I love stories. Any kind of story, long, short, funny, serious, fantasy, mystery, drama they are all good. I will gobble up stories through any form of media, internet, television, paper, billboard, audiobook, spoken, interpretive dance, whatever. On one level this is great. There is a sea of inspiration out in the world and I will happily drink it in through any format. This is also super dangerous, especially when I have easy access to unlimited story input at my fingertips.
I am talking about Netflix. I love Netflix, but ever since it came into my life I’ve struggled with the biggest, most common pitfall of it: Binge Watching.
This has become such a universal activity for myself – and my entire generation – that it is hardly seen as a problem. Rather, it is just a joke, we laugh about how late we stayed up watching, how fast we got through the 7 seasons of Gilmore Girls, and the things we forgot to do because we had to watch just one more episode. I’m not judging, because I do this – a lot.
This tendency to become addicted to watching the show of my choice on Netflix has become especially toxic to my writing life. For three and a half main reasons.
- I don’t watch high quality stories: Yes, this is a self imposed problem. Netflix has some AMAZING shows that maybe could offer some inspiration for my writing, but those stories are not usually what I choose to watch. Instead I gravitate towards the simple, the silly and the easy to understand as I am often multitasking while I binge watch two seasons worth of episodes in one week. As the saying goes, quality in, quality out. When I am not putting quality stories into my brain, quality stories do not come out of my brain. I see this whenever I go on a Netflix bender, as well as when I sober up and suddenly my story makes sense again.
- It is easier to choose watching over reading: I have multiple really awesome books I am in the middle of right now, one paper, one audio book. I could easily listen to my audiobook instead of watching my shows, but there is something about the flashing lights of the screen that always pull me in. I used to spend nearly 45 minutes a night reading, I could power through a 300 page book in less than a week. Lately, I barely make time to read and it took me three weeks to read a simple 400 page YA fiction book. When given the choice between Netflix and reading, it takes less energy and brain strength to go with the screen which loops back to point number 1. Poor input = poor output.
2.5 It is easier to choose watching over writing: If I can hardly muster the strength to read a book, I certainly won’t have the strength to write a book. Though I made some amazing book breakthroughs in July, and am actually really excited about where I am at in revising my novel, forcing myself to commit time to writing is like forcing a vegan to eat pork chops. It’s a real battle. Where I used to easily spend an hour every night writing, I find myself tiring after barely fifteen minutes. I can’t blame a busy schedule for this problem, rather it boils down to the fact that I’ve been valuing entertainment over pursuing my passion which, frankly, is not okay.
- It encourages instant gratification: Television has long been criticized for the three things I’ve listed above. It makes us lazy, and stupid and fat. Netflix has added a new layer to these problems, it encourages instant gratification. Back in the old days, we had to wait for the next season of a show to come out. It took patience, and dedication to watch a show from pilot to final (My family was super into Lost, and we literally watched every episode from every season in real time. Hey can you hang out on Wednesday – No my show is on!) With Netflix, we no longer need that kind of dedication. I can watch all the episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” without any work or patience required. This translates to me wanting to rush ahead with my stories. I find that I no longer have the patience to delve into an important theme, or to rewrite a scene 12 times until it is perfect. I just want to push through and get to the next episode.
As the saying goes, realizing I have a problem is the first step to fixing my problem. So, here’s my plan for ditching my Netflix obsession:
- Create Rules: For me, I need to do a total cold turkey to really shake off my Netflix cravings. Others might be able to set rules like 1 episode a night, or only watching on Mondays. I do not have that kind of will power so I need to just stop, detox for a while and focus on other things
- Read: My best cure for a Netflix bender is to switch over to reading. It satiates my desire to be entertained while still putting good stories and good ideas into my brain. To encourage reading, I’m going to reread my favorite book series of all time because I know I will be hooked from day one.
- Write: Plain and simple, I need to put my foot down and focus on writing instead of entertaining myself.
- Don’t go back: My biggest issue with Netflix is I always seem to relapse. Every time I think I’m finally done with binge watching I get over confident, find a new show and relapse myself into this mess once again. I’m tired of the cycle. In order to avoid falling back into this familiar pattern I need to keep looking forward towards my goals and be intentional about prioritizing my time. This includes setting concrete goals for my writing timeline, choosing healthier entertainment options, and keeping a good work life balance. With some perspective, and a lot of discipline I believe this will be the time I kick the Netflix habit for good. And a little external motivation from sharing this all with you probably won’t hurt either.
Do you have anything in your life that consistently keeps you from writing, or from writing your best? Do you have any tips for me on how to break my Netflix addiction? Let me know in the comments below and together we can find our best life balance so we can write at our best level!
Stay Amazing my Friends,