I’ve just returned from a week-long holiday in Scotland (which also included a week of entertaining my seven-year-old nephew … so it wasn’t exactly a relaxing holiday, as such). But it was a holiday with a difference because the only television in the entire self-catering property was located on the upstairs landing. There were no televisions downstairs, and none of the bedrooms had one.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a big television fan. I like to keep abreast of the news. The Great British Bake Off is a must at the moment, as is its associated Extra Slice (Friday evening). If the soaps are on then I may keep tabs with what’s going on, but I can just as easily forget them. The Family Guy cartoon series will often attract my attention, even though I’ve probably seen every episode six times now. But even so, it’s surprising how often the television gets switched on just as background noise, or with the intention of switching it off when the news is over, only to find two hours later that I’ve gained a sudden interest in Eastern Russian nomadic living according to the latest celebrity chef.
But last week, while I was away, it was more difficult for the television to attract my attention. So I read. Or wrote. I also did a lot of thinking … because it was quiet. It highlighted to me that although I’m pretty disciplined (if I have a deadline and I need to focus then the television stays switched off and doesn’t distract me at all), if there’s no urgent deadline then I do have a tendency to switch on the television. And once it’s on it soon sucks my attention from other activities.
So I’ve made a decision. In the evenings the television only goes on if there’s a specific programme I want to watch. If there’s nothing on, then it doesn’t get switched on. I’ll read. Which is probably a good thing, because while I was on holiday we went to a bookshop and I bought three new books. (Three? That’s quite refrained for me!) Or I’ll write. Or think.
Review your writing area to identify any distracting machines, and consider ditching them, or keeping them switched off, and then consider what impact this has on your writing life. You may not get any more writing done. You might decide to read instead. But reading is just as important to writers as writing is. And reading helps us to think, too. Which means that more thinking could spark off more ideas. And what’s a writer without ideas?