Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I'm not procrastinating, I'm percolating

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.


Anonymous said...

So that's why I don't like watching TV!

Linda G. said...

Oh, wait...you're supposed to "engage" when you watch TV? You mean, like, look at the TV and listen? Not read and do crossword puzzles while you watch? Huh. Go figure.

Sadly, I've recently discovered some of my best plot ideas while *gulp* ironing. And I despise ironing with a passion unequaled since Juliet offed herself for her Romeo (and vice-versa). Apparently, my mind will go great creative lengths to avoid focusing on flattening wrinkles.


Xuxana -- that's my theory anyway! When I say I don't like TV, some people get defensive. I think they assume I'm being high-minded and snobbish in that "I only read books" sort of way, but it's really just a short attention span! How's your book coming along?

Linda G, ironing, huh? I have the same feeling about ironing that you seem to have about cooking. I'll do anything to get out of it. You should blog about the ironing thing sometime! Like what garment were you ironing when you came up with your favorite plot twist? :)


Linda G. said...

That's a great idea! And thanks -- I'm relatively new to this blogging thing, and always on the look-out for for ideas. My problem is...well, my life is dull. Don't get me wrong--I like it that way. An "interesting" life is the last thing I want (think of that proverbial Chinese curse: May you live an interesting life.) I have a hard time thinking anyone would be interested in reading about my real life. The temptation to make shi--er, stuff--up is almost overwhelming.

Anonymous said...

There are only ever two shows at a time I like to watch on TV, and they are dramas based on books ;)

My sister's family doesn't even have a TV!

I come from a long line of TV haters.

Sheri said...

TV is a mind numbing, exercise. I don't love it, but sometimes after a bad day, it feels good just to turn off. I totally agree that you are more creative when you have extra time.


Sheri, I've got lots of mind-numbing activities that feel good after a bad day -- TV just doesn't happen to be one of them :)

Get your mind out of the gutter, that's not what I meant.


Minta said...

Oh Tawna, you're not supposed to talk about tickling your fancy. At least that's what people tell me. :)


Minta, I'd have very little to talk about if I didn't occasionally bring that up in conversation! :)


Minta said...

And it's a good thing you do, so I don't feel like the only one. And you and I have something interesting to talk about. Hahaha.

Jess Tudor said...

I call it percolating, too. And I don't watch television, either. Can we be friends? You can have my portion of the wine. :)


Jess, of course we can be friends! Anyone who gives me her portion of the wine can be my friend for life!