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Archive for the ‘Killed My Television’ Category

I don’t hide from the fact I’m addicted to television.  Our dysfunctional relationship ruined many nights when I could no longer sustain a conversation due to my unavoidable need to see how a Lifetime movie ended.  When I picked   writing back up five years ago I had to end my lifelong tumultuous affair.  Sure, we had our occasional awkward meetings when the kids turned on The Regular Show or Adventure Time.  I’d give a look, show a little interest, even watch the whole episode.  But it wasn’t the same.  It was nothing special.  Nothing like what we had before.

Now I’m in a place where I’m a little out of sorts.  A little sad some might say.  It’s been a tough year personally and it’s resulted in chiseling away my perseverance to do the things I want to do.  Instead the overwhelming changes in my 8-5 work-life requiring much more of my time has left me drained at the day’s end.  The last thing I want to do is work more.  Or even think a little.  It’s in this weakness my old friend came calling.

We were social at first.  The children cuddled with me as we watched some favorite shows.  I convinced myself it was family time even though I shushed everyone when the climax showed up fifty minutes in.  Then we started meeting alone.  I flicked on the television after dinner and then snuck away some nights to stay up late into the hours basking in the soft glow.  I knew it was getting out of control.  Picking back up where we ended in 2009.  And although disappointed in myself, I didn’t resist television like I should have.

Like any addictive relationship I’ve convinced myself it’s something good.  The excuses are plenty with “it’s not like it was before” and “things have changed.”  All the while I know in my heart it’s leading me back to the same road I traveled five years ago when I wanted something different in my life.

The need to write turns in the back of my mind.  It whispers for me to leave my addiction and come back to the place where I find real happiness.  Not the fake thirty minutes with canned laughter and dramatic musical crescendos.  My characters wait for my action to take back my mind and get back to work in creating their world.

The new year is around the corner and I’ve already begun to plan what I want in 2014.  It has nothing to do with ducks, housewives, or Kardashians.  Instead, I’m amping up the goals to make sure there is no time for my old friend to come around any more.  It may be difficult, even a bit impossible.  Plan to see more writing, baking, and hopefully some concert love.  So cheer me on as I break free from my electronic chains and take back the person I want to be.

susan_tia

More of this, less drooling in front of the television.

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It’s agreed the holidays make everyone crazy.  Things like racing around from store to store, children’s activities with a party every day, and baking boatloads of cookies all stacked on top of the already taxed life can break anyone.  So, everyone gets a bye because of the holiday, but January 1st is right around the corner and then it’s all about the possibility.  That might be the moment where this post reminds, “you can do it!”

The other day a new employee to my staff asked me what was my pet peeve.  It didn’t take a second of hesitation before blurting out, “People who say they don’t have enough time.”   I usually follow it up with some annoying cliché of “we all have the same number of hours in day” or “Helen Keller had the same amount of time.”  I really don’t understand my Helen Keller one because what else did she have going on besides learning a way to communicate.  But some play I saw in elementary school must have stuck with me and Helen Keller became some kind of multi-tasking goddess in my eyes.

Helen Keller probably feeling a to-do list during this portrait.

Helen Keller may have to drop down to position number two after reading this blog by Super-Agent Joanna Volpe.  She is beyond awesome with some killer clients that are my faves, like Allan Woodrow of Zachary Ruthless, Kody Keplinger of The DUFF, and Veronica Roth of Divergent.  (They probably sound familiar because they are books I’m always trying to shove down your throat in casual conversation.)  I must say I was really excited to read about the day-to-day schedule of an agent.  It’s not because I have so little life I want to read other people’s day planners, but from what I see, they work ALL. THE. TIME.  Ms. Volpe’s post pretty much confirms it.  But what she also hits on is the fact she chooses her time this way because she loves it.

Ms. Volpe's fresh face after 168 hours of non-stop work (or her Twitter pic.)

