I’m nestled up to the corner of my sofa. Legs crossed, cup of (Yorkshire) tea to the right of me, open book resting on my left knee, sun streaming through the windows shining a light on the rug and warming the side of my face! What a blissful morning.
But…..it wasn’t to last.
I gasp – out loud! I swear – ‘What the Fuck!!’ I look on at the book in horror and disdain.
Did I read the words wrong, through my tired eyes? Due to getting up earlier than planned, on a Sunday, with no plans – typical!
Nope, reading the paragraph several times over confirmed I had read it right.
If you feel stuck in your life or in your art, few jump starts are more effective than a week of reading deprivation*.
I am now on Chapter 4 of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Which is a 12-week course that guides you through the process of recovering your creative self (words taken from the front sleeve of the book).
My mind races through the thought of not reading for a whole week. I’ve currently got 4 books on the go (something I don’t usually do but they are all different and I read them in different settings – tube travel, evening read, exercise catch up etc.) and I’m really enjoying them. Plus I got a stash of magazines from an event I attended yesterday – how would this even be possible? Note: If you hadn’t already figured it out, I love books – look!
I then think about the blogs I like to catch up with on WordPress and the articles I stumble across when I’m aimlessly browsing the internet.
Shit – the internet! This task was going to be bigger than I thought!
Cameron’s book was first published in 1992 – when I was 11 years old. A lot of things have changed since then and technology has advanced at such speed. Take the internet for example, it only went live to the world the year before Cameron’s book and was not mainstream in people’s houses. My family certainly didn’t get dial up for another couple of years at least and the first time I had a mobile I was about 17.
I did a quick stocktake of everything that could fall into the ban…….Books (paper and ebooks), magazines, newspapers, blogs, articles, emails, social media, TV, texts(WhatsApp)……
I started to panic!!!
And that’s when I realised how dependent I am on these things.
Last year I trembled at the thought of my decision to come off Facebook for a week – We are on a Break!. The first couple of days were hard but I found it so rewarding that I stayed off for 3 months in total! But, I had other ways to keep occupied aka distractions! Ahem…the above list!
Cameron mentions that when teaching the course to her students, they always find this challenge a tough one – and that was back then! So as dramatic as it may seem (although if you’re reading this then maybe it doesn’t), my reaction was a common one. Note: Cameron has updated this chapter on her website so it is now reads as ‘media deprivation’.
Instantly I started making excuses as to why I couldn’t do it. I became defensive – I didn’t need to do it anyway as I’m not creatively blocked. I’m just taking my time before I write my book. Researching is important. I need to follow all these bloggers, entrepreneurs, female black authors, feminists, attractive models, cute dogs and silly quotes on Instagram. bla-di-bla-di-blaaaaa! It’s research – I promise!
I then went in search of some advice from my good pal, Google.
Aaah Google, you’re always there for me in my hour/s of need. You help me when I need a welcome distraction to life – you are my most intelligent friend. Even though sometimes you lead me astray – remember that time I couldn’t sleep so I typed in ‘How to end poverty’? I went to bed an hour later with my head full of ideas due to nearly starting my own charity, booking a trip to a 3rd world country, searching for University Degrees! Oh the times we spend together Google – so many times we’ve stayed up late to do that. You evil genius you!
My aim was to find other people who had got to chapter 4 of the book to hear their views and if they had successfully done it – how they’d coped.
At the time I couldn’t even see the irony in my actions. Instead of just making the decision on whether I should do the exercise or not. I needed to hear from people who had already done/tried it and read their stories. I was begging for validation! And for others to help stretch my comfort zone – to say to me “come on in – the water’s lovely”. Not very creative at all.
What was obvious was that everyone had their own ideas what construed as reading/media deprivation and they made up their own rules! Some could say it’s cheating but I think that’s creativity working. In life we have the opportunity to make our own rules – yet so often we forget this – and we do things, read things, buy things, watch things because that’s ‘what people do’ – even if we don’t really want to do them. So that was it…..
I was giving myself a reading and media ban!
If I was following the book to the letter it would have started today but I have a valid excuse and hey, my life, my rules!
I’m working away from tomorrow morning, living it up in hotels in Devon and Bristol and I’m not back home until Friday night. Then I’m way another couple of days the week after. I want to carry out this challenge when I’m going to be in my home environment for the week as I think that’s when it will highlight the benefits. Therefore I will be starting this on 1st March.
