Six months and nine days without television and no regrets. Instead of wasting hours a day staring at a blinking screen, I have read twenty-four books from my TBR bookshelf and traveled to four foreign countries, one make-believe place, and seven cities outside my hometown. So far this year, I’ve traveled to:
I’ve learned how to load, shoot, and clean various handguns. (Serious fun.) Hey, writing suspense demands first-hand research for authenticity, right? And I’ve sent out two of my manuscripts to colleagues for final critiques in preparation of publication.
It is getting easier and easier to walk by the big screen and the remote with each day. Like friends who have non-stop schedules since their retirement, living without television has enriched my life by freeing more time for 3D living instead of two-dimensional vicarious spectating.
To readers following this blog–next year, an presidential election year in the U.S., you can join me in turning off television. If not to enjoy the peace and quiet for serious contemplation, then for the avoidance of the attack ads and divisiveness of modern political campaigns.
So far, the gains of hours more time each week to pursue my own interests has greatly outweighed the inert entertainment of television with its disturbing growth of sleazy reality television shows. I gain nothing from such shows, save a depressing view of humanity at its worst. Without television, I have gained an hour or more a day to pursue higher goals.
I am trying to lead by example and live with no television, read more, get out to play more, exercise more, and live more. Watching television is a habit that isolates me from the world while it simultaneously gives the illusion of being part of it. Like any habit, slouching on the sofa staring at a blinking box is easy to do. Far easier than planning a dinner party with friends, or researching the next vacation, or visiting pals in the hospital. Watching television for the most part is social, mental, and physical inertia.
Remember the movie WALL-E? He was a small trash-compacting robot who hitches a ride back to the ship where humans live while they wait for earth to recover from pollution. When he find the humans they have relied so heavily on technology to feed, bathe, and transport them that they have grown so lazy they can’t walk. That would be me in another ten years of nightly television viewing with a bowl of popcorn in my lap.
Heading into month six, week twenty-five, I have momentum. The S Health pedometer on my Samsung S measured my average daily steps in January at 2,000. In the last 30 days I’ve averaged 10,000 steps per day. Sure, some of them have been diligently striding past the television, but hey, this is progress. As a devout watcher of police procedurals, the sigh-worthy misses this year are: Castle, NCIS, Major Crimes, Rizzoli & Isles, and the rumored last season of CSI (Las Vegas)! So to get my fix I’ve stockpiled thrillers, suspense, and mysteries by Linda Castillo, John Foxjohn, James Patterson, David Morrell, Lee Child, Diane Capri, John Grisham, Greg Iles, Dan Brown, and Joshua Graham. On ships, in cars, on planes, on beaches, and at a cabin in the woods, I will read without commercial interruptions.
While it is true that television and books both provide the illusion of participating in the story, books draw the participant deeper into the mind and heart of a character. Books offer a deeper perspective and a richer experience into worlds and events readers will never experience otherwise.
And yes, I will also work on my own novels. To my readers and fans, buckle up. Prepare for a new book this fall with the cover reveal this summer. Editing continues.
Writing is such a solitary endeavor that writers crave feedback. For the most successful authors the feedback comes in long lines of readers seeking autographs at conferences and in big fat royalty checks. Feedback also comes through Goodreads reviews, Amazon reviews, newspaper and magazine reviews, and the joy of seeing a stranger carrying one of your books to the beach or through an airport. I suppose a similar joy would be for a musician to hear her song on the radio. Sometimes feedback will come from out of the blue.
After my airplane had repairs done on the radio system, a mechanic wiped off his hands and handed me the key with a bit of advice–he told me my novel had a typo in the second chapter. It took me a moment to process what he was talking about, because my book had just been published a week earlier. Even my mother hadn’t read it yet. I resisted the urge to hug him, but thanked him for buying my book.
Next, I dashed home, made the correction and uploaded the eBook again to Amazon. The majority of the feedback new writers receive comes from the critiques of family, friends, and colleagues. These can be harrowing, confusing critiques because while readers know what they like and don’t like, they often cannot articulate the specifics. One relative will say there is too much dialogue, another will say it needs more. Whereas a reader might say, “the ending ran too long.” Another writer is more likely to pinpoint that a scene is misplaced and would work better before the climax of the story. So contests serve that rarely-met need to get objective, detailed critiques with comments inside the body of the story.
