“If you feel stuck in your life or in your art, few jump starts are more effective than a week of reading deprivation.
No reading? That’s right: no reading. For most artists, words are like tiny tranquilizers. We have a daily quota of media chat that we swallow up. Like greasy food, it clogs our systems. Too much of it and we feel, yes, fried.
It is a paradox that by emptying our lives of distractions we are actually filling the well. Without distractions, we are once again thrust into the sensory world.”
In the workshop that I attended — http://www.artistswaylosangeles.com/ — facilitator Kelly Morgan had said that Julia has since updated this assignment to media deprivation, not just reading. Immediately, students protested. What about reading emails required for work? Same for texting. What about music on the car radio to and from work? Not to mention the traffic reports to maneuver the commute on the freeways? An hour’s drive in silence? You’ve got to be kidding! Elevators have video screens with news feeds. Some supermarkets have them in the produce section, meat department and at the checkout aisle!
We are in Hollywood, for god’s sake! Okay, technically, the class was being held at the Bodhi Tree Bookstore in WEST Hollywood, but still … This IS the Media Mecca of the world. Even billboards are full-featured video screens. One classmate works at a television network that has multiple flat-screen TVs lining the walls of the office. How do you implement media deprivation in that kind of environment?
The buzz of conversations in the classroom made me smile to myself. Wow, did this ever push the big panic button in everyone! Myself, included. It was probably one of the most difficult assignments. Some students did better than others. I must admit that I “fell off the wagon” a few times.
Aside from work-required media, Kelly did allow one small exception. If it meant the difference between doing or not doing the assignment, she suggested tuning the car radio to a station that played only instrumental music so that there were no words to draw attention away from your own “mind chatter.”
Then there’s the computer . . .
I think a lot of us writers get lured away from our writing with research-surfing or PR — texting/tweeting/emailing/blogging to keep our names out there among the readership. I know from my own experience how much these things drain hours out of our day. We think it’s just a few minutes here and there, but it isn’t. And I do believe that our brains get lulled into thinking that we did our writing for the day. Thus, when it’s time to get back to work on our novel, we don’t have as much energy as we could have.
Julia writes: “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 [media] deprivation with embarrassing speed. Our reward will be a new outflow. Our own art, our own thoughts and feelings, will begin to nudge aside the sludge of blockage, to loosen it and move it upward and outward until once again our well is running freely.”
So if you are having a tough time with your writing these days, try this assignment. Just for one week. That’s a do-able time frame. Give yourself this opportunity to find out what this experience is for you. No two people will have the same experience. So it won’t do you a bit of good to hear about my experience, what I learned. You need to find out what your inner Artist is going to say to you. It’s a challenge, but well worth the effort. It doesn’t cost anything. It doesn’t require taking time off from work or flying out of town to a conference. What do you have to lose?
– Gillian Doyle
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