- mend my broken trousers? (that have needed to have a couple of buttons sewn on for at least a year)
Sort outbin old paperwork?
- Exercise? (using the weights I’ve only used once before)
- Do a jigsaw (I don’t have a jigsaw but I may go and buy one)
- Go stir crazy
- Cave in
As the shock dust settles, I’m really starting to look forward to this. It will be mindfulness at it’s greatest. Today I walked to the local shopping centre. It’s an activity I do often but usually I listen to an audio book or a podcast whilst walking. This time – I just walked. Phone firmly in my bag. I saw a Crow land on a lamppost, cawing away. Until a Magpie flew in from nowhere and knocked him off it. It really made me laugh and I doubt I would have seen that if I had been listening to something.
On the walk I also had the time to think about what would be most beneficial to me. I now present to you my rules for the reading/media deprivation:
- Books, magazines and newspapers. This includes any printed material e.g. leaflets and flyers
- Articles, blogs and websites
- Facebook and Instagram (and all the other social media platforms). Instagram will be the hardest now I’ve started to spend a lot of my time on there
- TV, Ted Talks, Netflix
- Emails (apart from work emails)
- Postal Mail
What will be included in the list to some extent:
- Texts/WhatsApp/FB Messenger. I won’t initiate a conversation or get involved in mindless chat but will reply to people.
- Google maps and CityMapper – I use these apps because I need them to get me from A to B. I don’t currently use them to estimate how long it would take me to walk from London to Cardiff – if I did, I would ban this.
- The Artist’s Way book (for the exercises) – Cameron has said that this is of course okay, so who am I to argue?
If I want to write then I shall write using pen and paper and only re-read what I’ve got after the challenge is done.
So in a nutshell I’ll be staying off the internet, rarely using my phone and trying not to read what’s on the stack of papers too much before I throw them out! Some alternative exercises in the book are:
I have a while to prepare myself before the challenge starts. Will I feast on everything so much that I need a break? Like I did with cheese at Christmas before I did Veganuary (which I nailed by the way)! Or will I start to gradually phase them out?
Time will tell. What I do know is that it will reveal who is in control of the actions I take in my life.
What do you think of the challenge? Could you do it? Have you done it? Would welcome your thoughts.
p.s. If you’ve liked this or any of my other posts, I would be grateful if you could give them a share.
*the page that made me gasp and F*##*&%
Annually, my wife goes to a weekend retreat where there is no talking with each other, no eye contact, no reading, no TV. Just lecture, yoga and thought. I’d go nuts. She comes back refreshed and energized. Good luck with your deprivation. May it energize and motivate you.
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I’d love for their to be something similar near me. I’d definitely try it. Although I’d struggle most trying not to break into song! Have you never been tempted? Thank you. Looking forward to seeing what creativity comes out.
Synchronicity perhaps that I just found you! I am actually in the process of reading “The Artist’s Way” and I, too, just finished the dreaded chapter 4. It is very strange to read your post. I honestly didn’t expect to come across someone who is feeling the exact same thing as me at the same moment in time.
I adore reading. It is my lifeblood. I think I truly gave the page a dirty look when I read those dirty words: READING DEPRIVATION.
I’m still mulling over their relevance and wondering what kind of proper justification my ego can come up with — it’s a master manipulator so I’m sure it’ll be pretty inventive with this one…
I’d be curious to know how you do with this one…
As for me, I could scrap talking, communication as a whole, but reading, not a chance!
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Aaah I love a bit of synchronicity. It really is the dreaded chapter 4. Are you reading the book and then going to do the exercises? I’m doing the activities as I make my way through the chapters. So I’ve just read Chapter 5. I’m really struggling with doing the additional activities on top of the Artist’s Dates and the Morning Pages.
Haha love that you were as taken back as I was when you came across ‘Reading Deprivation’ – it was a total swear word to me! I shall look forward to hearing how inventive your ego gets. I have just blocked the reading part out of my mind at the moment and just divulging in reading as much as I can. I’ve pushed back when it’s going to start – Mon 5th March for a week. I’ve now started to worry about it………….
Keep me posted..
Two years later – and like you – I went to Google at week 4! Thank you for your post. I enjoyed reading it before I started my “Media” week shutdown. Your thinking aligns with mine and appreciate your perspective. In gratitude – A
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Thanks for reading and your comment Anna. I really feel like I need to revisit this challenge so you have inspired me to look into it again. I really hope you do well with the week. Emma x