Step Away from the Newspaper

If you realized how reading the newspaper front page to back and watching the news every day can crush your creative spirit one sound bite at a time, maybe you would step away from the newspaper. Here’s one example.

Step Away from the Newspaper

Gloom, despair and Agony on me-

I taught jewelry-making classes for years and once had a student, I’ll call her Sally, who had difficulty learning even the simplest jewelry making techniques. She was a little nervous, all the time I realized. She worried about her kids, her grandkids, her stomach her knees. Even her voice had a weary worried quality to it, you know, ‘Gloom, despair and agony on me….”

One day I was sitting with Sally before class started, the first time outside of class where we’d had a chance to talk one on one. She started telling me about the murder two blocks away the night before and the one across town two days ago. She knew the death toll in the Gulf war each day and what havoc the weather wreaking in every corner of the country, not to mention how it made her joints ache. After that first conversation, I knew I was sitting face to face with a news junkie.

‘So you watch the news a lot?,’ I asked. She did. She had cable and kept it tuned to either CNN or the local news channel twenty-four hours a day. She watched it at night when she was worried and couldn’t sleep. It didn’t take long to associate her nonstop dose of news with being too jittery to concentrate on making jewelry. It was the news that kept her from sleeping at night.

Murder and mayhem stifle your creativity-

I read somewhere years ago how news, whether in the daily paper, on the radio or on the six o’clock television report, had an effect on us whether we realized it or not. All those murders and muggings we hear about, the auto accidents on the radio, the adverse financial news, war, hurricanes. All those things don’t just go in one ear and out the other. They stick with us. They settle in, pushing internal buttons that keep us agitated and wanting more. But there’s only so much we can take.

As an experiment, I excised the news from my life, one year with no radio news, no news at six. I cancelled the daily newspaper and before long I realized I could do without those daily negative doses. It was information I didn’t need. Doing without it made me a bit less informed, but it didn’t prevent me from doing what I needed to do. And I was happier, less stressed and far more creative without all that self induced terror.

You don’t miss those knots in your stomach until they’re gone-

After my one year experiment I tried to turn on the news again the way I used to. There was breaking news, an overturned truck spilled something all over the highway, there was a murder and a missing child. By the time they got to the weather, I felt my muscles tighten a bit. I could feel knots forming in my stomach and realized they’d been there before but had been long gone. I could feel the very physical thing hearing the news did to me.

Who needs all that bad news anyway?-

I realized I didn’t, so I made it a permanent thing. I never renewed my newspaper subscription. To this day, I watch the news only for the time it takes to find out some specific thing, if the handsome anchor takes too long to get to the thing I want to know, I decide it’s not worth the stress; so I switch to comedy reruns on an alternative channel. (I’m certain they schedule comedy reruns opposite the news for people like me.)

I watch PBS and listen to NPR, both with more in depth coverage on meaningful issues, none of the slash and murder of local news. I am a happier, nicer lady because of it and my work reflects my temperament. If something happens that I really need to know, someone will call me.

One day I mentioned to Sally what I’d learned years ago about overdosing on news, how it can scare you, stress you, cause knots in your stomach and keep you worried all the time. How it can keep you from being productive and stiffle your creativity. I told her if she tried cutting back on her news watching for even a little while, it might calm her and might even help her jewelry-making skills. ‘Perhaps I won’t watch it so much,’ she told me, but I was certain she was just saying that to make me happy.

You just can’t teach some old dogs new tricks-

The last time I saw Sally, she was consulting the parish nurse about a serious physical condition, ulcers or gallstones or some other such malady. When the nurse left the room, Sally asked me if I’d heard about the murder that happened up the street that morning. I said no and switched the conversation to small talk about her grandchildren. I realized she would probably be a news junkie for life. For her that was okay.

Giving up the news was just an experiment for me, but it had such a profound effect on the way I felt, my ability to concentrate on my art, I believe in it enough to share it with you.

Shut off the television, at least cut down your intake of news and see how it effects you. Turning off the news may very well inspire you to new heights of creativity.

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