I am four weeks into Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way program.
This feels like a confession, a dirty secret, something embarrassingly woo-woo and desperate. Something that normal people don’t do, normal people don’t need, and especially not a person like myself!
But four weeks ago I was just at a loss, so here I am, writing morning pages again, taking myself on Artist Dates, and repeating affirmations. Yes, affirmations.
It has been good, though. I am not a particularly spiritual-woo-woo-creative-muse-come-to-me kind of person, but I AM a person who likes a plan. A program. A syllabus. Doing my weekly reading, my daily writing, my creative exercises has been satisfying. I have gamely completed a number of silly exercises as Ms. Cameron has presented them to me.
Until last night, when I read my marching orders for the upcoming week and halfway through the chapter Ms. Cameron presented a thing called reading deprivation. Just don’t read. Anything. For a week.
The following negative emotions coursed through me: fear, panic, disgust, anxiety, horror, incredulity, disdain. Me, not read? Well, that’s just not an option. Reading is my self-assigned job, my livelihood, my world. And did you know, Ms. Cameron, that I am on a book review deadline right now? Simply impossible.
Of course, Ms. Cameron responded with this, the next line in the chapter:
At least one student always explains to me – pointedly, in no uncertain terms – that he or she is a very important and busy person with duties and obligations that include reading. […] When the rage has been vented, when all the assigned reading for college courses and jobs has been mentioned, I point out that […] in my experience I had many times wriggled out of reading for a week due to procrastination. […] I ask my class to turn their creativity into wriggling into not reading.
And although I am skeptical, anxious, cynical and horrified, I also believe fairly firmly that the things I try the hardest to avoid doing are exactly the things I should be doing. When I start to do mental back-flips to get out of a task, when I have 100 excuses at the ready, then I take that as a sign that I should just do that thing.
And it gets worse. Ms. Cameron equates television with reading, which is understandable and not too hard for me to handle – I could go a week without TV, easy. But that means no movies, either, which is something that The Boy and I enjoy every week or two, and he’s home for Spring Break. I may need to fend him off. Okay. I can do that too.
But what will I do instead of read or watch TV or watch a movie? I could just read more things on the Internet! But that seems the opposite of what I’m supposed to be doing. Or I could run more, or do more spring cleaning… while I listen to my audiobook? No, no books. While I listen to a podcast? That seems strangely similar to an audiobook. So, what exactly IS this? Reading deprivation, or media deprivation, or self-torture??
[Insert a thousand excuses here]
[Insert Jessica’s Better Self. Even if Her Better Self is a bit woo-woo sometimes]
So I’m doing it, with one small reservation: I need to write these damn reviews and I can’t take a week off. So, today is the first of seven days with
- no books (except for the three specific titles I must read)
- no television
- no movies
- no audiobooks
- no podcasts
- no blogs
- no Twitter or Facebook
- no mindless internet reading
- no magazines
- no news
I think it’s actually the last one that makes me feel better about this. Given the circumstances of my poor city, I could do without news for a little while.
Since this is a blog that is mostly about books, it seems like I should say “sayonara!” for the week… but if I’m not reading, I will probably have time to write here MORE often. Funny how that works. I’m nervous about this, yes, but also kind of excited to see what I end up doing with my time. Finish learning how to knit? Fold origami? Do a thousand crossword puzzles? Have a clean kitchen every day for seven days? Get into unnecessary arguments with The Boy to kill time? Sleep more? Drink more? Plan the rest of my wedding in a seven day marathon? WHO KNOWS!? It’s a great mystery! I just hope that I won’t come back next week a changed woman, enthusiastic about her life without books, because then I might have a bigger identity problem to tend to…