KB: The Shining Box

From The Knifebox

Nov. 23, 2009

on-writingStephen King came out with a book on writing a few years back — On Writing — and the main piece of advice I gleaned from it was to turn off the TV.

He had other great tips, about building a good work area and closing the door and picking a time and sticking to it and staying away from big dogs and empty hotels in New England and cars with their own minds. But his big thing was to turn off the idiot box. Seemed to me at the time to be good advice. Still seems that way.

So, yeah, I’m swearing off TV.

I still have to watch NBA games. No getting out of that. But I’m booting everything else. Going cold turkey. And you know, the thing is, I don’t think it’s going to be that hard.

I’m not trying to be a snob here. I’m going to miss Mad Men. I’m going to miss The Office. I like 30 Rock. House is good, with really good writing.

But I’m not going to miss 24 (Hey, Jack, someone is lying!). And, most of all, I’m not going to miss that terrible feeling that you get when you’ve been slumped in a chair for two hours and all you can think is, “I can’t believe I’ve been sitting here watching this stupid crap for two hours!”

This might not work out. I know that. I’m leaving some good stuff on the table. The final season of Lost. The last 12 hours of the Ken Burns documentary on national parks. (I loved that first two hours.) I’m going to be the cultural moron in a lot of discussions around the office. More so than normal, I mean. I know. I know.

But what I hope to gain is a few more minutes — or, like, half a day — to write and to read something other than sports copy, and maybe to get some other things done.

(Full disclosure here: I’ll probably still DVR some movies now and then. But no regular TV. That’s the plan.)

It’s all about managing my limited time, and trying to avoid that nauseous feeling I get when I’m wasting it. Understandable, right?

I was reminded of King’s advice a few weeks back when, flipping through one of my wife’s entertainment magazines at breakfast, I came upon a King column on pop culture. I can’t remember which magazine it was — and I could look it up, but does it matter? — but King was writing about … a television show.

(OK. Here’s one of his columns, dammit.)

Yeah. A little disheartening.

Look, I imagine King is to the point now where he can write like a maniac and still sneak away for a little Family Guy now and then. The best part of that is that he can do it and get paid for it.

But I’m not there yet. So I’m booting TV. The least I can do, I figure, is to try to practice what King preaches.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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