Week four in The Artist’s Way is a big one: Cameron asks us to give up reading and television for a week. Back when the book was first published, before the internet was such a part of our daily lives, this would have been a challenge. In today’s world it can seem downright impossible.
In the online discussion group I’m following, this task understandably met with a lot of resistance. People went on about how they couldn’t possibly give up reading this week. Upon seeing their posts (I had not yet read the chapter), I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. Did I really want to do this? They sure were making it sound hard.
As I read the chapter I reflected on why the task is in there in the first place: to get us to free up more time for creativity. Sure, reading can help inspire creativity, but it can also be a real time suck. I thought about how I use reading to waste a lot of time each day. Whenever I sit down at the computer to get some writing done, I invariably start with a quick read of the headlines, or Facebook, or my favorite blogs. I tend to check my email throughout the day. When procrastinating I can easily get caught up in a series of TED Talks or Colbert Reports, and before I know it a big chunk of my working time is gone.
Suddenly I was excited to do this exercise. Think of all the newly-discovered time I’d have! I decided to create my own rules for the week which would allow me to maximize the intended effects of the exercise while still keeping some other priorities in line. First, no internet browsing. I closed out all the open tabs in my browser and set my homepage to a blank page (for when I need to open it to, say, map something or blog). For email, I’m allowed to check it no more than three times a day for at most 15 minutes at a time, and this just to make sure I’m not neglecting any important business or personal correspondence. I’m also allowed to read and respond to comments on my blogs during this limited time.
No TV, with the exception of the half-hour of The Daily Show that my husband and I watch most nights. It’s part of his down time after a long day of work, and I didn’t want to mess with it given that I was already finding so many other ways to make changes. No podcasts, so far at least, although I think I’d allow myself to listen to them while painting. I’m trying to opt for music instead of podcasts at other times, such as when I’m running errands or cleaning up around the house.
And finally, no other reading except for a book I’m reading as research for the novel I’m writing – that I’m allowed to read for up to an hour a day. Banning this book would just impede my progress on my novel, and getting it done is one of my top priorities right now. So, the book stays.
So far I’m four days in (two weekdays), and I’m liking this no-reading thing. It’s definitely hard to resist the urge to check in with the internet at certain times, but my week is off to a very productive start. I already think I’ll be making some permanent changes to my habits after this week is over.