OK, I already mentioned in my last Artist’s Way roundup that the thought of the reading-less week next week is freaking me out a bit. As it gets ever closer (I only have two full reading days left!) I have to say it is nagging at my mind even more.
For the non-Artist’s Way people: the Artist’s Way is a set of weekly exercises to promote creativity. I’ve never done it before, but those who have done it speak about week 4 in hushed tones. Week 4 is the week that you’re not allowed to read anything. It is The Week of Reading Deprivation.
Of course to someone as addicted to text as I am, this sounds exceptionally painful. Julia Cameron says in the book that when she teaches this course, “I break the news that we won’t be reading and then I brace myself for the waves of antagonism and sarcasm that follows”.
I understand the idea that without reading, I’m more likely to reach a stage of productive boredom. I can even believe in principle that the week is going to be marvellously good for me. But still. Don’t WANT to.
I’m not concerned that I won’t find enough to do when I’m not reading. I have plenty of things to do around here. Writing and knitting and cooking alone could fill my time perfectly adequately. I need to sort out the ipod dock and load up some music but otherwise I think I’m set on the entertainment front.
I can certainly imagine that the removal of all internet-based procrastination will help me finally get round to a lot of other activities (my second-favourite procrastination method – that of planning unnecessary and irrelevant activities on a large number of post-its – will still of course be available to me.)
I’m just not sure who I am without a constant inward flow of words. There’s a particular sort of input I’m always seeking: a calm, authoritative, practical, literate, radio 4 voice. Nothing over-emotional. Nothing irrational. A nice political memoir or travel book or not-too-exciting novel. A dry, make-up-your-own-mind documentary. In Our Time. Today in Parliament. Soothing and regular and absorbing. For the last 30 years, I’ve been feeding and medicating myself with that voice.
My own inner voice: well, it’s a bit of a pest. It gets emotional, and bored, and wound up, and obsessive, and just generally noisy. It is never free of horrible earworms. It gets stuck with re-iterating stuff it once read and can’t quite accurately remember. And it has bloody ideas all the time, which make it very difficult to get any peace around here, I tell you. One way I do know of calming it down is to take it for a walk, so I have this feeling that I’ll be getting plenty of exercise next week.
For accountability, here are my rules of engagement.
a) no novels, memoirs, biography, anything with a plot.
b) no newspapers (sob! My poor Guardian. I will have to cancel him.)
c) no cheating by listening to audiobooks.
d) NO RADIO 4. Because let’s face it, it’s just one big audiobook. Or maybe audio newspaper.
e) Radio 2 is allowed if it’s not a really chatty Jeremy Vine bit. Bonus points for listening to Radio 3.
f) no internet (!!!)
g) event listings are allowed, because God knows I’ll need to get out of the house.
h) recipes and knitting patterns are allowed
i) no sneaking a look at the extra text round recipes
j) reading cereal boxes is permissible only if the desperation gets too much
k) textbooks are allowed as long as the reading is not lengthy and gratuitous
l) yes I can check jobhunting-related email and make job applications. I know that Julia Cameron says I can weasel out of my obligations but, y’know, I’m not going to let a job opportunity go past because some hippie-dippy creativity book says I’m not allowed to read.
m) I honestly have no idea how to get myself to sleep without either a book, Radio 4 or the World Service, so I’m allowing myself one of the latter two if the insomnia gets too much.
n) lectures: yes or no? Undecided. May depend how desperate I get.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and inhale a novel. Maybe two. Time is running out.