Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Free At Last

We're coming to the end of the television season, and I'm so glad.

It used to be that I was so disappointed when my favorite shows would go on Summer hiatus. I'd lament all the reruns and how there was nothing on to watch, gnashing my teeth over any cliffhangers that needed to be resolved.

Now, I'm excited to get those free hours. Because in the summer, there is nothing I feel compelled to watch.

I know this sounds ridiculous. Like I have no control over what I do with my time, that someone is forcing me to watch The West Wing and Lost and Grey's Anatomy every week. If I don't miss these shows over the summer, why don't I just kick the habit altogether and stop watching?

As many times as I've read about writers who claim they don't watch TV, I don't think there is anything wrong with devoting yourself to a show or two. TV shows, especially those hour-long dramas, offer up some excellent examples of storytelling, both how to do it well (Lost) and how to completely muck it up (Smallville). Watching episodes from an early season as compared to ones from a later season can demonstrate how characters grow and change over time (a la The West Wing's Donna Moss). And the season-finale cliffhangers certainly prove that leaving 'em hanging is the way to keep 'em coming back for more.

Plus, sometimes my writer brain needs a rest. Sometimes I need to not think. Nothing better for this than vegging on the couch for an hour or so and letting someone else do the heavy storytelling lifting.

Besides, I use TiVo, the best invention ever since flush toilets, so I can shift when and how I watch what I want to watch. I don't suffer commercials, so my hour-long dramas really only require a 50 minute commitment. If I miss a week or two, it's a nice evening's worth of time to catch up. Plus, I can't write while I'm eating my lunch anyway, so I might as well enjoy a Buffy rerun.

But, it will still be nice this summer to not have unwatched episodes of Lost hanging over my head. When I pause to think what night it is and what show will be TiVoing and whether or not the hubby will want to watch it with me, I can smile and know that I'm not missing anything at all.

The key, I think, is to use those hours gained over summer hiatus to actually write. If I spend an average of 5 hours a week on TV programs (and there really are only 5 shows I make an effort to watch), I need to log 5 extra hours of writing every week this summer.

Maybe these 5 hours will make up the loss in hours I'm going to experience having two kids home from school 24/7. I got As in math, so I'm pretty sure I'll still end up in the negative column.

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