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Monday, December 14, 2009

Illinois: Addictions

Monday, December 14, 2009

Illinois: Addictions

One day I wandered through the den and found a largish group of my cousins and their cousins watching the Get Smart movie on TV. "Is it any good?" "No." was the unanimous response. "Then why are you watching it?" And my aunt responded: "Because it's on, and we're here."

On any other trip, that would be me. But not this time. I made a promise to myself before I came. I promised that I wasn't going to get pulled into the same patterns as before. No distractions this time. I have a big piece of paper, and I have a pencil. That ought to be enough to keep me busy for the short time I have here.

I know that if I were ever to turn on the TV, I wouldn't be turning it off. That would be my activity for the remainder of the day, regardless of what's actually on TV, just because it's easy and visually stimulating. I know this from previous experiences with TV, and I guess it's not too hard for me to deal with this problem because it's been three years since I've turned on a TV anyway. There's no real habit to break, I just need to prevent myself from building that habit to begin with.

So when my grandparents are watching TV, I go somewhere else. Usually downstairs, or to my room. The living room is a bit of a problem because it's right next to the den so I hear every word of whatever they're watching. (Angles and Circles I draw in the living room, but I've got a few other things to work on.)

Sometimes I slip. Once they were in the middle of watching Mythbusters, which is a show I like, and I said to myself "What's the harm in watching half an episode?" so I did. And sometimes it's late and I really should be getting to sleep, but my grandparents are watching the news so I stick around and watch. I don't even like watching the news. Lately all they've been talking about is two nobodys who went to a party. Seriously, this is the quality of American news. But it doesn't matter what's on. It's TV, it's there to be watched.

There was a Mythbusters marathon around Thanksgiving, which my cousins were watching. I stayed away from that altogether, because I can't make the excuse of "just one episode". And once they were watching The Office, and I've watched every episode of The Office but I resisted the urge to rewatch. And you have no idea how tempting it was to turn on the TV on Tuesday night to see the latest V, but if V then why not Fringe and Flashforward and The Simpsons and House and How I Met Your Mother... my life would suddenly revolve around TV schedules. I've come here for only two weeks. That's much less time than I thought I'd get. I can't waste it like that, as much as I'd like to.

So for the most part I've managed to avoid TV. If you added up all the TV I've watched here so far (including the news, and wandering through the room as someone else is watching), I'm sure it wouldn't exceed an hour. But like I said, watching TV on an actual TV isn't really a habit for me. I download all my shows. It's where I do have recent habits where I've got real problems, and it's so much more pleasant to focus on the TV, which I've been doing a good job with, than it is to focus on them.

When I left Israel, I promised myself that there would be no distractions. That means no TV, but it also means no comics, no web-browsing, and above all no piano improvisation. If I'm going to finish the sketch for Angles and Circles in two weeks, I can't afford to indulge in any of those. And I've slipped up plenty.

Not comics, thankfully. At home I'm always checking the scanners' forums waiting for the new comics to be scanned. But I haven't read any comic books here, because that requires specialized software. It would take me all of five minutes to install the program on the decade-old laptop in my room (or fifteen minutes, if it's being uncooperative), but I can't justify taking that first step. There's no possible use for the program other than reading comics.

There's certainly more to do with a computer, though, even one with Windows ME that keeps crashing for no apparent reason. So that I can't stay away from. The TV's in the den, and I can stay out of the room entirely. But I can't stay out of my own room, and the computer's much too useful to move away. One of my notepads is for the blog: in the front I write notes for the trip, and in the back I summarize every blog post I've ever written. That's something I've been meaning to do for months, and this is the perfect opportunity for it. This is actual work to do, and it requires me to be on the internet. And as long as I'm already in the browser I might as well check my mail, and as long as I'm doing all that why not also check if anyone's been reading my blog? And as long as I've already got three tabs open why not a fourth? And a fifth? And if there's a link on that fifth page, why not check it out and come right back? And if there turns out to be an interesting link on that page.…

Internet, sometimes I hate you.

So I haven't read any comics, but I've spent plenty of time reading about comics. Just review upon review upon review of comics that I won't get to read until I'm back. I don't know why I find reviews so entertaining. And I haven't played any games, but I've read plenty of blogs about games. And I've read Twitter pages and entertainment news sites. And this is after all the restrictions I placed on myself: no forums, none of the blogs I read regularly, no writing on my blog, no comic piracy sites. But when I come up with a perfectly valid excuse like "I haven't checked my mail in a few hours, maybe someone wrote me.", it's hard to see that there's a problem until it's hours later and I've gotten nothing done.

But that's not nearly as bad as music. I have a real problem with music. A week before I came, it occurred to me that if I want to be a gamist I'll have to be a musician less, and that this could be a good opportunity to try that. All I needed to do was promise myself to never touch a piano for two weeks. I can do that, can't I? I wrote up a letter to my grandfather, asking if he'd be offended if I didn't ever play on their piano. And then I erased what I'd written. If I don't let myself play piano, I can't get myself to finish Variations on V.O.V. while I'm there! And besides, other people like hearing my music. What would I do if they asked me to play, just say "Well, I've decided to abstain from playing piano, on the grounds that I'm too much a natural at it."? I would sound crazy and they might be disappointed. Actually, that's not proving to be much of an issue, since no one seems to care too much if I play or not. People say "That was really nice.", but only from listening upstairs. They never come down to hear me better.

But I'm not supposed to care if people don't hear my music, I'm supposed to be working on games. And because I decided a week before coming that I shouldn't prevent myself from playing, playing is almost all I do here. I pace around a few steps trying to figure out how to do something in Angles and Circles, then decide I don't know yet and run down to the piano so that I can play for a few hours. If I had promised myself not to play, I'd be a gamist now like I'm supposed to be. I'd already be done with Angles and Circles, I'd be halfway through the script for Next Door, I might have even come up with a bunch of new ideas, or started on the design document for Through the Wind. I'll never know, because by not restricting my music I guaranteed that music would come first and games second.

And now I'm seeing that that decision might have repercussions later. I hope this CD thing doesn't pull me too far off course.



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