Reading for Screen Time

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

We’ve entered a new phase of parenting. My husband and I have decided that screen time isn’t free. We are instituting a minute for minute trade off. For every minute our dudes read, write or craft, they get a minute of screen time.

Some of you are thinking, “Duh, of course”. Others are thinking, “Novel idea,” kind of like we were when some friends mentioned it.

It wasn’t a difficult decision to make. But, it’s hard to practice. As I write this post it hasn’t even been 24 hours since we communicated and introduced the change to our dudes. I already want to give in.

My dudes are mourning the loss of what has been freely given. It’s always been available to them. No questions asked. They’ve never had to earn it. This is a shift they weren’t expecting.

How did we end up here?

You may recall a post I did this summer: Unplugged, Turned Off and Tuned Out. And unplug we did. Less gadget time helped. I am sad to report that it’s creeped back up to unnecessary levels because we keep getting busier and busier. My hubby and I accept responsibility for this. It’s our fault not our dudes.

We’ve noticed increased tiredness; aggressive behavior and language; and their brotherly friendship is deteriorating. Sometimes their interactions end in a physically volatile manner.

They’ve forgotten about respect and acceptance and love. Oh yeah and did I mention respect. Not just for one another but for themselves. This can not continue to happen.

What’s their response?

8 Year Old Reads© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

8 Year Old Reads
© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

My oldest dude is mopey and mad. My youngest isn’t happy but spent 10 minutes this morning reading when they would usually watch TV. He’s on the path; already earned his first screen time. It may be harder at the end of the day for him. We’ll see.

Needless to say they are very angry. I’ve already heard the “B” word out of their little mouths. No. Not that one. This one: “I’m bored and I don’t have anything to read.”

Tragic right?

In my day, TV shows and movies weren’t so accessible. I mean you had to wait a whole week for the next episode. Now you can wait a day and see it on Hulu. And if you missed episodes you had to watch the reruns in the summer. Now you can wait for the next season to start and see the previous one on Netflix.

Oh and don’t forget the beauty of DVR. My kids have the luxury of instant gratification. It’s way too easy for them to watch what they want when they want; which can be a challenge for parents.

We were sent outside to play and couldn’t come back till the streetlights came on. We didn’t have all this fancy gadgetry. We didn’t have VHS till I was in high school. We didn’t have a computer in my childhood home. DVDs didn’t exist nor did the Internet or Apps. We had what we had and we were happy.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

We didn’t get to buy books, we went to the library. My boys have their own personal libraries and are running out of room on their bookshelves. We had chores that we didn’t get paid for, it was how we contributed to the household. Our little guys get an allowance for their contributions i.e. cleaning up and folding laundry.

I digress. Our boys have so many advantages.

The oldest is struggling the most. He said, as I dropped him off at school, “I hate reading and writing now.”

I truly hope this isn’t the case. It isn’t the desired effect.

Our goal isn’t to make them perceive reading as a punishment. Rather we want screen time to be perceived as a privilege and not a right. That it is a level of reward or an added benefit. For me reading is its own reward and I want my boys to think the same way.

Maybe there’s another approach and we haven’t come across it yet.

Of course, as parents, we receive the right to gift screen time to our boys on occasion but it’s not the rule of thumb. I know that there will be modifications along the way. In the end I anticipate that their moods will improve.

6 Year Old Reads© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

6 Year Old Reads
© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

For those of you thinking that it may not be the type of content they experience or the amount of it … we did a week long trial limiting their screen time and the content. We saw positive change.

So here we go. It’s time for drastic measures. Wish us luck … send up a prayer … We purchased new reads!

Parents, what have you done to balance out screen time in the lives of your little people?

Write Now? Write Later? Write Never?

Keyboard

Keyboard (Photo credit: Quinn deEskimo)

To write or not to write? I’ve asked myself this question before but previously it was to determine whether or not I should be a writer. This time I ask for a different reason.

Making the decision to take a break is the latest meaning of this question. That’s where I am.

Over the past six weeks or so I’ve been struggling with my writing. You know the drill:

  • Wondering if I’m any good.
  • Comparing myself to other writers.
  • Finding the time to write or better yet making the time to write.
  • Finding the inspiration or motivation.

And it’s not just with my current WIP but with all writing in my life:

  • Blogging
  • Journaling
  • Lettering (okay letter writing … I liked the –ing I had going)
  • Posting to any social media

Right words elude me. Really, all words (good, bad, and indifferent) our outside of my reach for some odd reason.

My writing has been sporadic to say the least. It’s not a good feeling.

And I wouldn’t call it writer’s block because words will come to me. They just won’t stay. They flit around my mind and then fly off to places unknown; never quite landing.

What’s writerly me to do?

I don’t feel solid without my words. I am at loose ends because of this unscheduled and involuntary break from writing.

Which is why my writing partner and I had a brief discussion about taking a six month sabbatical. Six short months. What could it hurt?

And, for half a heartbeat I considered it. For half a heartbeat it sounded good … I mean I’m already not writing. Right? Why not call it? Label it?

But, only for half a heartbeat. Then I effectively dismissed it. I can’t make the deliberate choice to shelf my writing, not my project, but my writing. Taking an intentional writing hiatus is not going to happen. Why?