I’ll be the first to admit there are times where I over-book.  It drives Hubs crazy when I have three extra minutes and I put the time into a project instead of arriving three minutes early for something.  But I look at it as an opportunity to get a jump on something on my list.  (Yes, I have lists going at all times.  There is one next to me as I type.)  My standard answer when someone asks to add something to my already packed schedule is “I’ll get it done.”  With that, comes my word I will meet the deadline or re-schedule a new one with plenty of time, not an hour before it’s due.  (Go ahead, ask my boss.  She’ll confirm.)

The question often asked of me is “How do you do it all?”  It’s the same answer as Super-Agent’s.  Because I want to.  When something is important, you prioritize to make sure it gets time.  It’s the things we value as less important which fall to the bottom or get swept under the carpet.  It has nothing to do with time, but with what you value.  For me, I had to cut out television.  It wasn’t giving enough back for the amount of time it consumed.  When I made the break, I was able to write and started down this novel path.  I haven’t missed it a bit.  Another commitment was not taking the time from the kiddos.  They still get me after work until they go to bed.  My writing life starts after that or the times where they don’t want to hang with me anyways.  (Example: Right now Lego Batman is waaaay cooler than Mom wanting to clean the house.)

What I’m trying to say is when you are making your resolutions for next year, don’t let time be the deterrent.  If you really want to do it, meaning it gets moved up to the top of the priority list, time won’t be the problem.  You will need to assess the lesser important thing to devote less time to or give up entirely.  It’s not an easy thing but, remember as Ms. Keller and Ms. Volpe have proven, anything is possible if you want to do it.

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The battle cry of a typical eight year old is “I’m bored.”  At least it is in my house when an electronics ban has been placed.  During the week I allow thirty minutes of media per day to keep up with the Joneses about being a responsible parent who is concerned about her child’s development.   It’s not often I enforce a time limit on the weekends because heck, I want to enjoy my weekend too.  (There I said it.)  But something got into me today, maybe it was the incessant dinging of Mario gathering coins, and I’m paying for it with the minute-by-minute whining of how there is nothing to do.

As every other parent has done before me, I list out the millions of fun things to do.  Read a book, write a story, ride a bike, play with the toy store’s worth of toys in their room, draw pictures, etcetera.  My son’s big round eyes blink deliberately with a blank look like I have listed these things off in Japanese. 

“That doesn’t sound good.  What else?”

Another list of building card houses, writing comics, helping decorate for Halloween, and even offering up my services to make cookies if he so chose.  I remind him he should find something he thinks is fun to entertain him. 

“What would you do if you didn’t have your computer?” he said.

After a disappointed sigh because of his lack of consideration for the fact this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down after a day of grocery shopping, prepping food for the week’s sack lunches, pulling weeds so they didn’t look like part of the Halloween decorations, and working on the endless mountain of laundry, I give him my list.

“I would read, write a blog or a chapter on the book, maybe start working on dinner, or even treat myself to an hour nap.” 

He seemed to consider the suggestions for a moment with his eyes tilted up the right side of his brain.  Maybe a light bulb clicked on over his head with the answer, fun is what we make it.  Some people think gardening is fun while I think it’s about the worst torture on the planet.  Others fear writing a single sentence while I would give up a week’s vacation to do it

“Wow.  You are boring,” he said.

I nodded with annoyance at his sucking up ten minutes for this conversation to point out the my obvious uncoolness.

“Then I wouldn’t have me pick out something for you to do,” I said.

“You’re right,” he said and pushed away from the table.  He walked to his room and has been happily playing in there for thirty minutes.  Thirty quiet, all to myself, un-interrupted, productive minutes.  It was like a dream.  An eight year old boy playing in his room, using only his imagination to keep himself entertained.  A picture of perfection until a six-year-old girl plops down in the chair next to me with big rounds eyes and said “Ooooh, there’s nothing to dooooo.”

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There was a reason I broke off my relationship with my television two and a half years ago.  It was sucking the life out of me, warping me into a mindless zombie who could only concentrate on the screen no matter what went on around me.  It had for years.  I realized the extent of the problem when I couldn’t turn off a three hour Lifetime movie about a battered woman (shocker!) even though the show stunk (another shocker!).  I mean, it reeked so bad I was berating myself for the next week  for wasting three hours of my life that I would never get back. 

