Even Wile E. Coyote gets to read!!!

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.?

Week 3 Check-In

Week 2 Check-In

Week 1 Check-In

The Artist’s Way

Categories: Books, Creativity, Social Media, Spirituality, The Artist's Way, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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24 Comments

  1. I definitely use reading to escape. And I am definitely more creative when I’m not really involved in a book. It’s too easy to go read someone else’s awesome story – but that doesn’t get my writing done! Glad you survived! Now that you’re allowed to read again, what’s the first book you’ll pick up? I just finished How To Save A Life by Sara Zarr – very good!

    • I haven’t read anything by Sara Zarr, but I met her at the Big Sur Workshop last year. I’ll have to pick that one up as a starting point. Thanks for the recommendation.

      Right now I’m reading Eragon, which I had started but put down for the week. My daughter finished it over the Thanksgiving break, so now it’s my turn.

  2. Julie, I love your Artist’s Way updates. 🙂

    I don’t think I use reading as an escape. I used to but now my reading is generally limited to evenings and the only thing I’m escaping is the TV. 🙂 Even email, that necessary evil, is an evening chore. I’m trying to write first and leave everything else till later, otherwise I’d never get to the actual task of writing something.

    Thank you for the wonderful update!

    • What I found is that reading is not just an escape from other activities, but also from confronting any tough feelings or issues we might be facing. Never would have known that without this experience. I’m going to try to bring more awareness from now on.

  3. Oh wow. I’ve sure had you in my thoughts through this week. I’m glad you made it through, have some insights to show for it, and best of all, YOU GET TO READ AGAIN!

    Um, guilty as charged for using reading of Facebook, blogs, even lolcats, to dance around actually getting to work with my writing. I must learn to put some limits on that. (Says she who’s just started promoting another facebook group!)

    Hopefully Week 5 gives you something easier to do than cutting off your auxiliary arm of reading!

    • Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts! I’m glad I made it over to the other side. Hopefully we can all remind each other – even in the Facebook groups – to make sure to get the writing done first!

  4. Jarm Del Boccio

    Julie, I can relate entirely to your post. I’m finding, too, that I am carried away with social media, to the detriment of my writing, reading (yes, that’s right) and my family. Thanks for reminding me of that fact. And, welcome back!

  5. I can really relate to that last quote-I am a reading addict. (I can, of course always use my job as a librarian as an excuse, but let’s face it, cozy book vs. football game…I choose book!) I, too, need to manage my time better and make sure that I am not reading to avoid writing. Thanks, Julie for this very insightful post. It sounds like you learned a lot about yourself through this exercise.

  6. Jennifer DuBose

    I can totally relate! Great insights.

  7. Thanks for sharing your experience, Julie. No matter how hard it was on you, you seem to have learned a lot which is to your credit. I can relate to much of what you’ve said–reading as an escape, etc. Good for you confronting it all.

  8. Raises hand too. Indeed I can use reading and social media as an escape and excuse for not writing! I do love solitude too, though. Glad this has been a great learning week for you!

  9. I know I use reading, tv and social media as an escape. I just got my power back this morning after 2 days of being without and I was so irritable being off my routine even for that short time. All I kept thinking was, “how will i ever survive the zombie apocalypse?” ha ha. Anyway I’m inspired by your experience. I too love my new online writing community, tweeting and reading blogs, but I know I sometimes tuck into that for far longer than I need to. Thanks for another inspiring post Julie!!

  10. Good insights and observations, Julie. Most of us have our “escape hatches” when we need the world to recede a bit. Reading is probably a “healthier” escape route to use than food, alcohol, drugs, TV, or video games.

    Glad your fast is over. Enjoy reading . . . in moderation. 😀

    • Reading IS healthier, which is why I never thought to examine my relationship with it. I’m glad I did, and I’m also glad that it’s over! 🙂

  11. Saw your post last night and didn’t get to it. I found your experiences moving, entertaining and enlightening. You r insights are priceless. I think you got a great deal out of the exercise. But, I’d be careful about saying you will “never” go without reading again — there are too many paradoxes operating. I especially liked the quotes you shared at the end very meaningful. I also congratulate your on accomplishing Week 4!

    • You know – you are right! I should know by now to NEVER say NEVER about anything. How many times am I going to need to learn that lesson? LOL

  12. Shannon Esposito

    I have to give you kudos for sticking it out, Julie. I’m sure there’s benefits that you haven’t even realized yet. I never thought about reading as an addiction, mostly because it doesn’t have a negative connotation to me…but I suppose I would react the exact same way as you did…very interesting. Welcome back to the written word 🙂

    • It’s interesting you say that Shannon, because I felt defensive of reading when I read the chapter. How DARE she insinuate that reading is a bad thing? But I’m forced to admit that it can be used as a crutch, as anything can, if you don’t bring some awareness to it.

  13. Hi
    I’m about to start Wk 4. Just like you I will probably miss reading for the week. But I’m interested in your point about reading to escape. What if you are a writer ( or wanna be one) and you read just to see how an author constructs his sentences, or plan their plotting or develop their characters? When I read, all these points are going on in the back of my mind. Likewise, I try to read as much poss, whether its a newspaper, journal or a book. But I look forward to doing the task and reading your blog

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