When is Watching Trash TV is Good for Your Writing?

I'm leading a home study group on a book called Birthing a Greater Reality (which is an amazing book on the evolution of consciousness, by the way) and our first meeting was Tuesday night.  As an icebreaker, I had everyone talk a little about themselves and then say something that was surprising or unexpected about them.  My surprising thing is that I love trashy reality TV.


Why is this surprising?

Well, I've railed against TV-watching on this very blog more than once.  Probably a bit sanctimoniously, it pains me to say.  Even though it is true that TV is one big time-sucking panacea for the masses.

And yet, I'm now hooked on reality shows.  I comfort myself by telling myself that the reality shows I watch are relatively highbrow.  Ones like Pawn Stars, American Pickers, and Tanked.  Shows that actually depict people doing interesting things.

But then how to explain my obsession fondness for American Idol, and now, X Factor?

Heavy sigh.

It's unexplainable.


Rationalization #1: When you've spent the day throwing words at the page, putting it all out there as hard as you can, you're brain dead by evening.  And a little mindless TV is about all you're good for.

Rationalization #2: When you own the world's oldest pug, and his greatest joy in life is sitting next to you on the couch watching TV, you want to make him happy in the time he has left.

Rationalization #3:  When you convince yourself that watching trash TV is good for your writing, well, then, anything goes. 

So here's why watching the X Factor (which, I don't think, has quite hit its stride yet, and by the way, there's a reason why American Idol fired Paula, because she is a-noy-ying) is good for your writing:

Reason #1: Because it's inspiring.  Watching people who've been working at their dream of singing with little support or encouraging suddenly getting props for their amazing voices makes my heart swell. 

Reason #2: Because it's a reminder that it can happen to any of us at any time.  Ya just gotta keep believing.  Keep submitting the novel, keep revising the memoir, keep at it.  A 53-year-old woman got up and sang her heart out last night and got put through to the next round.

Reason #3: Because even the bad ones have interesting stories.  And it is fascinating to watch how the producers shape the stories.  And as writers, we should all be soaking up stories as much as possible.

So there you have it, my reasons why you should watch TV once in awhile.  And it will no doubt be the last time I ever recommend such a thing, so enjoy it while you can. 

Do you watch TV?  What shows do you watch?

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Photo from Everystockphoto.

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18 Responses to When is Watching Trash TV is Good for Your Writing?

  1. Zan Marie 09/29/2011 at 14:17 #

    I don’t usually watch reality TV except for The Voice and SingOff.
    Though I’ll admit to watching scripted dramas so I can rip up (scratch that and sub–critique) the plots. Yeah, that’s it, really ; )

  2. Charlotte Dixon 09/29/2011 at 14:37 #

    Zan Marie, I forgot about The Voice! I watched that a bit last spring. Liked the unusual format. I think X Factor is going to copy it a bit, as they send their people to boot camps next. And writing all this, it is obvious I’ve been a bit too involved in it all.

  3. Charlotte Dixon 09/30/2011 at 06:55 #

    J.D., I know, I know, I’ve ranted and railed against TV for precisely those reasons for years. I had a long run of years when I never watched it. And I still watch it far less than most people. But that’s yet another justification.
    By the way, how’s Auburn doing this year? I’ve lost track.

  4. J.D. 09/30/2011 at 05:11 #

    I realize I don’t speak for everyone. I think TV is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I haven’t followed my own advice. I’ve often said, “Throw a rock through your TV.” It has crept back into my life, frequent sporting events and a nightly crime show. Nothing dulls my mind, kills my creativity like television. Nothing else is so efficient at keeping me in my house, keeping me from interacting with people, isolating me from the very society I write about. It is on my bucket list to make a trek to the cemetery where he is buried and pray that Mr. RCA does not have to roast in hell (which he richly deserves) for bringing this insidious evil to the world. While I may pray for God to forgive him, of course I never will. Now . . . what game is on tonight?

  5. Charlotte Dixon 09/30/2011 at 11:06 #

    Yeah, we had a disastrous first game, but since then things have been looking up. Its kind of crazy how you have to put together a no-loss season. Sorry to hear about Auburn, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for tomorrow. We’ve got a bye. (Is that how you spell it?)

