Confession: Sometimes, I close a book just so I can open my laptop to watch Netflix.
Yes, I’m a writer — and yes, I often prefer watching TV to reading books.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy reading. Is anyone arguing against writers reading books to provide us with creativity and inspiration? The more you read, the better you write.
But sometimes I grow weary of reading yet another blog post preaching that writers should constantly be reading in our free time. Even if the points those bloggers make are legitimate, people are beating a dead horse when they remind me to read, read, read.
I grow even more testy when I read pieces advising Americans to just stop watching TV in general. Let me do what I want!
I watched the entire first season of Stranger Things in one night. I have a hardcore crush on Special Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks. Thanks to Parks and Recreation, I have a Leslie Knope and/or Ron Swanson quote for every life situation.
And that’s okay.
In fact, it’s good for writers to watch television. Maybe doing so can actually benefit you. Here’s why.
1. You can write about what you watch
That’s right, watching TV can actually lead to getting published. And hopefully publishing those pieces can lead to making moolah!
There are numerous online publications that pay freelancers for pieces focusing on TV programs, including Buzzfeed, Bitch Media and Paste Magazine.
You aren’t limited to publications that focus on media, either. Think outside the box. If you’re a personal finance writer, pitch a piece about how to access discounts on monthly network subscriptions. Travel writers can write about the best foreign programs on Amazon Prime.
Start counting all the dollars you earn as a direct result of your TV obsession.
2. You can use TV to add color to your pieces
A vital aspect of writing a strong piece is connecting with your readers. And guess what? Most of your readers probably watch TV, just like you.
While you may not necessarily write about TV shows, you can throw in a reference to a program that will automatically connect a reader to you, the writer. For example, if you type, “We were on a break!” then countless of 90s kids who rooted for Ross and Rachel all those years will understand your reference and crack a smile.
You may want to be careful, though. Throwing in absurd references may actually isolate you from your readers. Always take your audience into consideration. If you’re writing for a publication aimed toward teens, few of them are likely to understand your Touched by an Angel shout-out.
3. You watch shows to unwind
Yes, I write every day. And, yes, I read every day.
However, reading doesn’t come as naturally to me as it does to some people. I’m a slow reader, so while I enjoy it, in some ways it still feels like work. Reading for an hour doesn’t necessarily relax me, so I need to find an alternate way to unwind after a long day.
In order to be as productive as possible when you write, you need to create margins in your life. If you constantly work, stress, sleep for four hours per night, then wake up and start all over again, you will burn out. You need time to decompress.
Relax. Do something for yourself. Pour yourself a glass of wine and watch the episode of Jim and Pam’s wedding. Again.
4. You learn about character development
It’s worth mentioning that writing for TV shows is vastly different from writing novels, memoirs, blogs or magazine articles.
However, watching TV can definitely provide you with insights about storytelling.
TV writers have the advantage of extended time to develop people’s personalities and backstories. This may not always be the case with film writers, who have to pack everything into two hours.
Like TV writers, authors usually have space and time to allow characters to progress. Maybe that’s why movie remakes never seem to be as good as their book counterparts. Come to think of it, should we be making more books into TV programs?
5. Anything is worth writing about
Your everyday life may not always feel interesting, but nearly every aspect of your day can be written about.
You shouldn’t just sit in your office and write all day, every day. Your daily life becomes your writing material. From getting your kids ready for school, to shopping for bathing suits, to troubleshooting your computer, to watching TV.
Everything is writing material, even if you don’t know it yet.
No, sitting on the couch to binge-watch TV four hours per day probably isn’t the healthiest habit. (Although, I’ll admit, that’s exactly what I did last night after a terrible day at work.) However, there are plenty of reasons to finally give in and jump on the Game of Thrones bandwagon.
How has watching TV helped you with your writing process?