another like the internet. But without TV, I have time for gardening, exercise, reading and writing.
Do you think you don’t have enough time? Turn off the TV. Besides, when you’re on your deathbed, will you cherish all the time you spent watching TV? Is that what will go through your mind? I don’t think so.
Posted 2012/08/19 at 14h39ET in Writing, Life.


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