In general, I'm not a big fan of television. We don't have cable. I probably watch only an hour or two a week. But, because of some things going on in my life that I hope to be able to blog about soon, I've been a wee bit more stressed than usual. The up side is that has caused me to work out more--I swear, the best way to combat that racing-heart feeling is to make your heart actually need to race. What I had considered the downside was that I've been watching more TV because it's easier to get absorbed in a TV show than it is in a book, when I'm stressed at least.
But I've realized that, while too much TV can certainly be a big time suck and a distraction from writing, it also has its benefits. Currently, I'm hooked on two shows: Grey's Anatomy and Men in Trees. (Lost lost me last week, with all those time travel shenanigans.)
Both shows (and I'm sure others) do something that I've been struggling to do in my writing: they stick to a theme and explore that theme through the episode. For example, in the Men in Trees I just watched, it was thought that one of the characters drowned in a boat accident. His girlfriend is thinking about all she regrets about their relationship--namely that they took too long to get it started. Then, using good transitions, the theme of regret was explored throughout a few of the characters lives, and you saw how regret can mean different things to different people and affect different people differently. Even the minorest of characters--a guy who showed up at a priest's door after a fight with his wife--showed regret.
In thinking about how the television writers brought out the theme, I'm realizing once again how every piece of information that is conveyed in a story really needs to focus on the theme. But my main lesson is that stress relieving TV can be good for the writer--and that if we look hard enough, we'll find teachers and lessons just about everywhere.