I am currently undergoing the fifth day of reading deprivation treatments as prescribed in The Artist’s Way. In week four, adherents are asked to avoid reading for a period of seven days.
I will die in seven days.
I imagine that for most people in Los Angeles this is not a problem. Here you pay people– Well, okay, you offer unpaid interns the opportunity to read things for you. But for me, a guy who reads at least a book every week, this is a significant thing to ask.
Now before you get all snarky (“There’s always reading somewhere!”), remember what happened to the guy in Gremlins 2 who questioned the rules. Yes, it’s probably impossible to go without reading anything for a week without blinding yourself. This is not a valid excuse to ignore your bills, and you’re still allowed to check the expiration dates on your food. And as one person in my group suggested, it might be best to read stop signs. Although as he pointed out, this is LA, so careening through intersections screaming, “I’M AN ARTIST!” would probably get you a pass.
The purpose of this exercise is to free up your time for creativity and break you out of the habit of compulsive reading. Adjusted for the Internet age, that means compulsive website browsing. And I’m totally on board with that aspect of it. I’m really uncomfortable with how much time I spend checking the same five websites three times a day, hoping I might stumble across a single article that’s actually interesting or has some significant content.
I was much more resistant to the idea of giving up books. I mean, I get it. I know what we’re going for here. But asking a newly recovering writer to give up books struck me about as misguided as asking a newly sober alcoholic to give up cigarettes. (Something I know absolutely nothing about, by the way. I’ve never smoked cigarettes.) So I had a lot of resistance to the idea. Not just because Julia Cameron seemed so smug about it, but because the fact that reading is my passion is one of the things I’m most proud of.
When I started this site, I committed myself to reading a book a week, and reviewing all that I could. This came about after a period of time where dark mysterious past stuff happened– the sort of stuff you’d find out about in a movie in a third act character reveal, but in my life I’m more likely to accidentally mention on a first date. (“That person sure reminds me of someone I met in the psych ward…while playing Arkham Asylum.”) I hadn’t read regularly in years. So being able to go back and prioritize that means the world to me. I can only think of one thing more important, and that’s how, as I’ve alluded to before, I’m secretly Batman. Giving up either is unthinkable.
As it happens, I also suffer from nocturnal ruminations. They’re like nocturnal emissions, but a bit more embarrassing. Simply put, I can’t stop thinking about things when I try to sleep at night. It’s a side effect of being a millionaire playboy who has to plan for every possible scenario to go wrong. Reading at night puts me in a meditative state, or at least distracts my brain enough so that I can go to sleep. I’ve tried other methods, but books are the best option if I don’t want to play
in Arkham Asylum again.
However, I didn’t want to use that as an excuse, and I didn’t want my pride or resentments to keep me from participating in this part of The Artist’s Way. So I settled on the following criteria for the week:
- No reading stuff on the Internet
- No browsing social media
- No reading books during the day, I can only pick up a book when I’m in bed with the intention of going to sleep
- If possible, call people instead of texting
- And if you can’t call people, text them! You’re being creative!
So far it’s gone rather well. I accidentally read a few posts on Facebook yesterday and got really pissed off, so it was good incentive not to do that again. The urge to mindlessly browse pop culture news sites has been extremely strong in the last 24 hours (What are people supposed to DO when they eat food? Sit quietly and enjoy their food?), but as far as I can tell, the only thing I’ve missed is that there’s a dress and people can’t tell whether it’s blue or not. I think that’s enough reason to stay off the Internet forever in itself.
As for what I’ve been doing with all this time, I’ll get to that later. But rest assured, although I am learning from and enjoying the fruits of this exercise, Julia Cameron will not come out of this unscathed. I will have my revenge for not being able to read whenever I want for a week.