The problem isn’t sound byte-length attention spans. It’s not even a matter of people constantly demanding to be entertained. The real issue is that . . . for the first time in history . . . we have the means to keep ourselves entertained 24/7. Boredom – outside of the work variety – is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.
And this overabundance of entertainment can devour your writing time whole.
But it’s not just the social media triple threat of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. There’s also tons of streaming content out there as well on services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Television is clogged with twenty-four hours of just about anything you could want from sports and food to shopping and home innovation. And lest we forget, there’s also video games on everything from your Xbox to your iPhone with games that can last anywhere from a few minutes to a couple years, depending on the MMO.
Not only do we have more entertainment than we know what to do with, but we’ve also got a fandom expectation to watch, play and consume it all. Without some guidelines, your binge-watching will soar while your word-count will plummet.
First off, prioritize. Despite what your teachers might have told you, none of this stuff is actually bad. Movies are an excellent source of inspiration. TV shows can provide engaging examples of serialized characterization and plot development. Video games can stimulate the problem-solving part of the brain while allowing us to step into the shoes of another character. But you still have to ask yourself what is more important – consuming art or creating it? Your answer will define how much time you set aside for one of the other. And lest we forget, there are other priorities in the mix as well – such as spending time with family, going to the gym and office time. No one person’s list will look the same, but you need to make sure writing and entertain inhabit definite place on the chart.
Secondly, in the words of Tom Haverford, treat yourself. Have you finished a project? What about that article you’ve been slaving on for a weeks? Or that novel you’ve been pulling your hair out for months? It’s okay to take a break and watch a movie, binge on a TV show or play through a video game. But don’t put aside writing altogether – instead put it in the background by focusing on writing prompts, research and maybe light revision while you give your brain break.
Lastly, understand that balancing the two can be more valuable than picking one or the other. Burnout is real (especially during this NaNoWriMo month). Trying to “go” all the time with your writing at the same high pace can be just as counter-productive as switching from project to project without finishing anything. We need mental and emotional refreshment every bit as much as we do physical rejuvenation, and sometimes the prior can be a mouse click away. Don’t overdo it though. I try to watch a limited number of TV shows – between five to seven – and sometimes I’ll only watch them one day of the week. Doing so keeps me energized without falling behind on my writing.
Like I said before, everyone’s list is going to look different. Maybe this is a hobby to you or maybe this is a lifelong dream. But wherever writing falls on the list, you need to strike a balance with your entertainment intake or your word count will surely suffer.