How to finish your book (or accomplish any dream)

February 9, 2011

Last week I called the cable company to ask how much it would cost to get Internet installed in my apartment. (Until now I’ve managed to use my apartment complex’s access.) The guy on the other end of the phone tried to give me a price for both Internet and cable.

“Oh, I don’t need cable,” I said. “Just Internet.”

The guy paused. “Well, how do you watch TV?” he asked.

“I don’t watch TV,” I said, hoping to quickly schedule my appointment so I could move onto the rest of my to-do list. “That’s why I only want Internet.”

Another pause. “What do you mean you don’t watch TV?” the salesman pressed.

“I mean I don’t watch TV,” I said, growing annoyed. “I just want Internet.”

But my message apparently was not clear enough. “You don’t watch any TV?”

I’ll save you the rest of the conversation, because it’s mostly me getting annoyed, and him sounding increasingly hard-headed. The truth is, I do watch some television. I watch about one hour a week, usually on Fridays after work when I want to veg out. But I watch that one hour on my laptop, so it doesn’t make sense to pay for cable.

Yet going without cable is about more than saving money. The truth is, I think TV is a waste of time. That doesn’t mean I’m never tempted to watch it. When the new Bachelor started a month ago, I knew I would’ve watched the show if I’d had cable. But that’s exactly why I don’t. Because I don’t want to spend my weeknights watching television. I want to spend them writing or blogging or reading or socializing.

Now, I’m by no means saying that I’m above watching television. Believe me, I have my own ways of wasting time, and most of them involve the Internets. But my point here is that just because everyone else does something, doesn’t mean you have to do it, too. Just because most Americans waste hours each night sitting in front of the tube doesn’t mean I should. Maybe you think reading blogs is a waste of time. Or that going out to dinner is a waste of money. Just because everyone else thinks those activities are normal does not mean you have to partake.

Because here’s the secret: While everyone else is sitting in front of the television, you’re writing your book. While everyone else is eating out at restaurants, you’re saving for your career break. While everyone else is getting sucked into one blog after another, you’re planning your next big project. Whatever your dream is, you can get that much closer to accomplishing it while everyone else is busy wasting time.


It’s not easy to deviate from what society tells us is “normal.” It’s not fun to be judged by the cable guy or the restaurant-goers or whoever else notices that you’re different.

But you know what? If you can find the courage and persistence to deviate, you’ll have a book to show for it.

Photo credit: Flickr’s pasotraspaso

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    18 Replies to “How to finish your book (or accomplish any dream)”

    • karen walker says:

      I love this post, Alexis. It’s so true. I’ve always been so afraid to stand apart from the crowd because I wanted everyone to like me. Well, they don’t, whether I stand apart or inside the circle. I just need to be myself. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Emma says:

      Great post! Most nights, I sit on the couch w/ my husband and write while he watches TV. For the most part, I’m able to tune out the TV, but every once in a while, I try to figure out what’s going on. He laughs at me because I ask the most basic questions–clearly I am NOT paying attention! We don’t watch any of “my” shows anymore, and I am sure that my book will be the better for it. What I do have a lot of guilt about is being less social. With a full-time job, a child, a husband, and a work in progress, something has to give, and lately, it’s been my social life. Choices must be made!

      • Alexis Grant says:

        Emma — My social life has had to give lately, too. And I don’t have the child or the husband! We only have so many hours in one day. I was feeling guilty for saying “no” to social opportunities, until my co-worker told me that’s how she wrote her book while working a full-time job; she said no, and spent the weekends getting her book on paper. I think saying no can be really difficult, especially when we *want* to spend time with friends, but like turning the TV off, it gives us many more hours to be productive.

    • Lanham True says:

      Years ago I lived high up in the mountains, where no tv channels could reach me. Since then I’ve backslid considerably, miserably, embarrassingly…& finally, almost grotesquely. Lately I’ve realized, with horror, that I don’t even make fun of dumb shows anymore: I actually like them & miss them when they’re not around. They’ve become like my dull little faceless children, snuggling up to keep me warm. You’re right: it’s time to cut the cord!

    • Andrea James says:

      Aghast. But “Modern Family” is just SO funny! And what about Real Housewives, the franchise?

      …That said, I watch them all on Hulu.

      This post reminds me of the week before I flew to Paris and then London for our reporting residencies. My nephew and I were watching Reno 911 on Comedy Central and I was laughing so hard. And my nephew said to me, wide eyed and innocent (age 17), “What are you going to do in Paris without Reno 911?”

      While everyone else is sitting in front of the television, I’m exercising. While everyone else is eating out at restaurants, I’m saving for a house, a vacation or a ski pass. While everyone else is getting sucked into one blog after another, I’m basically following suit like a sheep because I love to read blogs.