And yes, contests also provide huge validation and bragging rights for finalists and winners. Beta readers, critique partners and agents provide feedback as well. In the case of critiques it is far easier to give than to receive. We can so easily spot the blunders, gaffs, and typos in someone else’s story, yet we struggle to see our own. A totally honest critique from one adult to another is worth years of wasted effort editing and rewriting. It takes courage and honesty to take a critique. That first time on that first big project any critique might feel like someone is calling your newborn ugly.
After deep breaths, a serious writer learns to listen, take notes, and consider how to use that critique to improve the story. Writers groups offer critique groups, but sadly, not all groups are created equal. Dare I say there are writers groups filled with hobbyist writers, dabblers, avid readers who don’t write, and folks who are exploring the idea of being a writer. You can generally spot them when they say they don’t read much, but they want to write a novel over the weekend. Others corner published authors with offers like, “I have this amazing story idea. How about if you write it and we split the royalties?” To such “writers” I explain the purpose and fees of ghostwriters.
Finding a group of serious career-minded writers usually entails joining a national organization. For a list of the largest ones, click on WRITER’S ORGANIZATIONS. Writer’s conferences can hone a writer’s skills through workshops and lectures and networking, and remind writers that there are others out there at the same skill level. Team up! The buddy system helps us slog through the hard times. So to writers, I say keep creating. To readers I say, thank you for turning off your TV once in a while. Thank you for supporting writers by buying books in any format. And thank you for your feedback, your reviews, and your encouragement.
It’s easy to skip television this week because General Aviation News/SUN ‘n FUN Today hired me to report on news at the fly-in all week. Missing sleep much more than television, but this is a happy kind of tired. Last year I worked on the seaplanes beat, but this year due to high water levels (submerged dock, submerged ramp, etc) the Splash-In was cancelled. Click on this link to read articles I wrote last year.
So this year, I’m the roving reporter, chasing down the elusive Breitling Jet Team engineers who had to reassemble the Czech-made L-39C planes from parts crated and shipped here from Dijon, France. Meeting with missionary aviation pilots gathered from the ends of the earth to stay at the homes of local residents while they enjoy SUN ‘n FUN and spread the word about what they do. Getting the scoop on a Grumman Mohawk (N10VD) painted with the names of Vietnam war MIAs in a stirring tribute that’s being called a ‘flying monument.’ And I had the honor of documenting a ceremony in which the FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award was presented to ten amazing legends in aviation.
Tomorrow I get to go see the Breitling Jet Team perform. This is the first stop on their first-ever North American tour. Oh, and the Thunderbirds are performing the same day. EEEEEEEeeeep. Pardon my geekasm. There’s just something about precision aerobatics in reeeeally fast planes that gets my pulse racing.
Ah, the smell of jet A and the roar of afterburners….So television? Meh. I’m having too much SUN ‘n FUN to miss the blinking box.
The annual Cruise Queens vacation was supposed to happen last week. I figured five days out of the country would make it easy to skip TV. Our bon voyage became a non-voyage after the second day of sea fog led Royal Caribbean to cancel the February 23 sailing of the Brilliance of the Seas’ five-day trip to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. After over twenty-four hours of automated text-message updates raised our hopes and dashed them every two hours, my friend and first year Cruise Queen Terri Johnson dubbed it Groundfog Day. We were stuck in a loop that ended with the message that the Coast Guard would not permit ships to enter Tampa Bay under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Granted, this bridge had been struck before, so caution was reasonable.
Oddly enough, the weather was clear at the docks where we sixteen women gathered in matching Tiffany blue t-shirts and tiaras to await news or storm the dock. We had places to go, costumes to wear, birthdays to celebrate, and attitude to spare. We became news. TV Channel 13 and Channel 8 interviewed us. A photo of the ship in fog outside of Tampa Bay circulated among the crowd, who had spent the night at the Tampa Marriott Waterside. The ship looked more like something from a modern version of The Flying Dutchman than a vacation ship.
