There are too many distractions.
Endless entertainment options is not the sine qua non of human civilization. There is nothing wrong with entertainment per se. There is a problem when the consumption of entertainment in and of itself becomes a way of life.
When I was a young, single guy with no wife or kids and just the occasional girlfriend, I still sometimes felt bored. Despite a job and school and playing in a band, I had gobs of free time. Life wasn’t all playing shows and hitting the clubs, or going to the gym, or even doing fun city stuff. Very often, I was alone in my apartment bored out of my skull.
Mind you, I graduated college and moved into the city on my own in 2004. The Internet then was basically as it was now. Endless streaming was still a few years away, as was YouTube, but there was still a seemingly limitless world of distractions at your fingertips. So this free time, instead of being filled solely with reading—which, to be fair, I did a hell of a lot of—or writing, or practicing music, it was filled with consumption.
Movies, video games, TV shows, funny clips, articles, you name it, it was there.
I look back now at the time spent doing nothing productive and I want to puke. At times, I would compare myself to great men I admired, see what they had accomplished when they were my age, and wonder why I couldn’t make it happen. A lot of it was due to an ingrained, Gen Y sort of aversion to risk, yes, but much of it had to do with the complacent comfort provided by the sheer amount of stuff to consume.
Stuff made by other people.
Now, as a family man with a wife and kids, a full-time career, bills to pay, the works, I sometimes lament what I could have done, what I should have done, with that time. Since 2017, I somehow managed to write over five full-length novels until I had one ready for publication which I put out in 2018. Since then, I’ve published two more novels, one non-fiction book, put together an anthology, written another full-length novel that hasn’t yet been published, have another novel currently being edited and slated for publication later this year, and have started work on another novel.
This isn’t bragging. I’m pointing out that this is not a lot to get done in four years’ time!
I’m a family man. I do not have the free time of a bachelor. Those of you who are bachelors, please, I urge you, fight against two mostly universal maxims about human nature:
- Youth is wasted on the young; and
- The young never learn from the mistakes of their elders.
Don’t be like me. If you’re young and single and are an “aspiring” writer, go for it. Now is the time! Stop talking about it and do it. Write that book. Or learn that instrument, start that business, whatever. Don’t let us family men outhustle you. And don’t let the corporate media entertainment complex keep you pacified with all of that stuff to consume.
I’m convinced that the constant barrage of things to watch and play and passively experience is designed to keep us from questioning what our governments and big businesses are doing. Or, and here’s where it gets more sinister, from contemplating deeper questions about the purpose of our life, the nature of existence, and the ultimate disposition of the human soul.
Look at what the Western powers-that-be are doing to punish Russia. No more Netflix! No more Apple Pay! No more Coca-Cola! No more porn! For a lot of what was formerly called Christendom, this is punishment. For these are things that have replaced religion. These are thing that are designed to fill our time, to give meaning to our existence. There is nothing more worth fighting for than the ability to watch the latest Marvel movies on demand. If we cut off rogue nations’ access to these things, surely they’ll overthrow their tyrannical governments!
But what about us here at home? Why is there such a need to keep young people glued to this or that device? Why are these things designed using psychological tricks to make them so addicting?
I know I sound like an old guy yelling at clouds, but I can’t escape the conclusion that it’s to prevent young people from doing great things, seeking God, creating strong families, and challenging the power structure.
Don’t be like Wally in the story from last post. Don’t use your free time to consume product. Treat entertainment as a reward for a hard day’s toil. Schedule your free time if you have to. View it like other vices.
In a world of endless distractions, you have to play tricks on yourself. Set a timer for ten minutes and do the thing you’ve been putting off for months. Tell yourself that you’ll quit after ten minutes if you’re not “feeling it.” Maybe that timer will ding and you’ll go back to consumption, but at least you did ten minutes of something productive. And what if you blow past that timer? What then?
My goodness, we may be on to something!
Ask yourself, when you find yourself talking about things you want to do, how badly you really want it. When you get a spot of free time, perform a self-audit with this one simple question: “Is what I’m doing now getting me closer to my goal?”
If the answer is “No,” and “No” is your answer for days and weeks on end, then guess what? You don’t really want it.
“I really want to get in shape . . . I really want to record an album . . . I’d really like to write a book . . .”
Put down the controller. Shut off the TV. I want a world with more great art, great people cultivating great virtue, and great people in important positions of power. We owe it to our progeny and to those we call our fellows to create a world better than the one we currently inhabit. And all of us have the same finite currency to spend.
We most certainly do not have all the time in the world. No one on their deathbed will ever say “I wish I consumed more product.” If you take anything from this exhortation, it’s to develop a sense of urgency.
Entertainment is great. Escapism is important. Be careful what you fill your head with, but don’t be afraid of recreation. Look at that word. It’s all right there: “Re-create.” What are you going to turn yourself into? If you don’t think that the pop culture you put into your soul can change you, you haven’t been paying attention.
Treat this stuff like sugar, tobacco, or alcohol. Enjoy it in measured doses . . . especially if you are young. I don’t want to see another generation grow up stultified by the dizzying array of entertainment options reach middle age with little to show for it.
If you’re a young person reading this who wants to be a writer, please, stop wanting to be a writer and write.
There is not enough time. There is NEVER enough time. So do something great with the time that you have.