The Artist's Way: Reading Deprivation

If you feel stuck in your life or in your art, few jump starts are more effective than a week of reading deprivation (Cameron, 87).

Of all the tasks and exercises I mentally prepared myself for when I began The Artist's Way, reading deprivation was not one of them. I had accepted the likelihood that I would have to do tasks I didn't want to do (Cameron recommends completing at least half the tasks at the end of each chapter, choosing those you find most appealing and those you feel the strongest resistance to), but this–this I did not expect. My initial response was one of dread.

A week without reading.

A. Whole. Week.

Seven days. I can hear Samara whispering it now.

It's basically my own personal idea of hell. Even when I was stuck in my now broken reading slump (more on that in a few weeks) I was still reading articles and books … I just wasn't finishing any of the books. When I broke the news to my twin sister (my fellow Artist's Way student) her reaction was slightly more pronounced than mine, her expression turning to one of horror as she responded with a resounding, emphatic 'I'm not doing that'. According to Cameron, our negative responses to this exercise are normal. She explains,

Reading deprivation is a very powerful tool–and a very frightening one. Even thinking about it can bring up enormous rage. For most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction. We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own (87).

As a serial procrastinator. I especially recognised myself in that last sentence, and with this knowledge and a strong desire to complete Week 4 (after two weeks of putting it off) and move onto Week 5, I finally embarked on my own week of reading deprivation.

So far I've had both positive and negative experiences. On the positive side, I've had some new ideas, including some new topics I want to write about in future blog posts, and I can still listen to music. On the flip side, I want to read all the things! And listen to podcasts (you're not supposed to fill up your reading-free time with the radio. I'm assuming podcasts fall into that category).

To give myself some encouragement I made a list of some of the things I could do instead of reading, including some of the suggestions made in The Artist's Way.

  • Listen to music
  • Go cycling (I keep intending to do this one and then never get around to it. Maybe this week I can change that)
  • Explore my local suburb
  • Meditate
  • Practice yoga
  • Pay bills (done and done!)
  • Sort my closet (time to KonMari the rest of my wardrobe)
  • Cook meals that take longer than fifteen minutes to prepare (a challenge on my patience)
  • Catch-up with friends and family
  • Practice calligraphy
  • Write
  • Plan content for this blog

Some of these things are banal, some are nourishing or productive, and some of them I already do. But, most important, they don't involve reading (except for the things I write) and they are all achievable. And maybe they'll lead to an epiphany or two. Finger crossed.

Until next time,
Miss Fif