For writers who can’t turn off the TV: How to use Netflix to escape writer’s block and help you write more regularly

Writing

This year, my aspiring playwright friend Ghost and I decided to report to each other on our daily wordcount. Yesterday, she sent me this text:

I wrote for half an hour with no distractions besides sipping a glass of water right next to me.

It about killed me. I don’t know how you turn out those voluminous tomes.*

Now, I learned a lot of my productivity tricks  reading Julia Cameron’s Right to Write, including listening and taking down a story (versus “making up” things). And this year, thanks to Dean Wesley Smith,  I’m monitoring my consistency using an Excel spreadsheet.

But if ANY of you think I am some kind of monk-like writing machine, scribbling down stories in spartan room devoid of windows or cheer, let me state that I firmly believe that distraction can be a legitimate part of writing. Who hasn’t gotten one project done while putting off finishing another?

How I use TV to Escape Writer’s Block

Don’t get me wrong–there’s  definitely times where silence and focus are needed (in both drawing and writing). But I do a lot of drawing while a show’s on, and yes, I’m even “guilty” of writing while watching TV. (I rarely do that, though, because when I write, it feels like I’m tuning in to a movie-in-progress, and if I’ve got dialogue running on a TV, I can’t hear what my  characters are saying!)

But when I DO write while watching TV, it means writer’s block has shown up.

Now, writer’s block is just a code word for FEAR. Usually (in my case) as the thought pattern: “no way can I pull off writing this scene, I am not a good enough writer, I will never be skilled enough to make this scene sing.” At this point, I’ve usually put off writing the scene for a week. At least.

So when that fear shows up, I set the TV on to a plotted show. That way, while the critical (and frequently overwhelmed) part of my brain is distracted by the story onscreen, the other half my brain–the judgment-free, finger painting, for-the-heck-of-it, “why not?” side–gets assigned the task of writing the story I’m stuck on.

But since we’re watching a show, nobody takes it very seriously, which is good, because if you’re just goofing off, that means your Inner Critic can go to sleep, which is usually what you need to break through a block.

In my book, it’s a legitimate tactic.

Everyday Writing

Now, for everyday writing, sometimes I need something in between silence and dialogue-filled TV.

That’s where Netflix streaming comes in.

One chilly day, on a whim, I searched for and found a fireplace video to watch while writing:

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Actually, the one I found was called “Fireplace 4K: Classic Crackling Fireplace”

Afterwards, Netflix began recommending me similar titles, which I now like to watch during my daily writing time. They provide a little noise or music when my nose is to the page, and something pretty to look at when I look up. Here are my favorites, as of 1/28/2017:

f26659b9f8c44f445faca1bec5f7fa3957c7356bJellies. One hour of psychedelic jellyfish boppin across the screen to electronic lounge music. I find myself tuning into this one A LOT.

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Search Netflix streaming for “Moving Art” to find all 6 films!

Louie Schwartzberg’s MOVING ART series. Variety is the spice of life, so I like that there’s more than one of these. The collection includes Forests (with timelapse mushroom growth, eew/cool!), Underwater, Deserts (my current favorite), Flowers, Waterfalls (the first one I discovered), and Oceans (beautiful coastlines). These are all shorter films–about 25 minutes each–but every time you look up, you go WOW. Gorgeous production values. Bonus for having soothing and non-distracting piano music.

cc87c5a26140a35b31276008f37648ec89ce3a7eNatureVision. This one has more animals–and a ton of episodes, each differently themed–but I’ve only watched the first episode, and it was just (shrug) aight. Probably the music could’ve been better.

aquarium-for-your-home-saltwater-reef_70298699a7210ccb19678aabb0a170847476683cb7ee751dAquarium for your Home: Saltwater Reef and Aquarium for your Home: Goldfish. For those of you who can’t stand music, these companions to the Fireplace 4K aren’t too bad. I think the Aquarium is superior to the Goldfish, but then, I like that underwater bubbly sound more.

So those are some of the vids I run on Netflix when I’m writing to keep my visual brain entertained while my writing brain gets to work.Need more advice on how to write more? Leave your questions and comments in the comments section below!


*The voluminous tomes she’s referring to is my sci-fi novel Steel City, Veiled Kingdom, which isn’t quite published yet. But stay tuned!

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Solving Cat Face Problems

Art

OK, so drawing expressive cat faces is easy when you cartoon ’em up, but difficult when you’re trying to adhere to their natural anatomy–especially those mouths!

But tonight Netflix brought me some nice reference in the form of Thunder and the House of Magic.  There’s a nice hand-drawn sensibility to the cat’s body motion (when’s the last time we had a 3D animated cat?  Bolt?), but that face, that mouth!!  Cute, expressive, natural-looking!

Besides, he looks like my fiancé’s kitty, Pixel, down to the white socks!

Woot!

Three-Part HOBBIT

Thoughts on Entertainment

I was looking forward to seeing THE HOBBIT*…until I found out it was being broken up into three parts!

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Dear Peter Jackson,

Even though your names contain the same amount of syllables, you are not Richard Wagner.  Thus, you do not have the genius needed to justify drawing this children’s book out into a 10-hour epic.  Just don’t.

Yours,

Danielle

PS, just a reminder?  Rankin-Bass already did THE HOBBIT in 77 minutes back in the 70’s.

RANKIN BAAASS
—-
*Mostly because of Smaug.  There are not nearly enough good talking dragons in movies.

The 2 reasons I loved WRECK-IT RALPH

Thoughts on Entertainment

There ‘s a plethora of reasons to love WRECK-IT RALPH, of course–too many to mention here.  But in the course of talking to my friends and family, I’ve narrowed my intense devotion to it down to two main reasons:

The movie is bigger than my imagination.

Any number of fantasy movies out there promise to show you exciting worlds.  Too many of them fall short, causing you to walk out of the movies thinking, “That was cool, but there was something missing.  Why didn’t they do…?”

RALPH makes good on the promise.  After the second viewing, I though to myself, “There is nothing I would add to this movie.  I can’t imagine anything that would make it better.”

Simply said, every possibility is explored to the fullest.  You’re watching, and in your hindbrain somewhere, it says, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?”  And then…IT HAPPENS IN THE MOVIE.   It’s not just in the jokes–the mechanics of the worlds lock together perfectly to support the character journeys.

Which brings me to my second reason why I loved WRECK-IT RALPH so much:

RALPH explores the struggles you can encounter while you’re learning to accept your native abilities.

In writing SCVK, I’ve realized this is a theme I feel strongly about.  So many movies say, “If you follow your heart and believe in yourself, things will work out.”

I believe this is true, but a lot of movies gloss over the fact that sometimes it is really hard to be true to yourself.  It’s easier to look over at someone else and say, “I wish I could be like her, I wish I were funny like him.”  You can waste a lot of time doing this (even your whole life!).  Claiming your gifts is a tough deal sometimes!

In RALPH each character either was doing, or wanted to do, the very thing they were designed to do!  Felix fixed, Calhoun commanded.

Ralph wrecked, but people looked down on him for doing what he was designed to do, and that caused him a lot of heartache.  Vanellope wanted to race, but was being shut out because she wasn’t like the others.  So much of the story comes out of these characters trying to do what they were meant to do, and feel good about it.  That resonated with me.

Between this and Paperman, Disney is starting to feel more like the king of family films again, rather than the lazy emperor of entertainment.  I hope the keep it up!