How much time do you spend watching TV? This image appears on page 27 of my book Vitalize Your Creative Life. I stand by this graphic and the message it conveys. I also freely admit that I am a TV binger and lifelong TV addict. By the word “TV” I mean the effortless preoccupation of my brain by programmed sounds and videos on a screen (of any size) while the remainder of my body remains relatively inactive. In part I had no choice. I grew up with TV. I am the product of an early generation exposed to a now common type of addiction.
Growing up in my family TV watching was a regularly scheduled event. Back before on-demand streaming, DVDs (Betamax), and the “pause” button itself, you had to be there, in front of your TV at a specific time, or else you simply missed out. For important shows, meals were accelerated, other activities cancelled, and obligations postponed, just to ensure that we could be “present” for a specific TV event.
TV rolled through our lives like a passenger train.
There was no pausing a program while you ran to the bathroom real quick or made yourself a drink. If you weren’t on board and watching, it went on without you. You would have to rely on someone else who was watching to help catch you up on what you missed.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED it! Sometimes I still do. It brought my whole family together. It gave us things to talk about. It made us laugh. It provided us with phrases that would re-emerge again and again throughout our lives, adding dimension to our own family culture. I mean, who could forget things like, “Yadda, yadda, yadda,” “Whatcha talkin’ bout Willis?”, and “That’s all folks!”
Fast forward to the 2000s with the dangerously convenient innovations of online streaming, DVR, and endless hours of serial programming. My friends, the game has been raised to a whole new level, and so are the hazards. No one will be spared, especially children.
Remember when cartoons were only available on Saturday mornings?
Four years ago, when I decided to consciously take back my creative life, I chose to become more aware of my TV habits. I learned how to unplug and be okay with it. When I felt the urge to escape into the familiar comforts of binging a Netflix series or watching that favorite feel-good movie for the 20-something-ith time, I would instead consciously choose to do something creative. I would lock up the remotes, shut down the tablets, and turn to journaling, painting, or simply going for a walk outside. I would meet people, look them in the eye, and participate actively in the ordinary world, not as if watching a TV show, but as if being the star of my own reality empire.
For me, as a naturally creative introvert, TV has become downright dangerous. I’m not even talking about the potential effects of graphic violence and pornography, but also the seemingly harmless programming I tend to gravitate towards, like sci-fi and romantic comedies. It all has its price. It all takes precious time away from my present awareness of this one life I am currently living. This regular “dropping out” of life has real repercussions.
Yesterday, for the first time ever, I enforced a “no TV” day as a punishment for my seven-year old son who was being defiant and downright disrespectful. Even as I laid out the terms of the restriction, I knew it was going to hurt, and not just him, but everyone. At the same time, I wanted to find out how a day at home without TV would affect everyone in the family, including me.
The day started off normal. I had hidden the remote control away safely the night before. Blurry-eyed boys emerged from their bedroom at the break of dawn. Breakfast occurred without a hitch, but by 9am, the requests began to filter in. “Mommy can I watch TV?” Imagine this question being presented in a full spectrum of ways over the next few hours, the word “TV” being replaced with various names of animated shows and movies. Each time the answer was “no.” Many times they were reminded of why this restriction was being enforced.
Tears and shouting came next and I knew he was really hurting, but I held firm on my position. Even so, at times, it was a really good morning. We drew pictures, played games, read stories, and had fun doing all of it. But like most cravings, this one wouldn’t go away quietly. The pleading, the tears, the angry outbursts seemed to come in waves.
The pinnacle of dissent showed up around lunch-time. I was in the kitchen preparing sandwiches when I turned to see my seven-year-old dressed in full gladiator costume including helmet, shield, and sword. He had my full attention as he drew his sword, pointed it at me, and said firmly, “Mommy, give me the remote.”
If at this point in the story you are concerned with my safety, let me assure you that no blood was shed on this day… and no TV was turned on. It wasn’t an easy day, but it was an important day. Emotions ran high and a lot of data was collected. I discovered something that one member of my family might be willing to fight to the death for.
I don’t know what the best solution to the TV phenomenon is. My kids love TV. I get it. I was raised to love it, too. I think it’s really about always making time for your own creativity first. Don’t allow TV to replace that precious time in your life. Ask yourself right now: When I get to the end of my life what will I think back most fondly on? The relationships and experiences I created or all the great TV shows I watched?
Try unplugging yourself for a day or more. Notice what happens. Collect the data and make an informed decision. Pay attention to your feelings, your cravings, and any anxiety you might experience. Talk yourself off the proverbial ledge by engaging in some journaling, doodling, or by simply taking a walk outside. Battle the boredom of the mundane nature of our day-to-day existence with a healthy alternative: creative expression.
If you need some help, I have ways to get you started right away. I’ve got books, a comprehensive coaching program, and several upcoming workshops you can participate in. Perhaps you need a one-to-one coaching session? Please feel welcome to reach out to me. I believe that your creative life is worth fighting to the death for.
Your Creativity Coach,