Tag Archives: richard

Blank Screen Blues

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don’t.

No, wait. True, but not the bifurcation for which I was searching.

There are two ways to approach a blank computer screen, staring at you, demanding to be filled with information, riveting information, information that will change the lives of readers and the destiny of nations and the course of civilizations: fear or eagerness.

Despite the last sentence above, I see a blank screen as an invitation to dive in and begin creating something, anything. Nature abhors a vacuum. (Much to the dismay of the Orek people, who keep having to replace Mother Nature’s vacuum system almost every week.) I abhor a blank screen.

If you’re the type who sees a blank screen and immediately your fingers begin itching for a keyboard so you can start filling that screen. . . We’re good. You can come back next time. Class dismissed for you. Go out and do something. Get some experience so we can strip mine that little memory, rip it into its constituent engrams and rebuild it into a story worth telling.

It’s the rest of you I want to talk to today. The ones who still are fixated on the whole blank screen sentence up above. Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey, you! Down here. Right.

Breathe.

Breathe.

Good. That’s good. Time to let go of the panic (at least a little bit) and concentrate (at least a little bit) so we can get to writing (at least a full page). (What? You thought I was going to advocate for only writing a little bit? We’ve got a lot to learn about each other, friend.)

So, the idea of a blank screen fills you with fear? Makes you quake in your Joseph Campbell high heels? Makes you tug on that full, manly beard and mumble about doing the dishes? (Hopefully one or the other because Joseph Campbell doesn’t make shoes big enough to fit the beardy types and no one likes to write with sore feet.)

There’s no need to fear a blank screen. The odds are very low that it will bite you or otherwise do you physical harm. The only damage that’s going to be done to you is by you. Or, more accurately, by your poor frightened brain.

People afraid of a blank screen are a little like my oldest son, Sarcasmo (Names changed to protect the not-so-innocent-but-still-likely-to-complain-incessantly) when faced with a roller coaster. He hated the things when he was younger. He would start to build up the idea of the roller coaster in his head until it was some massive monster, barely slapped together with dry chewing gum and goblin spit. Taking him to an amusement park was a waste of money because he was not getting on anything that moved fast or had the possibility of intentional loops.

Until the day he went with friends and they teased him into going on a roller coaster. (I didn’t say they were good friends) Forcing himself to step forward one foot after another, Sarcasmo climbed into the coaster car and prepared for the worst. Which never happened

He later told me he kept expecting to be torn apart, or feel like someone was trying to twist his brain around in his skull. And it never happened. The roller coaster wasn’t nearly as bad as he’d built it up to be in his head.

Now, insert you for Sarcasmo and blank screen for roller coaster. It’s the same deal.BS flag

People will build up the idea of a blank screen so much, they begin to fear it. They begin to fear it because they believe they must produce deathless prose the moment fingers touch keyboard. They must outwrite Shakespeare, out copywrite Don Draper each time they see a blank screen.

That’s a load of . . . bunk. Throwing my bunk stuff flag on this one.

Precision and nigh-perfection come with rewriting. And rewriting. And rewriting some more. Before you can get there, though, you have to write. And that does not have to be perfect. Or pretty. Or even likable. It just needs to be there so you can work on it later.

In fact, let’s make this formal.

You, hereinafter known as “the writer,” are formally given permission to produce sucky first drafts. It’s what you do with the sucky first draft when you’re done that determines your worth as “the writer.”

When faced with a blank screen. . . type. That’s it. Just start typing. It doesn’t matter if it’s any good, or even on point. Just type. Sort of like what I did to start the post. (Which was kept in there as an example that I could point to from down here.) I typed out a stupid joke and that enabled me to get warm and start warming to the topic from there on out.

melting iceThat’s all you have to do.
It doesn’t matter what you type, as long as you begin to type away. Once you’ve got some words, that fear will simply melt away.

Let’s get to it.

First published at Writing Lifea new blog by yours truly that examines how we can use our memories to create compelling personal essays or memoirs.

Share on Facebook

Digital Dads: Together Time App For iPhone

Playtime with your little dude is the best time.

No matter how much time you dudes are able to spend with the little dudette, it’s never enough to have all the fun you want to show her.

Oddly enough, though, there are some dads who get stage fright when it’s time to play. They’ll sit down, face the little dude and then go completely blank, with absolutely no idea whatsoever to do.

Which explains the continuing popularity of television as a babysitter.

