Kyra Sedgwick as The Closer

Kyra Sedgwick as The Closer

Prolific short story writer and novelist (and cancer survivor) Jay Lake does not watch TV. He attributes his productivity to that one simple fact. He’s been quite successful, with hundreds of published short stories and a respectable handful of novels. He’s a stylistic, successful writer with a great work ethic, and aspiring writers could do well to emulate his habits.

Would I have more published short stories if I didn’t watch TV? Maybe. TV isn’t my productivity killer, though (that honor goes to Facebook at the moment, but Minesweeper is certainly up there). But even more importantly, I watch TV because I like good writing.

Yes, you read that right. The tradition of television bashing is a long and glorious one, going back to names like “idiot box” and great lines like, “television is called a medium because there’s nothing about it that’s rare or well done.”

There’s a lot of great television out there, and if you as a writer are scorning TV because you think it’s all crap, you are quite wrong and you may be doing yourself a disservice. You need to find all the good writing you can because if you surround yourself with good stuff you will start imbibing it and you will start writing good stuff yourself.

So what do I watch? The Closer. Friday Night Lights. Glee. Project Runway. There are others, but that’s the core group. Shows I remember with fondness include Buffy of course, as well as Frasier and Friends, because as we all know, “dying is easy, but comedy is hard.” I rarely watch SF or fantasy, so while I watched all of the Star Trek incarnations except for Enterprise, I missed BSG and Babylon 5. I don’t have HBO so I have to get True Blood on Netflix.

All of these shows have the same thing in common. Really really good writing. Excellent acting. It makes no sense for writers to deprive themselves of the opportunity to see good work. That’s like saying you won’t read a book because it keeps you from writing. Writers must read, they must surround themselves with good writing. No one creates in a vacuum.

So give yourself permission to turn on the TV and then turn it off and go write.


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