I have an addiction when it comes to stories.  I have to know the end to find out the “who dunnit” or “did they make it?”  As I learn the craft of story writing,  I understand why.  The beginning is supposed to be catchy where you feel an instant connection with the main character.  Your heart swells with the story arch and you’re done for if you make it to the climax.  Who can turn it off then?  (Well, Hubs can.)

There is no saving me from the siren of the story line.  I can’t fight its charm.  It only takes five minutes for me to be vested and I’m compelled to stay.  What will happen if I don’t?  I toss and turn in bed playing out the characters in my head with the possible endings which could have been written.  There have been times when I had to turn the television back on to watch the last ten minutes just so I was able to sleep at night.

I tried to control the disease with cooking and decorating shows because they were just spurts of information.  They had the creativity I enjoyed, but they were the same boring story over and over again—segment, commercial, segment, commercial, closing, done.  They didn’t have the same draw until reality TV like Top Chef created a story behind the food.  Then I was stuck for weeks on end to find out the winner at the finale.

So two years ago when I picked up writing, I turned off the television.  I admitted my weakness and was determined not to get into any series or watch the occasional Thursday night comedy.  (Oh, how I miss 30 Rock.)  I endured the torture of only having Nickelodeon and Disney on my television because who gets caught up in iCarly and Wizards of Waverly Place?  (Sadly me, I have to admit, when the symptoms recur.)

Why write about it now after receiving my two year clean chip?  Last night I was reminded why I can’t let my guard down for even a moment.  Hubs turned on a foreign film called NORTHFACE.  It’s the true story of two climbers trying to summit a mountain in the Swiss Alps.  I tried to turn away as they chattered in a language I didn’t know.  I fought catching small glimpses of the pained faces of two people who couldn’t admit their feelings to each other.  But it didn’t last.  By the middle, I was sucked in to the drama of it.  At the climax, the final surviving climber dangled from a rope and froze to death in front of the girl who loved him her entire life.  It was the most depressing thing I’d seen in quite some time.

I can’t blame the movie or the writer who created it for my inability to turn it off or walk away.  They both were successful in drawing in the viewer.  I considered blaming Hubs for having the volume so damn loud on a dialogue you can’t understand, but he didn’t ask me to watch it.  (Or did he?)  In the end, I can only look to myself for not having the control to look away or go to bed.  But this is something I’ve grown to appreciate.  This is the flaw of being a writer.  Because every writer out there must know how the story will end.

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I hate to admit it, but I decided to write a novel out of spite.  Well, maybe a better word is jealousy. 

Facebook was the instigator with getting me connected with everyone from the past.  This was a torture saved for monumental years for a high school reunion at 5, 10, 20 etc.  Curiosity got the best of me and I joined after the prodding of a friend telling me how fun it was.  It only took a couple pushes before I walked to the ledge and jumped off.  At first, I looked for old friends that I had seen after high school, but didn’t keep in touch with after moving to Oregon.  Then I made that fateful decision to look for the ex-boyfriends.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a short list and quick to search through.  But I came across one, the first one.  With jealousy, I read he was doing the career he’d aways dreamed of.  It wasn’t the success he’d had (I’d always wished him well), it was his belief he could do it.

The excuses I told myself when I thought about writing a large piece of work were negated by Stephanie Meyers’  (author of Twilight) website.  Her biography talked about having three small children and she was still able to complete a 130,000 manuscript.  And so it began.  I gave up television and wrote each night after putting the kids to bed. 

The feeling of accomplishment when I reached the final word of the book was amazing.  It was amazing!  My goal was to finish, to have a complete work and I did it.  But then I wanted more.  I thought it would be difficult to get a book published, but I was sooo wrong.  It’s more than difficult…it’s on the brink of impossible. 

My 2010 resolution is to find an agent.  Spite got me to reach the goal of writer and now something new will have to move me forward to published author.

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