Fortunately for those sorts of dudes, the folks at 7Potato have put together a little iPhone app to help you over the rough spots.

This is from their release.

Parents everywhere have superpowers! Unfortunately this power is often dormant because most parents don’t even know they have it. No, it’s not flying or shooting spider webs from wrists, but it does involve spiders of another sort: “Itsy Bitsy Spiders.” As handy as flying and web spinning would be for wrangling little ones, parental superpowers are far better and have a greater impact on the world.

 The Power of Play

The superpower that all parents have is play; it is something that we all share, but like Peter Pan, parents often forget how to play. If only there were an app for that. Well, now there is: Together Time with Song and Rhyme is a new app that helps parents bond with their preschoolers through fun, tickles, songs, and rhymes that support early childhood development.

 “Together Time makes parents more FUN for kids,” said Laura James, the app’s creator and founder of 7Potato.com. “Childhood is a once-upon-a-time opportunity, it only lasts a few short years. It’s easy for parents to spend too many of those years focused on trying to getting kids to behave in our adult world, when we could be using our superpower to make us child-like again.”

Parents are better served when they practice living in their children’s world and play.

“It’s more of a Jane Goodall approach,” James said, “where you observe and behave like the little creatures, to try and understand kids and their world, instead of trying to make the little creatures fit into your world.” 

Unfortunately, I can’t give you dudes a first-hand report on just how good this app really is, but it’s got 4.5 stars over at the iOS App Store. Just giving it the eyeball test, it sure looks darn good.

It’s only $4.99 at the App Store, which, in my mind, is low enough that you can take a flyer on the thing and see if it’s what you’re looking to find.

According to the release they sent, this sort of creative play can short-circuit bad behavior before it even begins. In looking over their strategy, I’ve got to say that a lot of the stuff they’re recommending is stuff that I used for my little dudes. Well, for the last little dude, mostly because it took until then to work out something that worked better than me gritting my teeth and hoping both of us would live through it.

Does your child refuse to get in the car? Start singing “Windshield Wiper” before you even get out the door. This helps set expectations for where you are going, rather than the seat they have to be strapped into, while giving your child a sense of fun.

 I’ve been talking a lot about jobs here lately. About a dad’s job. About a parent’s job. That sort of thing. One job I have yet to mention is the little dude’s job. And yeah, they do have one.

Their job is play. Playing with objects and people from the world around them will help acclimate them to their new surroundings and teach them how things work, what helps them and what hurts them.

“It supports their ongoing development physically, cognitively, and emotionally. One of the best parts of having kids is that it gives you an excuse to relive childhood. It goes by fast so have fun, play often and connect! If fun is the focus, learning will be the outcome, every time.”

Makes sense to me. If any of you dudes do download this app, please let me know how it works. I’d like to see if it is as good as it looks.

Share on Facebook

Planning For Next Father’s Day Or Rushing For This One

Dads are easy. We have to be, considering how much we’re getting shorted in the national holiday of appreciation competition.

Father’s Day didn’t exist until 1909, when the daughter of a single father from Seattle came up with the idea. Wasn’t until Richard Nixon set aside the third Sunday in June in 1972 that it became a national holiday. And this is America? Probably one reason for it. I mean, we celebrate the Founding Fathers every July and the vast conspiracy of Moms felt that was enough.

 In 2011, Dads who received a gift averaged $106.49, which was a nice jump from 2010, when dads only saw gifts worth $94.72, but still not a patch on moms, who averaged $140.73. In 2012, dads only raked in $117.14, while moms bumped up to $152.

“His gifts usually range from a simple tie for work to a new spatula for the grill—all of which can make dad very happy.”

 Mother’s Day gifts, by contrast, tend to be more luxurious than Father’s Day presents—jewels, flowers, a trip to the spa, or dinner at a restaurant, for example.

The most popular gift was a card, and, even then, dads lag behind behind Moms, lovers on Valentine’s Day and people trying to kiss up to Santa on Christmas.

Which is exactly what I thought was happening when my youngest little dude referred to me as a superhero. I swelled with pride. And then he told me my superhero name” the Wondrous Wallet, because I’m the one who gives him the money. He’s having a birthday on June 13 and wants to go paintballing. I’m allowed to go with him, but can’t participate, must only be there in my superhero guise. Who, in addition to being free with the money, is mostly invisible.

The number one reason why Father’s Day doesn’t get as much attention is because it happens during summer break for schools. Moms get the attention of the child in school, teachers who, in elementary school are most likely moms themselves, and have their classes make something for mom.

