In an effort to fail at my promise to watch less TV, I spent this weekend watching episode after episode of Dallas.  The first season, 1978.  What a soap opera, what campiness, what bizarre safari shirts J.R. Ewing wore.

But a funny thing happened on my way to veg out.  What started out as mindless relaxation and nostalgia turned into one hell of a memory trigger.

Many of the how-to books we writers stock up on list exercises to help us recall the past:  listen to music from that era, examine old photos, read archived newspapers, describe the kitchen in your childhood home.  I grew up in houses where the TV was, literally, always on.  At home, I read my Nancy Drews under the drone of a loud TV.  I now realize I loved the library not only for it’s books, but for it’s silence.  TV programming even controlled our eating/sleeping habits:  lunch between The Young and The Restless and As The World Turns; supper following Walter Cronkite; bedtime after Dallas on a Friday night.

As lowbrow and un-artist-like as it sounds, TV is often one of my best writing prompts.  This weekend, spending time with Sue Ellen and Digger Barnes and Miss Ellie turned into some unexpectedly fine research.  Oh, those 1970’s bell-bottoms and polyester suits.  The T-topped Corvettes and bright yellow patio furniture.  Women, soft and feminine, in their slacks and blouses, so removed frm today’s hard-bodies and breast implants.  Remember when you had to look up numbers and dial phones (how slow and deliberate this act was)?

What are some of your favorite writing prompts?

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