Why I just canceled my NetFlix account

May 28 2011

Some Hot Chick Typing in Her Underwear

Thanks to Merlin Mann for pointing out this ridiculous image

Growing up, I always wanted to be a writer.

(Queue 5-minute reverie about Goodfellas, which is exactly what I want to talk about. The reverie, not the movie.)

When I was a kid, I’d read a great book and think, Man, I’d love to be a writer. Just sit there at my desk and write. Mug of tea next to me, open window with the breeze gently blowing the curtains.

Even when I started writing seriously in my teens, and I realized that the process is nothing like that, I was always drawn to it. I always liked at least the feeling of clicking the “Count Words” menu item at the end of an hour-long session and seeing that I’d added a thousand words to a story.

I’ve written sporadically ever since my teenage years. I’ve had plenty of other interests, of course, but that’s not really the reason. The reason is that I haven’t made time for writing.

Moreover, I’ve let other things slide into that time.

Now, yes, one has to set aside time for the activities one finds important. But there’s also something to be said for removing distractions, even voluntary ones.

For example, last year I created a calendar item called “Media Fast.” From sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, I would consume no broadcast media. No DVDs, no YouTube, no blogs, no newspapers, no books, no magazines.

When I attempted my first Media Fasts, the initial experience felt awkward, off-balance. If I was tired or needed a break, I couldn’t think of anything to do other than watch a DVD or fire up YouTube or check my news feeds.

Then I felt free. As overwrought, California, New Age, crystal-staring as that sounds, I suddenly realized that I had huge amounts of time. I could write, or play around on my guitar, or putter around in the garden, or fix that hole in my studio wall.

About ten years ago, I gave away my TV. (Yeah, this is jumping all around. Hang with me for a minute.) I just wasn’t following any shows, and when I did turn on the TV, I’d invariably spend half an hour channel-surfing. I just didn’t need that distraction.

Predictably, my productivity flourished, and I spent my downtime on things I enjoyed more deeply.

Via beerandscifi.com

Then along came NetFlix, and particularly the Roku. With this, I could choose only the movies or series I really wanted to watch. Perfect.

Except that I spent much of this week watching most of The Kids in the Hall.

That’s a well-written show. Nothing against it. I’m glad I found it again. But why did I watch the better part of the entire show’s run? Because it was there.

Meanwhile, I own over a hundred DVDs that I haven’t watched yet.

A huge pile of unread books and magazines teeter precariously next to my bed.

This is not an adult way to behave.

Moreover, I’m not writing. Sure, I need down time. But I also need up time.

As I showered this morning, I realized I faced a stark choice: I can either be a guy who watches movies and doesn’t write, or a guy who doesn’t watch movies and writes. I want to be the latter. Much as I wish I could do both, it’s not happening.

So. I canceled my NetFlix account.

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