Sorry I am a day late with the check-in this week. A bomb went off in my day yesterday and I just couldn’t get it finished, but here goes…
I don’t even know where to start with this week’s check-in. If you read my earlier post, you know that one of the assignments for this week was a reading fast – no reading at all for a whole week. The rationale is to get out of other people’s thoughts and creations and into your own. What I can say for certain is that while it was pretty miserable, I learned a LOT about myself.
- Week 4 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Identity.” This week is all about dealing with your real self and your realfeelings, as opposed to the ones that are on public display. Mission accomplished. Painfully so.Morning Pages: Yup. I even powered through a couple of times when I wanted to stop after two pages. Sure enough, something significant would come out in that third page.Artist Date: Tuesday night, at 9:00, I found myself too tired to do any more work and DYING to read. I was so angry that I couldn’t and found myself thinking, “FINE! You want self-exploration, inner peace, silence, solitude? I’ll give it to you!!” So I did a 30-minute meditation with no music, no guidance from a recording – nothing. I almost always use some sort of music or mantra when I meditate, and I have never sat for that long of a time in one block. I’d love to say it changed my life, but it didn’t. It did, however, calm me down and get me through the evening. I slept better that night than I had all week.
Any “Aha” Moments? Uh, yeah. Brace yourselves.
- First, I knew I loved reading, but despite the fact that my house is loaded to the rafters with books (which should have been a clue), I didn’t realize how integral reading is to my life and well-being. At different times during this exercise I felt anguish, longing, anger… Not dissimilar to the range of emotions you feel when after a break-up, actually. Sometimes, not being able to pick up a book felt physically unbearable. I’m not even kidding.
- Second, I learned that I DO use reading as a way to escape from unpleasant feelings and self-examination. Not all the time, but definitely sometimes. Over this past week, whenever I felt upset, my hands just itched to pick up a book. Not being able to forced me to confront what was bothering me.
- Third, I learned that I DO use reading as a way to avoid creating. I amazed myself with my productivity this week. I even finished a brand new story! I’ve been promoting the MeeGenius children’s author contest, writing on my own blog and still, I didn’t feel totally out-of-control like I sometimes do. Although I missed reading my favorite blogs and hanging out on Facebook and Twitter (I did a teensy bit, but FAR less than usual), it was a blessing to have an excuse to skip all that reading. I will, however, be glad to get back to them. Kind of like greeting a friend after an absence. 🙂
So, what did I do while I wasn’t reading? Well, I decorated my house for Christmas. I cooked several meals on Sunday so as to be prepared for the week ahead. I listened to Christmas music. I took the dog for long walks. I watched a movie and The Grinch with my kids. I reflected (even when I didn’t want to). And I wrote. I learned that you really do need the silence spaces in order to let creativity bubble up to the surface.
What will I do with these lessons? One thing is for sure, and that is I will NOT do a reading fast EVER. AGAIN. HOWEVER, I do commit to bringing more awareness to my reading – just checking in mentally to see if I am reading for pleasure, for purpose, or to escape myself or my writing. If it’s the latter, I will attempt to explore those feelings further before running away with a book (or Google Reader).
I also realize that I need to put more structure around my social media time. I’ve known this for a long while, actually, but it took this week for me to admit that it’s getting in the way of my writing. I LOVE blogging, reading blogs, Tweeting, Facebooking. I’ve made some amazing friends this way! *Here’s me looking at YOU.* I will keep doing these things, but I am going to have to prioritize and set time limits. For example, reading the blogs of my regular followers will always come first. Next will be the ones that provide professional benefit to me. If I have time left after that, I can read the ones that are just for fun. And no matter what, I have to actually STOP when the time is up.
For one thing, I’ll never take reading for granted again! While I certainly do not think that reading is an enemy to creativity or self-exploration, I do think bringing awareness to when, how, and why I choose to read when I do will be a good practice going forward. I don’t think I’ll have any choice but to be honest with myself if I’m picking up a book, a magazine or scrolling through my Google reader as a way to escape difficult feelings or to shove my creative self away under the guise of “other work” I need to do.
A few favorite quotes from the Week 4 chapter:
“People frequently believe the creative life is grounded in fantasy. The more difficult truth is that creativity is grounded in reality, in the particular, the focused, the well observed or specifically imagined.”
“Until we experience the freedom of solitude, we cannot connect authentically. We may be enmeshed, but we are not encountered.”
“Reading deprivation is a very powerful tool–and a very frightening one. Even thinking about it can bring up enormous rage (Uh, yeah!) For most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction. We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own.”
The only other thing I have to say is — THANK GOD THAT’S OVER!
Have you ever examined hobbies or habits to see if you use them to escape? Not only reading, but watching T.V., listening to music, surfing the Internet, etc.?Books, Creativity, Social Media, Spirituality, The Artist's Way, Writing · Tags: Blogging, Books, Creativity, Julia Cameron, Julie Hedlund, Productivity, Reading, Social Media, Spirituality, The Artist's Way, Writer, Writing