Lately I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed by how various forms of media keep relentlessly piling up in my life, and I find myself wanting to take steps to reduce and simplify. With my Zarahemla Books hobby-business and three kids in our home at all times, plus two additional preteens on most weekends, I seem to have gotten busier and more stressed, so something’s gotta go.
E-mail: As I’ve written before, I’m addicted to e-mail, but I’d like to reduce that addiction. I’ve recently been unsubscribing from newsletters and stuff, and the AML Mormon literary group recently killed its e-mail discussion list that I participated in for over ten years, which is disappointing but also somewhat of a relief, since it means less reading and posting temptations for me. Also, e-mails related to Zarahemla Books have died down—bookstore sales have been good lately, but sales to individuals have really dropped off, and fewer authors seem to contact me now.
So I’m finding that my inbox is staying empty for hours at a time now, and I’m hoping to train myself to check it less often—my goal is to get down to once every five minutes instead of every 20–30 seconds. To check, all I have to do is roll my mouse over the Gmail icon, but it’s become a real compulsive habit, something I do virtually every time I touch the mouse or even when I finish typing a sentence. As I’m rewarded less often with new e-mails, I think I will lose interest in checking so often. I do think it hurts my concentration and productivity, and it feels like a bad habit, like biting one’s nails.
Magazines: I subscribe to too many, but I’m trying not to renew them, and I actually canceled Publishers Weekly, even though it’s free now to booksellers. It does have some interesting articles, but my interest and involvement in the publishing industry seem to have peaked, and I find that weekly magazines tend to pile up too much. I was going to take a big step and try to go without a newsweekly, but then U.S. News gave me a good offer and I succumbed. But I haven’t renewed Rolling Stone, and I’ll probably let a few others lapse as well. I’ve even started toying with the idea of canceling the daily paper…
Movies: I think I am watching fewer movies now than ever in my life. I continue somewhat compulsively adding well-reviewed titles to my Netflix queue, but it’s now over 400 movies, which would take me 10 years to catch up with even if I doubled my current rate. I probably need to just stop paying attention to movie reviews and stop adding to my queue, but I’m worried I’ll miss something really great.
I used to watch some movies on my own, but now the only ones I watch are with Ann, so there are many titles in my queue that I will probably skip because she wouldn’t like them. When we watch a movie, we tend to start it too late, and I seem to have lost the ability to stay up late to watch a movie, so we often spread it over two or three nights, which I don’t like either. As far as getting out to the theater, that seems to have become rarer too, both with Ann and with friends. Babysitters are expensive, and it’s just harder to find the time and energy.
Music: I recently sold off my entire CD collection on Amazon and elsewhere, and I used some of the proceeds to buy quite a bit of new stuff. Now I have about 5,500 songs in my iTunes, and I find that it takes several months for me to assimilate the new music—in fact, stuff keeps coming up on my Shuffle that I don't even know what it is. But I’m pretty compulsive about continuing to buy new CDs of artists I like or of stuff that’s really well reviewed. What I do is buy a new CD, rip it onto my three computers, resell it at a slight loss, and use the credit to buy more. I'm not sure that's completely ethical—technically, should I be deleting the files from my computer as soon as I no longer own the CD? But hey, at least the music creators make some money off me, so it's better than downloading for free.
Books: I seem to read about one out of every six or more books I acquire, and this trend seems to be getting worse rather than better. I try to read every night before falling asleep, but often I can read only a page or two before I crash. Still, I like the idea of stockpiling books in my house—that way, when civilization collapses I’ll have a good supply of new things to read. But I do tend to feel frustrated that I can’t read anywhere near as many books as I’d like.
So anyway, I’m trying to find a better balance in my life with regards to media, which probably sucks more of my time, money, and energy than it should. I've heard of people going on media fasts, but that sounds a bit too extreme for me. . . .