I hate the show Homeland. I hate it so much that I can’t seem to stop watching it and have wasted approximately 60 hours of my life watching all five seasons. I often ask other people if they’ve seen it because I really want to share my dislike of the show with someone else. I even spent the entirety of my hour-long lunchbreak googling “does anybody else really hate the show Homeland??” and gleefully patting myself on the back while reading all the articles that detail all of the absurd aspects of the show. I hate it so much that I am devoting the majority of this blog post to it even though I am really going to talk about the creative process.
Carrie, the main character on the show, is like a toddler who physically grew up to be an adult, but remained emotionally and mentally in toddlerhood and then the CIA was like “hey, you wanna come work for us, right?” I’m serious. There’s one episode where toddlerCarrie starts striding towards a stakeout (after being told about 50 times to stand down) because spoiled and selfish toddler reasons. Her boss finally tells her “if you keep walking, we will shoot you,” and because toddlers going to toddler, she gets shot in the shoulder by her own team. In another episode she basically blackmails the director of the CIA into giving her back a job that she’s already proven to suck at by throwing a fit – “I’m not leaving until you give me what I want” she screams at him. ToddlerCarrie makes absurd and dangerous decisions in her professional life but her relationship choices are cringe-worthy (so much so that I often fast forward them). Oh and toddlerCarrie is also bi-polar.
I honestly have no idea why I keep watching this show – though season five has turned out to be surprisingly good probably because there’s less screen time for toddlerCarrie, a really likable female character (for once) even though she’s completely evil, and I found out that Mandy Patinkin who plays the only character that I consistently like on Homeland was also Inigo Montoya in the Princess Diaries so there’s that. Maybe I keep watching because of the exquisite way that Claire Danes (toddlerCarrie) cries. Her lower lips quivers and then her whole face sort of caves in like a cake falling in the oven. And she has lots of opportunities to make this most excellent crying face since she does it every 15 minutes on the show. Or maybe I watch because Claire Danes crying reminds me of Angela Chase and her love for Jordan Catalano or because of the look on her face when she sees Romeo on the other side of the fish tank while Kissing You plays.
Maybe I’ve just been watching Claire Danes pretend to cry since I was teenager. (And apparently I’m not the only one obsessed? disturbed by?in love with? with her cry face.) Or maybe I’m watching because my brain is trying to figure out something else.
And that something else would be Spanish. For the past six months my job has consisted of seven hours of Spanish training daily Monday thru Friday. Learning a second language has been fun but rather difficult (whoever said “oh the romance languages are easy” probably never tried to learn a romance language).
I am a writer and a reader. I spend hours (when I’m not watching Homeland) crafting sentences and drafting arguments in my head and on paper. I understand how to manipulate the structures of English grammar, how to tell stories, how to tell jokes. But in Spanish, all of my skill with language vanishes — my very personality disappears — as I struggle to conjugate verbs in different tenses and remember my growing vocabulary. Why can’t I remember how to conjugate in the present? Should I make this a hypothetical with the past subjunctive or just leave it in the imperative? Why is everyone staring at me – why am I speaking like a turtle? Speaking in Spanish is laborious and my brain is often tired at the end of the day.And sometimes my brain just seems to stop. I hit a wall or a plateau and it seems like nothing is happening.
And that’s where Homeland (or some other nonsensical distraction) comes in. Brains are like operating systems and will continue to work in the background while you go about your business. Or, better yet, brains are like the private detective that you hire to figure out where your husband goes every night. Once you’ve hired the detective, you don’t have to follow said husband around anymore — or the detective for that matter. In fact, you can go do other things like the laundry, or the grocery shopping you’ve neglected for weeks now while worrying about your husband, or you can start your own nocturnal activities. It doesn’t matter, the PD is going to figure it out and report back to you.Right now, my brain detective is trying to sort out Spanish so I’ve been focusing on other things like how awful Homeland is.
I’ve found in my writing life and life in general that whenever I hit a wall or a block that I can’t get over after a few weeks times then I need to take a week-long hiatus from my routine. Normally I wake up at 3:45 am (which might sound like bragging if it didn’t sound so insane) and I write a bit and pray a bit and read a bit and work out and eat breakfast and read a bit more and then I go off to school for 7 hours. This week I still got up at the same time but I didn’t follow a set routine. Sometimes I stayed in bed and read for 3 hours before school or I worked out or I watched an episode of Homeland or I just snuggled under my covers and thought about nothing in particular for those 3 hours.
I found that planned idleness (though admittedly it drives me a bit crazy and makes my stomach go squishy) has helped me to rejuvenate or kickstart the creative process and often, helps me to solve a particular problem by not focusing on it. So the next time that you find yourself stuck, try watching an episode (or three) of Homeland. Your brain will thank you for it.