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Writers’ Strike – Best Thing Ever?

From the Make Blog:

Over the last few months I’ve seen more people start projects than ever before, many have told me their favorite shows aren’t on so they decided to dust off their tools and make something. Projects are flowing in to the MAKE submission form, new things in MAKE Flickr photo pool – it’s awesome.

Hear, hear. Even though I actually work in television, we dropped our cable TV subscription mid-last year. I weighed the possibility for a while— sure I got some inspiration for other work I saw on the tube, and I got to see the shows I had worked on finally be broadcast, but on the other hand… there was all this crap. Crap that I didn’t want my kids watching. Crap that I ended up watching when it was late at night and my defenses were down, and I just started flipping channels.

I hate flipping channels. It’s the biggest time suck, and I kicked myself every time I got drawn into it. I only really watched five shows— Good Eats, Battlestar Galactica, House, Lost & The Daily Show… and Psych. Six shows. And when was the last time I watched a broadcast of a show I worked on, anyway? The charm of that wore off a long time ago. Last thing I want to do at home is sit down to an hour of something I’ve seen a dozen times over by now, plus commercials.

So, that was it. The shows I watched, save Good Eats, were all on the iTunes Store, and I figured maybe I could get a “friend” to tape A.B. for me, so that was it. Done. Kaput. No more TV.

It was actually a pretty quick transition. The kids complained the most (and my wife reminded me she also enjoyed Monk), but aside from an infrequent lament that the Discovery Networks (damn, I forgot about Mythbusters!) or PBS were missed, things quieted down quickly. The shows we actually watched, we happily paid for and watched just those shows, with no dicking about with the clicker afterward, wasting time. We still enjoyed the shows, but the whole “TV” experience wasn’t really missed at all.

Of course, shortly after we made the switch NBC/Universal pulled their boneheaded move and dropped off the face of the iTunes. But a few other friends came through, we got our fix, and all was well. Now that Hulu is up and running, it looks like everything’s back to normal, if a tad less convenient. I also started watching The Office and 30 Rock. What is that, up to ten shows now?

However, I’m now really looking forward to these shows coming to a close. Lost will be done in another … two, is it? House seems to be losing its edge. BSG is on its last season. I actually feel relief that my addictions will be ending. I get recommendations from friends, but now I’m putting some really hard thought into whether I really want to even look at them or not. I don’t even want to tempt myself into considering a new addiction.

Even writing this post, I realize I still watch way more TV than I thought I did. I still watch a lot of movies too— Movies have been my passion for a really long time (that’s why I got into film/video in the first place), and my Netflix queue keeps chugging along, but not at the pace it used to (former 8-at-a-timer down to a mere three). I have a real weakness for the home theater experience, but ever so gradually, I’m coming to terms that I don’t know if I like having that weakness anymore.

It used to be a point of pride for me to rattle off obscure films and TV shows in rat-a-tat The Lion in Winter-style conversations with friends and colleagues, and I guess to some degree it still is. But the more I actually dwell on it, the more I realize that it’s not what gives me the most pleasure. You see, I also have the disease where I keep coming up with ideas for stuff that I’d like to do someday/maybe. And when that pile keeps growing and growing with no signs of ever having an item or two being moved into the Current Projects context of my GTD to-do list (yes, I’m a productivity porn junkie as well), it actually causes me stress.

I know that sounds stupid, being stressed about a vague idea that someday may or may not turn into something as great as I imagine it might be. But I am. It’s like realizing I have all this bottled up potential to perhaps make the world’s next great… whatchamajigger, but I’m not doing anything about it. True or not, having this gnawing inkling that I could possibly be doing something great with my life, but am instead squandering it on the creation and consumption of what amounts to enjoyable 46- or 90-minute chunks of my life that I’ll never get back… gives me pause.

I didn’t think I was watching that much TV before, but I guess I really was. And now that we only get our entertainment via The Internet, and even more so now, during the writers’ strike, I feel like I’m actually starting to parse out the things on my someday/maybe list into actual things that I could accomplish, and better yet— I’m doing some of them. There’s a sense of accomplishment that’s grown, over just the last couple of months even, that makes me feel like maybe I’m not so stupid after all. Maybe one day, one of my wacky ideas will turn out to be something great. I feel… more fulfilled, somehow.

I’m not sure I want this strike to end.

You should check out my podcast about movie magic and VFX: The Optical.