I’m the most undisciplined writer. I always have been.
I wrote my dissertation in huge gulps just as each chapter was due. I wrote between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., stopping in between to watch thirtysomething reruns on Lifetime TV. That was before I could watch them episode after episode, binging on the trials and tribulations of young parents and singletons in the late 80s. Thankfully.
I have since figured out with the advent of Netflix and Amazon streaming services and even our DVR, that I like to binge watch because of how much I fall in love with characters. I need them. I need more of them now. I want to talk to them, I want to know what comes next.
And this, my friends, is why this mode of visual entertainment is going to need to rely more and more heavily on great writers. They know we’re watching in long sessions, like afternoon coffee talks with old friends. Breaking the dialog or the plot for commercials or saving the good stuff for sweeps week just won’t do. We need the action, the plot, the empathy now. All of it.
I’ve recently been binging on FX’s Justified. I felt guilty — I should have been writing, not watching. Until I realized it was the language of the show that woos me, not (well, at least not always) Timothy Olyphant‘s swaggering soft-spoken cowboy, Raylan Givens. That’s because it’s not Olyphant’s cowboy. Sure, he embodies him and at this point in my addiction, no other could embody him so well, but the affection comes with his language. And that, friends, is Elmore Leonard’s.
I’ve been a binge reader too. Ask me about Joan Didion, who I’m devouring book by book. Or Pam Houston, who’s words I seek out in every little introduction, criticism, review or new book she writes.
This addictive compulsion to inhabit a story completely and fall into it as one of its own isn’t stopped at the border of broadcast or print for me.
But as I work during NaNoWrMo to push out 50,000 words into one of three projects I have fully past conception stages, I realize that my writing discipline is weak.
Here’s how I made myself feel better about it. I gave permission. I especially gave permission when the beautiful lyrics of the most recent episodes of Justified streamed on my computer and I found myself grinning at the perfectly turned phrases. I can study the use of words by reading them hunched under a nightlight in my bed. I can also study their performance and connections and structure listening to them while gifted men deliver them.
This is no excuse for discipline. I need to write more, to carve out time of my own. It’s hard when you write all day for others. Ghost writing, content writing. Consumers, customers, business theories. But to get inspired enough to set the time and the table for your own words, admiring others’ isn’t a problem. I read them (currently reading Elmore Leonard, Joan Didion, Cheryl Strayed, Luis Alberto Urrea, Neil Gaiman and Carrie Brownstein). But I’m going to watch them too. I’m going to watch Bob charm us in Stranger Things 2 and I’m going to continue to unravel the enigma that is Frank Gallagher in Shameless.
Today, I’m going to reflect those turned phrases in my own, mirror the practice, put the ink on the page. I’ll write for a long while. I’ll finish a book today too.
And tonight? I’ll dive back into a visually broadcast world of great words and know that as a writer, I have the lens that protects them, that spots them and values them and that makes it an exercise worth doing.
Feminist, activist, outdoor advocate, animal lover, chocolate shake lover, reader, watcher, talker, actor, speaker, worker, writer, urban adventurer, hustler, involved, passionate, excited, ready.