TV: escapism or storytelling?

I've been wondering this pretty much since freshman year when one of my professors first brought that word into my vocabulary. Is my semi-addiction to television shows justifiable even on some small level, or is it a complete sign of laziness and escapism? I'm a writer. Stories, and the art of telling them, are some of the things I think about most. One night, as I was falling asleep, I was contemplating the idea that conflict is at the heart of all stories and it is impossible to tell a story without conflict; it would just be a list of events. I routinely dream additions to my novels, and I don't think an hour has passed lately in which I haven't thought about my novel and how to make it better. Stories, and their execution, are the things I think about when I have a spare second.

I also think a lot about TV, probably because I watch so much of it, and naturally I've started thinking about how these two loves might relate. There are those whose perceptions of me might change if they knew that I watch a lot of TV, thinking it makes me lazy or something worse. How dare I spend hours watching TV instead of doing homework, hanging out with people, or, as every good writer should spend hours doing, reading?

My perspective on that has actually changed recently. I used to feel ashamed every time I opened my computer, put my headphones in, and went to watch "Arrow" or "Castle." Well, for a few seconds, anyway. Almost as soon as the first scene started rolling I forgot about all those other concerns and got all caught up in, "Oh my gosh, where is Beckett!?" or "Come on Oliver and Felicity, just kiss already!"

Then I realized...TV shows are really nothing more than visual stories. They, like movies, are the visual representation of words on a page, brought to life through actors, sets and dialogue. A good TV show will tell you a story, take you for a wild, spinning ride, and deliver you safely home, in one piece. For 20-40 minutes, it'll take you somewhere you've never stepped foot, but somewhere you've traveled to in your mind time and time again.

And isn't that just what books do? Without the visuals and sounds and everything else that makes TV shows unique? Books also take us on journeys, send us roiling through space or time and introduce us to new characters and places. From Westeros to Narnia to the little house on the prairie, books are simply stories that capture our imaginations and take us by the hand, leading us somewhere else.

The only* difference between a TV show and a book is that one leaves little to your imagination and the other allows you to do all the hard work of creating on your own. Granted, that is a big difference, and I completely understand people who prefer to do their own work. The reason I still prefer books to TV shows is that in TV you don't get the beautiful descriptions; all you get is dialogue.

But don't judge me for liking TV shows. Don't call me an escapist, or lazy. My life, my entire future career will hopefully revolve around stories. So I write and I read, but I also watch TV. It's just a different storytelling experience, and it's equally as valid as reading a book.

(This doesn't mean you shouldn't read books. There are things authors can do in books that screenwriters can only dream of. There is something incredibly gorgeous about reading a well-written book and allowing the author to take you with them. All I'm saying is, give TV a chance as well.)

* I'm being hyperbolic. There are a ton of differences between TV and books, this is just the only one I'm going to focus on today.

The definition of success

Sometimes it feels like I can only process things if they are in writing. That's why, last Tuesday, I wrote down my personal definition of success...as far as the creative writing/publishing industry is concerned. Here it is:

Success is having the book published. Success is having it do well enough to be able to keep writing and selling. Success is enough to afford a small apartment somewhere in NYC, food for my table, and clothes for my body. Success is being able to continue Compassion...and more. Success is being able to help my family.

As a side note, I'd like to say that I believe that success in life is following God and honoring Him. As far as my goals as an author, though, this set represents a huge victory for me.

You see, for most of my life I've nourished the secret thought that success equals fame and fortune. To be a successful writer, I thought I had to be a famous writer, someone like J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins or James Patterson. Success meant thousands if not millions of followers on Twitter. Success meant being recognized on the street. Success meant multiple homes and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Last summer, though, I was in a counseling session and my amazing counselor said that she thought this kind of fame and fortune would be the worst possible things I could experience right now. I stopped talking and stared at her, open-mouthed. "Huh?"

She explained: if I was finding value in success, and this was my idea of success, achieving it would do nothing but make me big-headed and impossible. And if I ever lost it, I would also lose any sense of worth I felt.

I've been thinking about her words a lot. And somehow, when I woke up last Tuesday, I understood. I understood why I write: not because it is the pathway to fame and fortune (cause it's not). It all goes back to story. Ever since I was a child, I have had an obsession with stories. I used to beg my parents to tell me stories of their childhood. As I grew older, I began reading. Then I discovered movies. Then TV. In the end I was filling my mind with as many stories as possible.

I write because there are stories I want to share with the world.

But I also write because the act of writing itself is something beautiful. It is cathartic. It makes me feel alive. It is the art form that I can do...I might even venture to say I am fairly good at it.

I write because I love it. Therefore, success as a writer means being able to continue doing what I want to do: write.

I've come to realize that I don't need fame or fortune, millions of Twitter followers and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those things would be awesome, yeah. And I'm going to do my best and if I reach that type of fame, awesome.

But success, for me...success is being able to keep writing, keep loving and helping people, keep sharing my stories with the world.