For Christmas I was gifted a copy of The Artist’s Way, written by Julia Cameron. First published in the early 90s, it has become a seminal text in creativity exploration and a way to recovering lost artistic expression. I was so excited to delve into the work that I began following the instructions the day after Boxing Day.
The book is set out as a twelve week course and as I’m writing this, I’m on the final day of week 4.
If anyone reading this has also followed The Artist’s Way, you will definitely remember this time. In this week, we are given the task of abstaining from any reading in order that our own thoughts and words will be heard and flow through us more easily. As Cameron asserts, we are always filling ourselves with other people’s words- where is the room for our own?
For me, this has been the week everything has seemed to fall into place and I think you’ll see why as I explain how the process works and what I have gained from it!
The task in question is titled “Reading Deprivation”. Cameron has since clarified that this is now best observed as “media deprivation” in our internet and streaming filled world. Today, we could forgo reading newspapers and books, only to keep filling our minds with social media scrolling and endless online tv streams- completely missing the point (and benefits!) of the exercise.
I’m going to be completely honest with you because there’s no need for me to not be and no one is checking up on me except myself. I have really taken the entire idea seriously- and yet embraced the playful manner it is intended. It isn’t meant to be a punishment, yet many of us might associate it that way.
It has been a struggle. Day one was really easy and productive, after that though it was hard at several points. I thought it would be quite a breeze for me, as I often take social media free days and never read or watch news so I actually thought I didn’t consume much media. Haha! I was very mistaken.
Things I missed….
I’ve missed reading. That’s been a big challenge, to sit by my bookshelf each day and not be able to just read for even ten minutes. Not checking social media was tough, more so as I made the decision not to “announce” my break and so I’ve been wondering is anyone missing my always super amazing, insightful posts? (No one did and that’s actually a good thing, ego in check)
Another hard part at first was no television or film watching with my partner, Tim, in the evening. We don’t watch much but I definitely found it interesting to break the routine of watching an episode or a film before bed. Before the pandemic, this wasn’t really a daily occurrence for us, yet with no live gigs and no evening events, it has been an easy activity to fall into. Instead, we’ve had mini recording sessions of my music, we’ve rearranged the living room and after five years of living in this house, cleared out the spare room which I had called the “big cupboard” as it was just full of my music equipment and random bits. We’ve had longer, leisurely meals and talked and laughed more than we have in months. Even though Tim hasn’t been following the course and has watched tv after I’ve gone to bed, I’m sure it has done him good too. I’ve definitely noticed a change in his motivation, he’s worked on our guitars, cleaned and conversely- picked up a book to read after months of not reading it.
Can I say I’ve had an absolutely perfect week where not one word has befallen my eyes or ears? I did crack and listen to a reading before bed one night when I really couldn’t sleep and I’ve read a few emails to keep in touch with my projects so I’ve not definitely been perfect but I’m thrilled with the experiment and what I’ve achieved.
Things I gained…
It has made me realise just how much I relied on a constant stream of background noise. Going for a bath- podcast. Going to sleep- audiobook. Off for a walk- phone call. Cleaning- YouTube videos. That’s before any actual reading too, which was Cameron’s original point to avoid. Add in the social checks, emails, other types of reading like funding applications, letters, texts, and actual happy reading of books- we truly never get a moment to ourselves even though we may have been physically alone through all of that- phew! No wonder many of us feel drained of energy at points!
Cameron is right- without a constant consumption of other people’s content, we are free to think. Free to dream, free to flow, free to notice. The state she most wants for us is being free to be playful and I think I’ve achieved that this week. I thought I was quite playful anyway but actually this week has shown that I needed a boost in my own joyfulness and attitude to fun.
What did I do:
Painted the cottage of my dreams (and future!)
Had many baths,
Listened to records that were gathering dust as I only stuck to favourites,
Played with my cats,
Tidied the garden,
Cleaned and cleaned more…and more!
You get the idea, I won’t list every single thing I did. What all the activities I did have in common is they all take focus and can bring us to the present moment. This was something I thought I was giving myself previously, yet always having half my mind on a podcast or similar I was only ever fractionally there in the activity.
One revelation was writing poems- so many poems! The quality doesn’t matter to me at this point, just the act of writing them felt so good.
I’ve loved it and will definitely be taking this forward, aiming to have at least one day of no media every week.
I’m only a third of the way through and I highly recommend The Artist’s Way. The increased creativity and happiness I’ve experienced even after four weeks has made this invaluable to me and I’m so excited for the next eight weeks that lie ahead and all the mystery of my own creativity that will unfold.
Best Wishes and Deep Breaths,