Friday, February 19, 2010

Reading deprivation

I think I have mentioned that I am working my way through Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. The book is broken down into weeks, with various tasks to complete that help jump-start your creativity.

I just finished Week 4, which had the most difficult task, by far: reading deprivation. That's right, a whole week of no reading. No newspapers, no blogs, no books, not even work-related reading, if you can help it (though I had to cheat a bit, there... I teach online courses, and email is the only connection I have with my students, I couldn't really skip that for a week). The idea is to hear your thoughts, to "fill the well" as she calls it, by paying attention to what's going on around you, rather than allowing yourself the distraction of reading. It is incredibly difficult to do.

I am someone who drinks in words. If there are words in my line of sight, I read them. Graffiti, advertisements, books, newspapers, websites, anything. Not in English or German? Doesn't matter, I still try to sound out the words, to see if I can decipher their meaning. I am surprised by how often I am able to do so. To spend an entire week not reading was very difficult. I found other things to do to fill the time, mainly cleaning (after the plumber created a 40cm x 40cm hole in the wall of our kitchen, coating the room with dust in the process) and mending (which had been piling up and I am relieved to have finished).

But the most difficult part for me was right before bed. I read in bed, every night, and not being able to do this was downright painful. The first couple of nights, I found myself lying there, thinking how much I wanted to read something... anything. It was anything but productive. But by the third and fourth  nights, I found that I could move beyond my desire to read and get to my thoughts. I had a few ideas pop into my head, ideas I was able to implement later in the week (I am creating a blog from the perspective of the characters in my story, more on that to come...).

Now that I have reached the end of the week and am allowed to read again, I can say that it works. Reading deprivation is not an easy process, but it does free your mind and enable you to focus on things that are immediately relevant to you.

The added bonus, for me, was that no fewer than seven books found their way into our home within 48 hours of starting my reading deprivation. It was difficult not to be able to look them over right away, but if a little "fasting" brings on such bounty, I might just have to try it again soon!

1 comment:

  1. What a concept. For a writer it seems like a good but frustrating way to get in touch with your thoughts. I'll have to think about whether to try it myself sometime.