Why am I compelled to write? What is this incessant drive that pushes me to spend hours each day crafting a story? Why do I put myself through the stress, loneliness, and frustration? I honestly don’t know. But the question of why I can’t sit and binge-watch Netflicks like everyone else? Ah, now there’s an inquiry I can answer.
So much of our current culture is obsessed with my greatest competitor, television. Is this why I refrain from the medium, because of some fear of the competition? No, not really. Though, I do feel that reading is a more enriching pursuit. My aversion to TV is not easy in this world, and sometimes it hurts me socially. I don’t know how often my family, friends, or co-workers have asked me if I watched a particular show or saw last night’s episode of whatever. I find myself embarrassed, saying I don’t watch TV, or no, I did not see that show last night, and they look at me as if I’m some sort of alien. The conversation then fizzles. They don’t call it popular culture just because many people participate in the activity- if you aren’t part of it, you are often ostracized. I mean, how could I even exist without praying to the big-media gods, right?
Yes, my name is Scott Tirrell, and I don’t have cable. Actually, I haven’t since I returned to the US from living in China some sixteen years ago. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t addicted to visual entertainment. This stimulation came from movies for a time, and I watched a lot of them. My movie collection is at least two-thousand strong- no joke. My wife and I would watch one or two a day after work on the weekdays and maybe half a dozen on the weekends. Now, I don’t even watch movies. Any time I spend in front of the screen for visual entertainment is now purely devoted to Youtube, usually gathering inspiration or knowledge for my writing.
Why? Because one day, about two years ago, I decided I was wasting too much of my life in front of the tube. When I lived in China, I broke the habit of watching television. It was a cold-turkey situation. I couldn’t understand what was on the tube there, so I had to find other means of entertainment. I always wanted to be a writer, so it was a perfect replacement. This routine continued upon my return, but the media gods again took hold in time. It led to more than ten years without putting anything substantial on the page. I traded writing for the media-gods spoon-feeding me someone else’s imagination without even noticing. I grew fat and depressed. All I had was work and the screen, and it was a miserable existence. The writer’s crutch also snuck into the equation, and I found alcohol had crept into my life in more significant amounts. I thought I was a connoisseur, but I was really just slowly becoming a drunk. I watched zombie movies while I was myself turning into a zombie.
That horrible life probably would have continued to naught if it wasn’t for a huge wake-up call in the COVID pandemic. It was like a splash of cold water that woke me from the spiral. It made me ask the difficult question of what I was doing with my life. My two-hour-a-day commute vanished, and suddenly, I had less stress and a lot more time. I quit drinking, started exercising with nightly walks with my wife, and began to write again. Within a year, I lost fifty-five pounds. I am not kidding. I went from 230 to 175 (if you want to lose weight, stop drinking). I’m healthier, my brain is clearer, and now, almost all my free time is devoted to the productive pursuit of writing.
Yes, writing is not easy. As I mentioned above, it is often stressful, lonely, and frustrating. But, it is creative, stimulating, and entertaining too, and I’m producing something rather than just wasting away. Anything meaningful in life shouldn’t be too easy. With adversity, we grow. I might not completely understand why I write, but I know that it is better than what I was doing before. I have control over my life again, extending into my entertainment. I don’t need TV or movies to give me a thrill. Now, I create one for myself and then have the great joy of sharing it with others, small and mighty as my audience is. Yes, it might be more difficult than just switching on the TV, but it is undoubtedly more fulfilling, and these last few years, I’ve become a better person as a result.