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Is Television Bad For Creative Writers?

spongebob squarepantsIf you’re watching or reading the news of late, you’ve probably run into the Journal of Pediatrics study about Saturday morning cartoons and children.

This is a summary from Technorati:

Researchers divided kids [four-year-olds] into three groups: one group of children watched Caillou, a slower-themed show on public television, the second group was given crayons and paper to draw with, while the third watched SpongeBob. Afterward, the group who watched the yellow square guy wasn’t able to follow rules as well or to delay gratification as easily. (Interestingly, the group of kids who watched Caillou and the group who drew pictures performed at pretty much the same level.)

Even without a formal study, some writers believe that watching television can affect the creative process. Viewing a TV show is largely a passive process—it’s about taking in information. We wonder: Does watching a fast-paced TV show “echo” for you when you begin writing?

Here’s what one Writer’s Relief staffer says:

Say I’m planning to write for one hour. If I watch TV in the minutes before that hour, my sense of creativity is decreased—as opposed to if I do something else, like cooking, knitting, or meditating.

Writer QuestionsQUESTION: Does television interfere with your creative process?

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18 Responses to Is Television Bad For Creative Writers?

  1. This really does depend on what you are watching. There are a lot of different shows out there that are educational or entertaining. I try to avoid watching reality shows or shows like Jerry Springer or Maury. Personally, my two vices on television are Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. I really do enjoy these and try to limit only watching them when they air. For Game of Thrones, I will take the time to read the Ice and Fire series to compensate in a sense.

  2. I’m glad I ran across this discussion. For Lent, I did a little experiment that helped me come to a personal conclusion to this debate. I did not watch any television for those forty days leading up to Easter, and the results were very interesting. Anytime that I felt like I wanted to sit down and veg in front of the TV, I read or wrote instead. And some of the things I wrote were actually pretty good. I continue to avoid television, and my life and writing have greatly improved.

  3. If you’re watching TV to improve your writing that is terrific. But if you are watching TV to avoid writing, which I will admit I’ve done, especially if a ballgame is on or a favorite movie that is bad. How do you know the difference, when you turn off the set and are boiling mad at yourself, you’ll know.

  4. Not at all! I enjoy imagining the writer’s process. Or if I think the writing is bad, it’s my challenge to write something awesome.

  5. CC, we certainly understand your frustration. Television programs (from Spongebob Squarepants to Jeopardy) wouldn’t be possible without our fellow writers behind the scenes. We felt that the study was more about attention span and children’s developing minds than about whether television is “good” or “bad.” And we certainly were not trying to ostracize or offend anyone by asking our readers to respond with their reactions. In fact, we asked the question because we knew that our readers would each feel differently about the study’s findings, and we welcome diverse opinions. So thank you for sharing yours, and we hope you will continue to read our articles and leave comments. We also hope that many of our readers will take your advice and influence change in the media—be it books, radio, or television.

  6. Maybe it’s because I have a background in media that I find this offensive. Maybe it’s because I’m watching Dr. Who as I’m writing this. Maybe it’s because I grew up with a mother who insisted tv would rot my brain but comstantly had the radio on. (Never saw a difference.) Every time a topic like this come up I wonder why some writers want to ostracize a GROUP OF FELLOW WRITERS. It’s snooty.
    1. All television isn’t bad just like all liturature isn’t good.
    2. It is unnatural to sit still for long periods of time. People must be taught to sit still to watch tv, attend classes or even take the time out to read a book.
    I love soaking up information and I’ll take it anywhere I can get it. I’ve had shows inspire characters, give ideas for research and even some that were so bad I had to start rewriting them to make them bearable.
    Don’t like what’s out there? You’re a writer, change it.

  7. One more thing, if I watch an episode of the Waltons. It puts me in the mood to write. I was in high school when that show came out, and John Boy inspired me so much, I started keeping a journal that I still keep today. Haven’t found a show today to do that for me!

  8. I did a research paper in college about TV and how it affects our children. The most alarming fact,is that by the time a child is 12 years old, they will have witnessed over 75.000 murders, and that is not even including the video games they play now. Most of them are even cartoons too. But, there are very good educational,informational, and entertaining TV shows out there for kids, like Dora, Blues Clues, Sesame Street,etc. which all teach on many levels. One level is for children and the other level is for adults adding quick humor in that only adults would get! I can honestly say that I start out my day with the Today show, but after that, music comes on for the remainder of the day. I am addicted to the classics movies, and the old sitcoms like Andy Griffith, Dick van Dyke, ant eh Waltons. They show a time when things were more simple and more moral. These shows today, just weigh me down and I don’t find humor in any of them.

  9. Watching TV actually imspires me, but not all TV just my favorite shows that I’ll watch reruns of. For me it helps me build characters I often take a personality trait of my favorite character or a facial feature of the actor. For me it make my characters more real while imagine them because while my character might be fogy in my kind I have a tangible face or voice to work with.

  10. I agree with your staffer about TV versus meditation; I’m a fan of the latter, plus headstands, to revitalize creativity (or sometimes rather revive it :-))

    Others cultivate a similar, quiet, inner awareness through music, sports, quiet forest walks, pets, or just sitting on the beach and keeping the gaze on the surf (à la Lord Byron). Accepting and leveraging the self as it is, in the present moment.

  11. I find television to be the most soul destroying for me as a writer due to the numerous interruptions of commercial time. Not only are commercials annoying but due to the specious nature of their agendas, they so interfere with any kind of involvement in a narrative, that they effectively have killed most quality programming. Hence, I watch most things I care about on DVD or streaming on my computer where there are no commercial breaks.

  12. It depends on what I’m writing. Sometimes the fast-paced action might propel a fast-paced scene that I need to write.

  13. Stace, You make a very good point. Readers and television viewers alike can only get out what they put in. Adults who take a more active approach to their TV watching may see a very different result!

  14. It depends *how* we watch television. We can sit down and stare at whatever’s on, or we can rent your favourite DVD series, forget the outside world exists, and absorb enough to write a lengthy blog post about it afterwards, or at least enough to discuss it with friends.

    I know people who stare at novels the same way people stare at the TV – in a sleepified zombie state before bed. It’s not the TV that’s the problem.

  15. TV interferes with my everything! (Haha!) Honestly though, tests have shown that our brains have more activity when we’re SLEEPING than when we’re watching television. So I don’t think poor Spongebob is to blame. TV in general just doesn’t cultivate thinking and creativity. I agree with the WR staffer, I definitely get more creative juices from listening to music, reading, or talking to other people. Heck, even sleeping! I’ve written many poems whose catalyssts were dreams.

  16. I like watching TV shows that get me really amped up before I sit down to write. Especially if it’s something that makes me mad or excited or something i feel strongly about.

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