  6. J.D. 09/30/2011 at 10:51 #

    Hi Charlotte,
    Auburn is struggling a bit. The defense hasn’t shown up. We lost to Clemson. A big game tomorrow against South Carolina. Your Ducks have one misstep as well. You can go on to a good year. Auburn . . . it will be difficult.

  7. Sue Mitchell 09/30/2011 at 19:12 #

    My husband and son watch American Pickers and Pawn Stars, so I’m familiar with them. The reality show I like is Cake Boss! Buddy really is an artist who just happens to work in a very delicious medium.

    The only shows I watch regularly are House and Glee. I got sucked into the soap opera aspect and usually get a good laugh or two from those as well. Neither is much good as far as the story…both are very formulaic. But the acting is great, and Glee has a great theme of embracing what makes you special and following your artistic dreams.

  8. Charlotte Dixon 10/01/2011 at 07:18 #

    Sue, I’ve been watching the commercials for the opener of House and it looks very intriguing. Hugh Laurie is an amazing actor. I watched the first episode of Terra Nova, and liked that, too, but I tend to get bored with dramas as they go along. Love the theme of Glee, that embracing what makes you special part is so important.

  9. Derek 10/02/2011 at 04:59 #

    Zen and the art of watching TV perhaps!? :-) That’s my excuse. No right, no wrong, just sitting witnessing. But unlike zazen (meditation) no discipline involved. I look out for films or dramas, with philosophical messages. Not because I think I am not wasting time in front of the box, but because I like profound messages, that I consider it telling me what I already know (otherwise I wouldn’t be that interested), using different words, saying it differently. Wasting time that way… But…. What if time is an illusion anyway? Surely there’s nothing to waste! I once heard that it really doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you tell the truth about it – at least to yourself. :-)

  10. Charlotte Dixon 10/02/2011 at 09:56 #

    Hi Derek, Your Zen comment goes along with the idea that all our problems come from resistance. So its me resisting the TV watching in the first place that makes it a problem, right? Thanks for the good insight.

  11. Sue Mitchell 10/02/2011 at 12:43 #

    I wouldn’t recommend starting to watch House now, in its final season. It has deteriorated quite a bit over the years. If you’re looking to watch more TV, LOL, what I would recommend is going back to the first season (available on Netflix) and watch it that way for as long as you’re interested. As a writer, that’s also a better way to see how the characters were revealed and the various threads of the story laid out for us.

  12. Charlotte Dixon 10/02/2011 at 19:58 #

    Sue, I love watching TV that way! It is how we’ve watched all of Mad Men (except for the most recent season.) You’re so right, for writers it is absolutely the best way to look at craft issues. Thanks for the reminder!

  13. Christi Corbett 10/04/2011 at 08:10 #


    If you like Pawn Stars then you’ll LOVE Storage Wars!

    Christi Corbett

  14. Charlotte Dixon 10/04/2011 at 10:19 #

    I think going with the flow is always enlightening, especially because it is often difficult to get into the flow in the first place!

  15. Charlotte Dixon 10/04/2011 at 10:20 #

    Christi, I’ve seen Storage Wars on the TV listings but never watched it, I’ll check it out!

  16. Derek 10/04/2011 at 07:10 #

    Yes, I guess that when we resist we do create problems. Going with the flow can be enlightening at times. :-)

  17. Jocelyn Rish 03/24/2012 at 16:17 #

    My favorite is rationalization #2 because dogs are awesome and must always be catered to.

    I actually gave up on most reality TV a few years ago. I was addicted for a while, but I finally became disgusted (with the contestants, producers, and myself). However, I still watch PLENTY of trash TV. My main rationalization is that I’m learning how NOT to tell a story. :-)

  18. Charlotte Dixon 03/25/2012 at 06:58 #

    Jocelyn, Totally agree that all dogs must be catered to. My cats think that felines need to be included in that as well. I’m still into my reality TV shows but I have to admit I’m getting kind of bored. My new obsession is the series Castle. Now that show has some good writing.

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