Though I may have my American citizenship revoked for this, I’m going to say it anyway:
I don’t like television.
It’s partly that I just don’t have an interest, and partly that I have the attention span of a gnat. I’d rather read or hike or alphabetize my nail polish.
Don’t get me wrong, I do sometimes watch. Rarely on my own, but if a friend calls and says “Let’s drink wine and watch The Bachelor,” I can be lured by the first three words into participating in the last three.
That fact that I don’t like television renders me a bit out-of-touch with the rest of humanity. When I failed to understand the umteenth TV-culture reference over Thanksgiving dinner, my mother sent me an exasperated look and said, “talking to you is like talking to an Amish person.”
But despite the downside of my failure to engage in this most noble of American pastimes, there are two distinct advantages to it.
The first is that I have several extra hours a day in which to write, cook, hike, read, ponder, or do anything else that tickles my fancy (including ticking my fancy, which as you can imagine, takes a lot of time).
But the second thing is something I didn’t realize until one of my critique partners told me last week about an educational special she saw on TV. I don’t recall the details (attention span of a gnat, remember?) but the gist was that scientists determined the segments of the brain responsible for creativity are most active when the brain is in neutral gear.
Watching TV doesn’t count – the brain is too engaged – and same goes for reading a book. But doing the dishes, petting the cat, taking a walk, staring off into space – those are all effective ways to downshift your brain and kick-start your creativity.
It makes sense. Though I never did it for scientific purposes, I’ve always noticed that if I’m writing a scene that just isn’t working, the best thing to do is leash the beasts and go for a long hike in the woods. My objective is usually to get the hell away from the story, so I deliberately avoid thinking about it. Even so, nine times out of ten I’ll return to my computer with a brand new idea my brain somehow cooked up while I was scolding the dog for eating goose poop.
So for all you writers out there, it’s a good reminder not to feel guilty if you find yourself procrastinating by baking banana bread or cleaning lint out of your belly button (though not at the same time, I would hope). You’re not procrastinating – you’re percolating.
And on that note, it’s time to go percolate while I clean the aquarium.