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To assuage my guilt over watching TV instead of writing, I make sure I have a notepad and pencil (extra sharp) and/or a laptop in my lap. I've jotted down notes that I've used in books and short stories. See? So don't judge me, lol.
Some ways I've used the Idiot Box (that's what my dad called it):
1. Creative metaphors: Witness a TV car chase and terrible crash? This is what ended up in my book:
Marriage? Head on Collision. Career? Run off the road.
2. Prompts: What if my female MC met Steve McGarrett in the diner where she works? What if I played McGee's mother in an episode and Gibbs got a crush on me. Wait, did I just say that? What if is was my number up and Reese and Harold had to protect me? Can I create a brand new character for my favorite show and write a short piece of fan fiction introducing him/her? Maybe that character will find a spot in my WIP. Sometimes playing 'what if' with T.V. helps flesh out a character for me.
3. Commercial activities: I sometimes jot down the adjectives used in commercials, then use them in sentences. I like to see how many words I can type, without stopping to edit, during a commercial. I ran across this article and thought it might give some ideas:
Watching TV and Writing Your Dissertation: Using the Commercials to get Something Done
4. Identify the plot. Analyzing the plot of a 30 minute or 1 hour T.V. show is good practice for my own plot planning. It's fun to pick it apart, especially when something happens that I didn't see coming. How did they do that?
Or...don't watch T.V. and get a lot more done;)
So....how do you make wasted time work for you?