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like one of my favorite quotes says, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~Maya Angelou

No matter how hard it is, this story has to be told. It’s this burden that keeps me moving.

My fear is that I won’t finish telling Baby Girl’s story. It’s a fear greater than facing this lack of creative flow. It’s a fear greater than worrying about whether anyone else will care about her story. It’s a fear greater than facing rejection for publication.

My mojo will return …

In the interim, I’ve been quiet and reflective. I’ve learned some things about my writer self.

First, I live in my head a lot. And I write mostly about what I think and how I feel and how I experience life.

The same is true for my characters. I am good at telling you what’s on their mind. Unfortunately, it all happens in a void … white spaces of the mind.

I need to practice giving thoughts, feelings and experiences a landscape to play across; a stage giant stage and beautiful scenery for the drama to unfold.

Second, I live life in extremes. I am either high or low; up or down. There is very little middle ground. You’ve probably noticed the pendulum swing from blog post to blog post. (Thanks for bearing with me.)

I am sure other writers have similar existences: zealous melancholy but not status quo.

And it translates to my writing too. It’s either feast or famine. A smorgasbord of words or a naked plate. A cup overflowing with motivation or empty and dry.

I need to learn to harness my energy regardless of the planting and harvesting season of my creativity.

So, if you hear from me a little less don’t worry. I’ve decided already that I won’t quit. I won’t take a break.

I’ve decided to write now … not later …

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Change

I am standing on the precipice. My hair swirls up with the rising breeze. When it settles a few strands remain askew.

Change is in the air. It’s palpable.

Maybe it’s the advent of spring?

Or it could be the fact that so many people in my life are facing significant life changes:

  • Adoption
  • Pregnancy
  • New Jobs

Usually, change lends to fear but is tempered by excitement. Not this time. This sense of coming change isn’t sitting well with me. I can’t place my finger on the reason.

Unsettling
Uneasy
Uncertain
Un-_____________ Fill in the blank with the anxiety inducing adjective.

It’s showing itself in small ways too. Like my picky eater trying new foods. And my youngest has been encouraging my oldest instead of the other way around. Signs of maturing.

These positive changes on the horizon make me happy, and they should. So what’s with this pending sense of doom?

Disquiet
Discomfort
Disconnected
Dis- “something” … I wish I could adequately explain.

Selfishly I am not prepared for how these changes will alter relationships and shift interactions. I am content with life and don’t want to have to reprioritize or be reprioritized.

Realistically, it’s one more thing in my life that I can’t control.

When I first drafted this post it felt incomplete. I was struggling with how to make it feel finished. Then, this weekend I watched the movie, The Vow.

It’s a romantic drama about finding love and the tragedy of losing that love. It’s a strange place to be; standing between the moment of joy and sadness. Bittersweet.

Throughout the movie the male lead narrates the story. He talks about “high impact moments” and how they alter the course of your life.

I am watching high impact moments all around me. And they are altering the course of my life. But I don’t know what to do about it and I definitely don’t know how to feel about it.

Oh well …I still feel like this post is incomplete … and it will stay that way, I guess, until change happens …

So, I stand on the edge waiting for what’s to come. Whether this change will push me over or lift me up remains to be seen.

Tell me your change story … What are you experiencing? How are you feeling about it?

Word Choice – It Matters

 

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

I’ve always been a writer but I am a fledgling novelist. One thing that writing a novel is teaching me: my vocabulary is lacking. Nonexistent really.

To think, vocabulary was once something I prided myself on.

I guess spending my formative years looking up words I didn’t know; writing down the definitions in my “reading journal”; and using the word in a sentence was for nothing. Especially because I don’t recall the majority of the words let alone their meanings.

Most of the time I rely on the context clues for meaning rather than the denotative meaning. There’s nothing wrong with doing this as a reader.

However, as a writer, I find myself struggling to convey what I mean without being repetitive. Or I have to use a thesaurus because I don’t know an alternative way to say certain things. And then it feels forced because they aren’t “my” words.

It’s a sad state …

Who wants to read a novel full of the same single descriptive word or phrase? For instance: “the twins” to describe our heroines.

Not me. Not any reader.

I know I can use: siblings, sisters, girls, daughters, doppelgänger. Or even combinations with: matched set, pair, identical, fraternal. But will it feel authentic coming from my mouth, my pen, my keystrokes?

Help!

I guess that’s why they say: “Writing is Re-writing.”

I wonder if this is part of finding my writer’s voice. The reason I choose the words I choose.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

Poor vocabulary is limiting. HINT: I’m easy to beat in a game of Words with Friends or Scrabble which is why I won’t play against my hubby.

Although I am in a state of hysteria over this, I haven’t allowed it to slow me down. My choice? Let words flow. Even if the words are repetitive. I just need to get the story out. Right? Then I can go back and make the words matter.

This is part of the reason I am reluctant to share excerpts from my novel in progress. Eventually I’ll move past this issue. Or maybe the second draft will only contain deliberately repetitive statements, making it worthy to post.

Outside of using a thesaurus … I need to work on vocabulary building. My characters deserve a richer language than I have to offer right now.

Anyone else have this problem? What’s the cure?

Off to listen to my Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day and Grammar Girl podcasts. Oh yeah and to read more so I can learn from those who’ve done it well.