Last week, I embarked on the chapter in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way that emphasized... reading deprivation. It is exactly what it sounds like, plain and simple: don't read for pleasure, don't read to kill time. Don't read.
Bibliophile that I am, my first reaction was that this exercise was unnecessary self-torture, especially coming so soon after Lent. Here's what Julia has to say about it:
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 system. 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... Reading deprivation casts us into our inner silence, a space some one us begin to immediately fill with new words - long, gossipy conversations, television bingeing, the radio as a constant, chatty companion. We often cannot hear our own inner voice, the voice of our artist's inspiration, above the static. In practicing reading deprivation, we need to cast a watchful eye on these other pollutants. They poison the well. (p. 87)
Hard as it is to believe, I found this to be completely spot-on. You can imagine with a job as a receptionist, I find many windows of ennui in which I am tempted to while away the hours with a deep perusal of internet newspapers and/or with a good novel. But when I relinquished said distractions it was a very clear indication of how addicted to this unhealthy media chat and extraneous stuff I'd been.
Those days as far away from a novel or the internet as I could get, I did actually find myself focusing on my art and filling the time (not killing time) with those introspective, creative thoughts. It was helpful. And it is still very eye-opening to know how much of the outside world is let in, and how much I don't actually need.
Very good lesson, indeed!