The Cruise Queens land in St. Augustine for shopping on St. George Street.
Undeterred, we gathered back in Polk County at Cruise Queen Pam Abbott’s home in Lakeland to formulate Plan B. Cruise Queen Kim, owner of Saigon Bistro in Lakeland, arrived with trays of food. We gently elbowed one another for the egg rolls and set plans to book rooms in St. Augustine. Tropical wear was swapped out for sweaters and long pants and the next day we caravanned to northern Florida. By Thursday morning we piled into cars to shop at the outlet mall and St. George Street and King Street. Among us, we bought over sixty bracelets, two dresses, and untold number of souvenirs, causing a financial spike in the local economy.
I introduced Terri to an art gallery where hubby and I bought our favorite paintings–Love’s Art Emporium, where we met Len Cutter and his sons. After a discussion of art and poetry, Len recited Robert Frost’s The Road Less Traveled from memory the way he said it would sound from a New Englander. Terri and I gaped in joy and wonder.
Len Cutter, Love’s Art Emporium, St. Augustine
We celebrated birthdays in costume. No, not birthday suits. One night we dressed as Pink ladies from Grease in honor of Amy’s birthday, and another night we dressed in 70s garb for Cruise Queen Kathy’s. Disco days, white go-go boots, yeah. We got stares at Harry’s Restaurant. Being without television (even though I was on the news) has put more life in my life. Thanks to great friends with a carpe diem spirit, we had a blast.
“Every time someone watches reality TV a book dies.” My friend Marc Newquist told me I’d said that to him a while back and it resonated with him. After mulling it over, he’s decided to cancel cable television. His five sons showed no enthusiasm for this idea. Two openly glared at me. Yipes.
I’ve always believed that certain television programs destroy brain cells. If we tortured spies by forcing them to watch children’s shows Barney and Teletubies for a week, they would spill all their secrets. Adult programs involving the Kardashians, Paris Hilton, or ambush/confrontational shows like Jerry Springer, and competitive dating also lower one’s IQ by glorifying selfishness, stupidity, and other forms of immoral and uncivilized behavior. Should we as a society reward bad behavior with fame and money? Doesn’t that encourage more bad behavior and send a signal to young people to do the same? I propose it is cruel to broadcast auditions to talent shows when many of the candidates have a painful lack of talent. Okay, it’s hilarious, but low-brow, knuckle-dragging humor at best.
Confrontational shows with themes like Who’s your daddy? and Guess who’s sleeping with your boyfriend? destroy brain cells and foster violence. Emotions run high and, with the already limited intelligence of participants,–measured by the fact that they accepted an invitation to be on the Jerry Springer Show–chairs and fists are destined to fly.
While documentaries, historical shows, scientific discoveries, and such reality shows have merit, they also garner lower ratings, attract fewer viewers, and generate less income. This is an indictment that our civilization’s standards are in free fall.
Hillary Clinton stated that on her ride into a war zone her plane had taken fire, and she had to scramble for cover when they landed. Videotape of her arrival shows a group of school children greeting her with flowers. Where was the media to call out this lie? Well, certain members of the media also have a distant relationship with the facts. The so-called News Anchorman Brian Williams recently admitted he ‘may have’ exaggerated the dangers of a helicopter flight he took a few years ago into a war zone. So his helicopter ‘might’ have taken a hit by a rocket-propelled grenade? Uh huh. And he landed unharmed? Yeeeeah. Ooookay. And he repeated this fiction until men and women in uniform called him out on it. To Clinton and Willams, I say look up the term STOLEN VALOR. Kudos to the honest soldiers who dragged these lies into the light of day.
Pardon the rant, but with an election year coming up, I felt compelled to share my opinion that our society is in sorry condition if it relies on the media or politicians to tell the truth. It seems to me that news and entertainment have blended into something closer to fiction.
For truly fine fiction, locate a bookstore or library. Or download the free Kindle App and search Amazon for free books. You’ll find hundreds of classics for free. I think it’s time to scour my library for books for Marc’s sons. I feel I owe them that.