One of the hardest, most important lessons I’ve learnt this year throughout the course of my publishing module and the article writing I’ve done for it (www.milkonline.org.uk, cheeky plug) is that not every word I write is golden. As much as I’d love every syllable to be a stunningly eloquent gem of infinite wisdom, some of it is just undeniable waffle. The editing process was one new to me, and at first it was difficult not to take it personally, but I quickly realised an objective eye is extremely useful.
Flash forward to the end of this year and I was commissioned to write an article for the print issue of milk. Long story short, my 950 word article was cut to under 300. It was still a decent article, but the brutal edit had, I felt, stripped out a lot of what I liked in the original. As important as the first lesson essayed here may be, another states that you can’t remove two-thirds of a piece of writing without it losing at least some meaning.
So, in the name of shameless self-indulgence, here I present to you the article the way I wrote it first time around; maybe worse, possibly better, definitely longer, I hope you enjoy it…
Confessions of A TV Addict
I’ve heard the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, so this is my confessional. My name’s Robert and I’m a television-oholic. I first realised I had a serious issue a mere month ago when, in an introductory conversation with someone, I asked the fateful question: do you follow any TV series? They responded adequately enough, mumbling something about Glee, and then returned the question (conversational volleying – best avoided if possible. As I’m demonstrating, it can enlighten you to harsh truths about yourself.) I paused. I thought; and then out of my mouth streamed a sentence that was as surprising to me as it was to anyone hearing it.
‘Oh yeah, I watch Game of Thrones, Revenge, True Blood, Once Upon A Time, Cougar Town, New Girl, How I Met Your Mother, The Walking Dead, Smash, Girls, American Horror Story, Family Guy, American Dad, Breaking Bad, Parks & Recreation, The Apprentice and Don’t Trust The Bitch In Apartment 23… Well, before it was cancelled anyway.’
I came up for breath and a rare moment of clarity seized me. An epiphany, if you will. I watch WAY too much television.
If you include DVD reruns (a regular occurrence of a bedtime) and all the shows I watch non-religiously but still like to keep up with, I watch a staggering THIRTY-FIVE different TV shows. This is on top of a degree, a 20-hour a week job, all those pesky time-sapping necessities like eating, sleeping and laundry… No wonder my social life’s taken a beating. Before this sentence was uttered, I used to wonder why there didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day, why I hadn’t read recreationally in months, how everyone else seemed to time-manage so much better than I did. I blamed work, and then that I was too tired from work of an evening to function properly, I blamed my iPhone, and the two or three hours a day I must spend on it, be it on social media, window shopping on Amazon or simply playing the latest game fad sweeping the nation (currently Candy Crush-ing it on a regular basis), I even blamed my housemates and how much time I seemed to use up in conversation with them.
The harsh, shameful truth is that these are mere factors; by far the biggest reason I ‘never have time to do anything’ (coincidentally my most-uttered phrase besides ‘I’m so tired’) is simply that television is probably the biggest part of my life. In recent months it’s even overtaken my friendships; a period of just-not-feeling-that-great has led to me seeking easy tasks that allow me to periodically shut off my brain. Friends, as dear and vital as they are, take work and energy that I haven’t been able to muster. The people on-screen offer perspective, wisdom, guidance, entertainment and solace without asking anything in return; sadly, when you’ve been on your feet for ten hours serving coffee to Bath’s many, many old people and tourists, this one-sided relationship is irresistible.
After questioning and then blame-placing, I tried reasoning: I do Film AND SCREEN Studies; this is relevant and important to my degree and my chosen career path. I want to work in television, or at least the industry surrounding it. It’s OK that I haven’t watched a film in months; I want to work in television. It’s fine that I still have Total Film and Empire land on my doorstep monthly but haven’t actually read either in a year and a half. I’m still doing something helpful, keeping up to date with trends and shifts in the TV industry. This is all true; but it’s not enough. It doesn’t excuse being late to work because you just had to catch the last five minutes of Once Upon A Time. It isn’t enough to warrant blowing off a friend to binge-watch the entire first season of Girls because you’re too tired for human contact, because you were up late the night before watching American Horror Story.
I told you this was a confession. I’m an addict. It’s been three days since my last binge, but the cravings are there. There are new episodes out that I haven’t watched. WHY HAVEN’T YOU WATCHED THEM YET my frazzled brain is screaming. Oh wait, because I have an assignment due tomorrow and friends I haven’t seen in nearly a month and four shifts at work next week. This is a confession, an apology and a pledge, all packaged neatly in the faux-highbrow wrappings of an article: I will try to be better. Friends I haven’t seen, you have not for one moment left my thoughts. If I try really hard, I can stop; and if I fail, then please know this: there’s room enough in my heart for you and the entire casts of all these shows… and the casts of the Broadway shows in Smash, the misguided teens on Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents, the hapless hopefuls on Britain’s Got Talent, the desperate band of survivors in The Walking Dead, even Miranda in all her clumsy largeness. You have not been forgotten, you just have a whole lot of fictional company. We will be together again. Once this episode finishes …