Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Put Down That Book!

I talked a little about "reading deprivation" in the comments, but think it deserves a post here as well.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to read. A Lot. So, I'm definitely not saying people shouldn't read, not at all. But for you writers/artists/creatives out there, specifically the ones who feel blocked, I suggest not reading - books, magazines, blogs, etc. - for a week. This "reading deprivation" can do wonders for your creativity.

In the past, I justified my copious amounts of reading by saying that reading inspired me: not just through the ideas and images evoked through the written word, but also because reading allowed me to "see" how an author achieved a mood or a feeling. I told myself I was "studying" the way an author wrote.

But reading is also a wonderful way to procrastinate and put off writing, too. When I get stuck on something I'm writing or if I feel like putting off writing for a little while, I tend to pick up a book or a magazine or read a blog. So, when I was following the excercises in "The Artist's Way," by Julia Cameron, I wasn't too suprised to see that she recommended a week of "reading deprivation." But it was hard, by God it was hard.

I first read the chapter on "reading deprivation" a couple years ago, while I was half-way through a flight back home. I knew Cameron was right without having to think about it. I used reading as a "crutch." Despite the three novels in my backpack (I always carry a few spare novels on trips, just in case I get through them super quick), I didn't crack a single one of them open. When you're on a plane and your sister is asleep in the seat next to you, it's extremely hard not to pick up a book. But I didn't. And for the six days after, I didn't either. At breakfast, when I normally thumbed through a few pages, I talked to my mom more, or I sat, chewing my cereal and scribbling notes for the story I was working on. I started using my lunch breaks at work for writing (and sometimes errands). And, instead of reading before going to bed, I wrote.

My excuse, in the weeks prior, for not writing generally revolved around not having enough time. Suddenly, by not reading, I had more time than I expected. And I didn't use that time for just writing, I filled it up with more activites, more time with family, more time with friends.

Granted, I'm still an avid reader. But the week of "no reading" taught me how to find that careful balance, to make time both for reading, writing, and all the other fun stuff.

So, put that book down, and give it a try. I guarantee you'll be surprised by the outcome; and definitely let me know - in a week - how it works out.

1 comment:

Andi said...

I am going to pick up that book and have a "read". I love reading and have lately had blocks with writing. With so much to do, it is hard to find balance and to make to right choices. Thanks for the tips.