No Netflix TV screen with hand-written sign on it in blue and read
No Netflix. It's a sign.

This week I started the 30 Day No Netflix challenge for writers. You can read about the rationale for it on last week’s blog post.

30 Day No Netflix Challenge for Writers

The basic idea is that less time zoned out in front of Netflix means more time for what matters more to me: reading and writing. Now that initial shock of the pandemic lockdown has settled, I’m simply wanting to do other things with my free time.

I have one of those day jobs that sped up rather than slowed down when the pandemic started. (I work in international development.) So I don’t have a lot of free time, just some in the evenings and on weekends…but for the past six weeks or so, what time I had was spent primarily on Netflix, and the hours were racking up in a way that made me unhappy. And why add more unhappy to your day than you have to, right?

When I announced this challenge last week, writers and other creative people in my life had a range of reactions. (Which makes sense: people range!) I heard from some writers who embraced the idea with enthusiasm and from some who weren’t quite as enthusiastic. 

A few folks said they watch Netflix one night a week, as a special time with family or beloveds. Just to be clear: that is the best damn use of Netflix I can think of and I am slightly envious. Envious because my daughter lives in Montreal, not with me, and I’d love nothing more than to share some popcorn with her and watch Pride and Prejudice one more time for good measure. 

Sometimes a little Netflix is a good thing, no doubt.

Another friend reminded me of other great things happening online: the new National Theatre production of Frankenstein, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, for example. Even thought it's theatre, It’s being streamed so technically it’s off the table…but here’s the thing: 

I’m not aiming for perfection and I don’t think you should either. I often do that thing where if it isn’t 110% effort then it’s nothing, but I know it doesn’t serve me. So if you want to plan in a night or two of a special event that happens to be streamed, go for it. Do the 30-Day Challenge and only get 27 or 28 days completed. What’s wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. It’s 27 or 28 more days with less Netflix (and more reading and writing) than when you started.

No Netflix Can Mean More Reading Time

And if you’re interested in some tips to help you get back into reading and rescue your pandemic brain, Kerry Clare has a new blog post to help you out with that. (She’s also running a blogging community exercise in June that I am joining. Come blog with us!)

When I started the challenge this week — Thursday, April 30th was my first Netflix-free day — I think I thought it would be easy.

Reader, it was not easy.

My work week was a bit punishing: long hours, news of people we know who have died. By the time Thursday night rolled around, I wanted nothing so much as to flip on Miss Phryne Fisher and escape. 

Alas. No Netflix for me.

On the Challenge Tracker I’ve created (you can download a copy for yourself here), I put a space for one word that sums up a day’s experience.

My word for Day 1 is Uh Oh. I know: technically two words, so we’ll hyphenate — Uh-Oh.

It was going to be a challenge and I knew that going in, but apparently I am more addicted than I thought. Man, I wanted some Netflix REAL BAD.

But, I didn’t cave and instead I did the following:

  • Spent too much time on my phone. (Stay tuned for my next 30-Day Challenge: No Twitter for Writers. Joking, sort of.)
  • Watched two more lessons in my puppy training course. (We’re working on Stay, which feels a bit ironic these days.)
  • Flaffed about on YouTube looking at basic sketching tutorials. (My mind goes to find multiple distractions when I am supposed to be working on a book. Yours?)
  • Read some poems from a book my friend Frances gave me for my birthday. (And then wrote a new poem! My first in months.)
  • Read 16 pages of a mystery novel I started a while back and hadn’t finished yet. (I could make furniture out of my To Be Read pile at this point.)
  • Went to bed earlier than usual. (Mr. Darcy — the puppy — wakes me at 5:45am, so the extra sleep was a blessing.)

It sounds pretty great when I write it all out like that, but just between us, there were some really uncomfortable moments in there. I made myself put the remote in a box in the closet just to be sure. I’m embarrassed by how hard this was and if I hadn’t committed to doing it with others in public, I’m sure I’d have given up by now.

Day 2 — last night — was easier. I read more and wrote a little more as well. No great waves of creativity, just the kind of plodding along that we do as writers. I also did some colouring in my new Jane Austen colouring book. (Go ahead and judge me: I’m cool with it.) And I put together a new doggie crate, with instructions written for nuclear engineers. But it’s up and Mr. Darcy seems to not hate it so far.

Here’s how I’m feeling about the 30 Days now: hopeful. I’m hopeful because I’m learning some things about myself and I think this will be good for me.

And I’m not lying when I say I’m hopeful it will get easier.

I’d love to hear how the 30-Day No Netflix Challenge is going for you! You can always email me at rhonda[at]rhondadouglas.com or come find me on Facebook or Instagram and let me know your word of the day.

30 Days of No Netflix: Day 1 Report (Uh-Oh)