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Wright Words: The 24-hour, technology-free challenge

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 2 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

After a hot shower and very little sympathy, the family had dinner and played a board game. The kids could have chosen anything they wanted, but they selected a game I haven’t played in so long I didn’t even know we owned it.

It was The Game of Life.

An hour later my 8-year-old made a comeback on his final three turns and won the game. I might describe his traditional victory dance, but it’s really not suitable for print — or viewing.

Before bed that night I actually read a book by someone else. Authors spend so much time writing and editing their own work that we don’t get as much time as we might like escaping into other writers’ worlds.

The next morning my instincts reached for my phone on the nightstand. It’s part of my routine to fire it up, download my email and check my favorite news sites for whatever I might have missed overnight. When I realized the phone wasn’t there, I think I heard my wife cackling from downstairs.

I usually keep my phone on vibrate and all morning long I thought I felt my phone buzzing in my front pocket. It’s like someone set my ringtone to “muscle twitch.”

After breakfast I returned to a project I started more than a year ago. I sifted through a stack of short stories and plays I wrote as a child. I also found journal entries I was assigned to write to my high school English teacher. I’d completely forgotten how often our discussions turned to religion and how we liked to quote scripture back and forth to make our points.

I also found poems I wrote my mother in second grade, several report cards and a note to a teacher in which I promise one day I’ll become a “perfeshinal writer.”

At 11:30 I took the long way to my office and contemplated all I’d seen, done and felt while I was unplugged from 2012 technology. In particular, I’d never realized how often we use our phones while waiting for life to catch up to us. We’re on them at the doctor’s office, while waiting for the flight to board, while standing in line at the store or hovering by the gas pump.

But while we’re trying not to miss anything, aren’t we missing so much more?

At noon I turned on my laptop, powered-up the phone and watched as an avalanche of emails and text messages suddenly found me. I’d missed some excitement here and there, a bit of interesting political news and four emailed offers to help smuggle funds out of Nigeria.

Not much when I consider what I’d gained.

I can’t promise I’ll take the 24-hour, technology-free challenge again anytime soon, but I can promise you it's worth it.

I can also assure my family and friends that I’ll try to do a better job of unplugging my phone more often and plugging into the game of life.

Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of eight books, including "Christmas Jars," "The Wednesday Letters" and the upcoming novel, "The 13th Day of Christmas." He can be reached at feedback@jasonfwright.com or jasonfwright.com

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