Thursday, October 9, 2014

Confessions of a TV Addict

Reading Voraciously

So yesterday afternoon, after all my work was done for the day, I decided to idle a little and check out a talk between bell hooks and Laverne Cox at the New School in New York City. I usually watch any talk made available between bell hooks and anybody. It was an interesting talk that I enjoyed, and it reminded me that I have to get back to that promise to myself I made a long time ago to read and re-read bell hooks' opus of work. It is on the list. It's a very long list of "books and works I'll read one day."

I was first introduced to the works of bell hooks, like the works of Emmanuel Levinas, Paulo Freire and other thinkers whose works I was enamoured with at the time. Up until then, I'd learned all about the classical, and then analytical, philosophers of the Western cannon. It was always interesting to learn about their theories, and I was always especially intrigued with their theories of mind, of knowledge, and of thought. But it always seemed their age-old theories were like artifacts displayed statically, under spotlights, in a museum case: devoid of context, devoid of soul. The scales didn't fall from my eyes until my master's program started and I read about hooks, Levinas, Freire, and others.

But that's besides some of the points I want to make in this blog post. During the talk, when bell hooks is talking about meeting Janet Mock and reading her book, she says that she read it in a single day, since she has a habit of reading one non-fiction book a day.

I nearly fell out of my chair. A book a day? I thought. How is that even possible?? (This coming from me -- someone with a fairly slow reading speed).

Really? My better self butts in. Is the thing you took away from this talk that bell hooks reads more voraciously than you've considered humanly possible? Really??? That's a good, critical question. And one that I'll have to get into another day.

In the meantime, I think about the resolutions I made to myself for 2014, and especially the one for which I promised myself to write 20 books of fiction during all of 2014. And for an aspiring writer of fiction, it now seems pitiful.

I know what I was doing. I was trying to be kind to myself. It was the first time I've ever made such a resolution, and so I wanted to guarantee that I was able to obtain the goal easily. But instead of overcoming that goal in the first six months, instead that number of 20 has been a way to let myself off the hook. Now it's October and I'm still hopelessly far from my goal.

And the ironic thing is, perhaps because of my reading speed and schedule, a single book (of fiction, for me) read each day is an unobtainable goal (I tried it last night. I was up until 1 a.m. and woke with a painfully dried eye), but I could go better. I can easily see how I can carve out hours in my evening for reading hundreds of page a day. And how can I carve it out? By not watching so much darn TV.

But the TV!! It's my friend

The problem -- or rather, the challenge for me is that I am a TV addict from way, way back. When I was a child I would run home from school to watch 'my shows' such as Alf. I loved Alf when I was about eight. Later, no matter the weather, I would stay inside on a Saturday so I could watch Xena: Warrior Princess or Sailor Moon (yeah, I like those shows back then. They had strong female leads, and I was 13).

My addiction to television has followed me through my life, but it's not always served me well. Sure, I've always have a preference for TV shows with strong fantastical elements and narratives. And maybe that's taught me a thing or two about writing, but what I'm not writing is a television show. So I've always considered that reading fiction would be an infinitely better teacher.

It's like this: you ever hang out with someone like a friend or loved one a lot, and one day you do or say something that you feel isn't quite you. It's the feeling of that person "rubbing off on you". I've always had this ability to identified that tendency in myself and I'm always surprised by it. Because as arrogant as I am, I'd like to believe that my thoughts and words and deeds are uninfluenceable. But thinking that is a danger. We are all influenced constantly by outside forces: be they friends, family, books, and TV.
NYC #3 by Thomas Leuthard
CC License Attribution 2.0

So I want my life to head in a certain way. I want to write fiction, so I should allow my pattern of thoughts and words to be influenced by writers of fiction rather than by the TV.

I still want to enjoy certain of my favourite shows, but I am much more inclined to keep it down to an hour a day (or less) and use the rest of my evenings for reading. Especially now I realize I can do more with my time: that I can read more.