Moms rake it in because, just like Valentine’s Day, there is an entire industry based around the idea that not getting the mom in your life an expensive, amazing gift is tantamount to saying, “I hate you. You’re worthless, now go get into the kitchen and make me a sammich.”

But, enough whining. Although, if you’ve been around me for more than three minutes, I think you’ll realize whining is what I do. Anyway, enough of it for now. Let’s talk about ways to make dad feel loved on this special third Saturday in June. See if we can’t make up for the appalling $30 gap in gifts.

  1. Move Father’s Day a week back to June 22. That way he can go to Heroes Con, one of the largest comic book, pop-culture conventions in the country. Once there, Dad can mix and mingle with the other super heroes in his guise as the . . . Wondrous Wallet!
  2. You know that tie you’re going to give Dad? You remember: the one that looks suspiciously like the same boring tie you gave him last year? Yeah, that one. Ditch it. Use it to hogtie a, well, a hog. Ties are the dead, bloated skunk on the side of the road that somehow gets into the space under the driver’s seat on a hot summer day and then stay undiscovered for months of gifts.Ties stink, is what I’m trying to say. If it’s too late, if you’ve already purchased one, then do something useful with it, like maybe burning it. Or maybe Mom can give Dad a tie in one of those shades of gray I’ve been hearing about.
  3. I’m different in that I was lucky enough to stay home with my sons and be the primary caregiver, but I know a lot of my fellow dads weren’t that lucky. One of the greatest gifts you can give us (even dads like me who sometimes begin twitching uncontrollably when certain words like (shudder) art project are used in our hearing) is time. Make a date with Dad. Go to the movies. Go out to eat at a restaurant that takes more than seven minutes to serve your food.
  4. Every once in a while the universe demonstrates that I might actually have done a good job with the young dudes. I asked middle son, Zippy the College Boy, what he would do to make dad feel loved and he said, “I’d go to his amazon.com wish list and get him something. Every man has a wish list. It just doesn’t have to be written down.” Of course, that could be just me. But if it’s not, remember that going to smile.amazon.com and buying stuff will lead to amazon.com donating 0.5 % of the purchase plus $5 to the charity of your choice.
  5. Robert L. Brown is a cab driver in Washington, DC. He gave Zippy the College Boy and me a ride over the weekend. During the scariest cab ride of my life, during which I clutched Zippy the College Boy to my chest and prayed for mercy, Mr. Brown told us his idea of perfect parent gifts. He suggested giving three inexpensive gifts. Always and only three gifts. Each gift stood for a single word. I. Love. You. It didn’t matter what the gifts were, but just to let him know “I love you.”
  6. Take dad out for a day of paint ball. Because nothing says I love you quite like sneaking quietly up through the bush, parting the tall grass with the barrel of your gun and firing until your gun runs dry, blasting enough paint to cover a four-story mansion in two coats of paint and leaping joyously into the air while doing the dance of victory over the thoroughly broken. . . erm. Uh. So I’ve heard. I don’t even play paintball and you can’t prove differently.
  7.   Take dad out to the movies. Kids, let dad pick the movie and I can guarantee you’ll enjoy it. You ladies might not know this, but I think you’ll be surprised to know just how very similar a dad’s taste in movies is to that of a 12-year-old boy. You’re on the same wavelength, kids.
  8. Don’t buy dad a card. Seriously. Just get a piece of paper, fold it in half and then write something nice on it. Or even draw something. It doesn’t have to be good art, but just knowing you spent time thinking of dad, and did something you thought would be cool for dad is an amazing gift.
  9. Give the wallet back. Don’t look at me like that. You know what wallet. I’m just going to close my eyes for one minute and, when I open them, I expect to have the wallet right here on the table.
  10. Fly fishing, golf, bike ride, football game baseball game. All at once. But make sure you sell the TV rights first because I think golfish riding basefoot games are going to be huge.
  11. Hugs. Lots and lots of hugs.

I keep telling my young dudes and my loving wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Getting Better Looking By The Day, that I don’t actually want stuff for Father’s Day.

Spend time with me, I tell them. Although I mean time quite differently when I’m talking to my blushing bride than I do when I’m talking to the young dudes.

It’s time and love and hugs, dudes. That’s really what we all want. I mean, nobody wants to reenact their own version of “Cat’s In The Cradle,” do they?

Share on Facebook