Could you give up reading for one week? No novels. No stories. No blogs. No newspapers. No articles. No social media. For one entire week.
I’m honestly not sure I could. And I’m even less sure that I can. But that’s what I’ll be doing for the next seven days.
For over three weeks now I have been reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and been going through the twelve-week program and doing the assigned exercises. I’ve been waking up every morning between 6:30am and 7am (even on weekends!) to write my morning pages, I’ve been taking myself on “artist dates,” I’ve been using affirmations, and I’ve been doing a lot soul searching in trying to answer questions about who I am and who I think I want to be. But I think I just ran into my most difficult exercise yet.
One of the assignments for week four is to give up reading for seven whole days. I’m not even entirely sure how it’s possible to give up reading. I love reading so much. I do it all the time. I suck down words like I breathe down air. I’m not even sure I can live without reading – especially if I’m comparing reading to breathing! What will I do with all this spare time?
Here’s Julia Cameron’s reasoning about why reading deprivation is one of the greatest tools you can use to unblock your creativity.
“Reading deprivation casts us into our inner silence […] “
“We often cannot hear our own inner voice, the voice of our artist’s inspiration, above the static.”
“If we monitor the inflow and keep it to a minimum, we will be rewarded for our reading deprivation […] Our reward will be a new outflow.”
“[…] sooner or later, if you are not reading, you will run out of work and be forced to play.”
“For most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction. We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own feelings, rather than cook up something of our own.”
It is a fascinating theory. She’s basically implying that by limiting the inflow or words and ideas from other people, which can flood our system, we are able to tap into our own words and ideas and change the direction of the flow; without ideas flowing in, they can flow out instead.
It makes a crazy amount of sense. But it is terrifying as hell. And it’s really strange that it makes me feel panicky. How can the idea of giving up reading be so terrifying? I think it has something to do with the fact that I can’t use reading to avoid things anymore. Cameron is right. Of course I’m addicted to reading. I don’t consider it a bad addiction, but in looking at it from a new perspective, I totally use reading as a crutch. I would way rather get lost in another author’s world than be faced with the prospect of having to create one myself. Even though I love writing too. How does this make sense? Too many times I have delayed doing something because “I need to finish my book first.” It will be interesting to see what happens when that excuse is off the table.
Plus, as part of this assignment, Cameron also suggests giving up TV. The obvious solution to having too much time from not being able to read is to fill it with TV. Watching TV is an amazing way to kill time. But TV is an inflow too. And like so many parents have said to their kids throughout history “TV numbs the brain.” TV is a crutch too. What am I going to do with so much time??!!
Prepare yourself for a lot of blog posts over the next seven days…