      Which is why I don’t have a book. And you do. Le sigh. 😉

    • Good on you!
      I don’t watch TV neither, and I always do what I feel attuning to thee, because I believe it is the only way I am being true to myself.
      By being and doing as I desire I am creating constant opportunities to bring me closer to where I want to be. I choose to concentrate on the positive aspects of what brings me in line with who I am, and what I can bring to others.
      It’s amazing what one does when just being in the constant flow of life, in the sheer joy of the moment and truly exhilarated by their trueness in all their choices!
      A very Happy New Year to you, and all you are doing!
      Pleasure stopping by.

    • Drew BUsh says:

      I agree. I remember having this debate with my newsroom back-in-the day. They were all 24 addicts (I think that’s the show), and I never had any idea what they were talking about. But, I did write a short story that year!

    • Joanna Penn says:

      I did the same thing 4 years ago. The TV went and productivity soared! I do download some shows on iTunes but then it’s only 45 mins and you only pay for what you really want. This is definitely one of the top things successful people do. And it makes you less depressed because you don’t have to watch the miserable, repetitive news! (I check the Guardian news app on the iPhone for that!)

      • Alexis Grant says:

        Yes! I love the option to download onto our computers. Because then you’re only watching what you want to watch, instead of watching out of boredom or procrastination. We can still indulge in a drama once in a while, without having the distraction of a television.

      • Natalia says:

        Joanna, I have gone from being a ‘news junkie’ to not having TV, not listening to the radio (podcasts are my listening of choice) and now only checking the Guardian and one other news site on the internet. You are so right, it is just a hell of a lot more stressful. Not only because you are not being inudated with the miserable stuff, but if you are like me it stops you shouting at the radio for again reporting something that is not real ‘news’ or is something they have already reported twenty times that morning! Glad to know I am not the only one.

    • This is a great post! I usually have to go to coffee shops to get any work done because it is too easy to “just see what’s on” and end up getting distracted for two hours.

    • Ann Best says:

      I also get very annoyed when a salesman is that hard-nosed–though this hasn’t happened lately to me, thank goodness.

      There really isn’t much on TV that interests me, and so my DirecTV is gone!! Yaya. I don’t miss it. I do blog, but I’m learning how to manage my time on the computer, so I’m making progress also at freeing up time for writing–and marketing.

      Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone in canceling my DirecTV!!

    • Natalia says:

      Oh, I so hear you on this one! (Though we watch some BBC shows with their iPlayer thanks to a laptop attached to the TV). We have gone through various periods over the past 8 years of not having TVs (for about 18 months we didn’t have a screen of any sort in the house – not even a computer! Seems bizarre now …) and people just can’t get their head around the concept. Now as well as the odd BBC show we watch DVDs, but there is something about choosing to watch a discrete show/movie, rather than just sitting down and watching a show, then then what comes next, and whatever is on after that … (as we often end up doing if staying in a hotel and turning the TV on).

      It is also a godsend as a parent – even on ‘non-commercial’ channels like the BBC here in the UK or the ABC in Australia, there are commercials, for shows, for affiliated products etc. And kids programming on commercial channels – the amount of advertisements kids see is scary. Whereas this way my son is still seeing ‘TV’, but just the shows, no ads. It makes a huge difference, trust me. And when it is a DVD or a show on the internet, it is a lot easier to say ‘when this is finished, it goes off’.

    • Heather Rae says:

      Love this, Alexis! I haven’t had cable in years, and most people think I’m crazy. But I have to say, I do so much more when I don’t have all those channels to distract me. Great message – be different, do your thing. 🙂

    • Simone says:

      Thank you for this much much needed reminder, Alexis. (You are always so good at that.) I haven’t had any TV around for a good ten years, and before, I honestly didn’t even notice that it was part of my life. (If you start a habit (or keep away from bad habit) when you’re young, it really does stick. I read a ton. And I had zero idea how anyone got anything done with a television in their house.

      But then I got internet 2.5 years ago, and I’ve slowly slid back downhill. I’ve gotten to watch some great stuff–The Wire is incredible–but I’ve also spent pretty serious time watching increasingly ridiculous episodes of Weeds. In part, I’m happy for the release. Life just gets harder as you get older, and the need for serious vegging out grows.

      But now, because I have so much work, I have to train myself to NOT watch any TV online. And that requires energy. So thanks for the post. It solidified my resolve!

      And, p.s., I’m reading every post — just lurking. 😉

    • Ami says:

      I’ve been thinking myself about getting rid of the cable again. TV really is a time suck. I don’t spend a ton of time as it is watching TV, but when I do watch it I know there are so many other things I could be doing with that time. Thanks for the reminder. I think I’ll call the cable company this weekend and see what my options are. 🙂

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