CNN and Writing

Why am I not getting any writing done? I know the answer to that:


CNN is not part of a balanced and nutritious breakfast. In fact, it’s as unbalanced as breakfast gets and as nutritious as rat poison. If the actual news doesn’t get to you (more on that later), the commercials will.

As I’m sure you know, commercials are the reason that traditional television exists. That’s why I’m talking about the commercials first. If someone hadn’t had the idea of using television to bring advertising into the home, there would be no television as we know it. I suppose the same is true for newspapers and radio. Video streaming is gradually replacing the traditional model of content and advertising, but CNN isn’t on Netflix. The only way to consume it is to sit through the ads.

Some might say that the commercials aren’t bad. Well, it depends on the commercial. I’m immune to commercials for cars and cruises. I have no desire to buy a new car, and I don’t go on cruises. I’ve seen The Poseidon Adventure three times. What I’m not immune to is death and despair, and there are plenty of both in the ads on CNN.

What do I mean? I mean the commercials for all the medications for Crohn’s Disease, bipolar disorder, migraines, heart failure, deep vein thrombosis, and other serious ailments too numerous to mention.

And then there’s cancer. My therapist calls CNN the Cancer News Network. And she’s right.

The commercials for Cancer Treatment Centers of America are the absolute worst. Of all the things that are scary, this is probably the scariest, and not just because getting cancer is scary. Cancer Treatment Centers of America is a commercial enterprise. They’re trolling for cancer patients. In a sense, they want you to have cancer so you’ll come to one of their facilities and bring your insurance card with you. There is profit in human misery.

And as for the news… Well, anyone who isn’t scared by the news is made of sterner stuff than I am. War, death, disease, suffering, politics — these are CNN’s stock and trade. It’s a slow-motion train wreck. I find it impossible to look away.

I’m a worrier. I’m anxious about everything. I don’t know about you, but when I’m worried and anxious there’s no room in my brain for anything else. Worry and anxiety become my whole world. How can I concentrate on anything when I’m worried about global warming? How can I get any writing done when our politics have become a farce?

The solution is clear: just stop watching CNN. I’ve tried. Oh, how I’ve tried. Another solution is to limit my viewing of CNN to an hour or two. I’ve tried that too. I’ve tried to limit myself to an hour a day, which is forty minutes more than I actually need. Twenty minutes is how long it takes CNN to cycle through the headlines. An hour is more than enough.

Lately I’ve tried to integrate NPR into my news consumption diet. Radio doesn’t immobilize me. In fact, it has the opposite effect. When I listen to radio I have to be doing something, like driving or washing the dishes. I can even write while listening to NPR, pausing only to listen to something very interesting or to fill the space between ideas. But like a dysfunctional love affair, CNN keeps drawing me back in.

Is there a twelve-step program to help neurotic writers wean themselves off of CNN?

The world will never be free of death, disease, famine, war, poverty, or politics. I should just thank whoever requires thanking that my life is as cushy as it is and leave the apocalypse to its own devices. Unfortunately, I live in interesting times.

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