Tonight, I unhooked my cable.
I have two televisions, one in the living room, one in the bedroom. A few minutes ago I rendered them both useless, save for DVD viewing. In the city, not having cable means not having reception.
I have been trying to write a novel for months now, and my goal was to integrate it into my everyday life. Work, write the novel, watch TV, have dinner with friends, and… well, it just wasn’t working. It was a noble attempt, that failed.
My life became a fragile ecosystem whereby coming home from work an hour late, or having to flip the gym from the morning to the evening upset the delicate balance. And the first thing to suffer was my writing.
But every week, I would watch Dawson examine his feelings about Joey, those dedicated lawyers on The Practice find the craziest cases coming through their doors, and Jack say something funny and fabulous. Those I always found time for… but no longer.
I did this in steps, but tonight’s final step is definitely the most painful. I started by ridding myself of the pay channels, so goodbye Queer as Folk and Six Feet Under. Then, I switched to basic cable, which was still 60+ channels of distraction. Finally, I found some little-used plan mainly for satellite dish owners who need to get their local stations pumped in, so I’m down to like 20 channels, and a majority of them suck.
But tonight was the final straw.
I know that my friend Kirk moved out of the city to write his novel, surrounding himself with country, a lot of down time, and his computer. Stephen King has always told would-be writers to “avoid television, ‘the glass teat’.” And my favorite writer, Chuck Palahniuk, he of Fight Club fame, has also said the same thing in interviews:
“Writing a book requires focusing your attention for so long to get so much of a narrative in your head,” he says. “And you can’t do that with TV constantly bombarding you with dozens of narratives. We really have to make a conscious effort to step out of the culture in order to write anything new that reflects the culture.”
So, now it is off. Obviously, it is too soon to make any predictions, but I’m writing this essay after already turning out 2500+ words on the novel. But that’s like judging a new diet on your ability to get through the first day successfully. I have the clarity of a drunk starting rehab and stupidly boasting of his ultimate success prior to his first relapse. I mean, I didn’t call the cable company and shut the line off at this point, it is just unhooked at the wall.
But, I had to realign my priorities to focus on what I want to accomplish in life. I want to publish my first novel in 2003, which means it has to be written ASAP in 2002. I’m trying to stay as blissfully ignorant of the publishing process at this point, lest I get even more discouraged about what lies in store for me once I have a draft.
So, it’s still early. It’s still hard to fathom not suckling the glass teat as often. But, I have to focus on my priorities.