Friday, October 15, 2010

Week 4: No words for you

So the big activity or challenge for Week 4 of the Artist's Way is Reading Deprivation. The premise is that as blocked artists we consume other people's creations as a way to avoid our own thoughts or the scary prospect of creating something (that might fail) ourselves. So the task is to spend a week NOT reading and see what happens. Julia isn't too specific about what forms of media are to be avoided. She casually mentions avoiding magazines and newspapers and TV, but the book was written before blogs and email and social networks became such distractions. So I threw those in, too. Also, she several times suggests that you might listen to music when you aren't reading. But as a musician, I recognize that I often listen to other people's music instead of creating my own. So I decided to have musical deprivation, too.

In some ways, this was an incredibly easy week to do this task. Since I had just moved into a new apartment, there was a lot to do so I didn't have a lot of downtime to read anyway. Plus, I didn't have internet set up in the new place so that meant I had very limited access to blogs, twitter, and TV since I only watch Hulu and Netflix. So it was easy in that it didn't take much self-discipline to avoid reading. Self-discipline is hard for me. But there were several times when I'd been unpacking for hours and I sat down on the couch and reached for the latest New Yorker. No. Get up. Go tackle one more box. Go for a walk. Do something else. And by golly, I got that whole apartment unpacked. And I got myself packed up for Nashville.

That's the other thing that happened in Week 4. I packed up my car full of stuff (Not too much, though. I purged, remember?) and drove part-way to my new part-time home. And there were other people in the car and there was a wedding and a family trip to the mountains over the weekend, too. So not much time to squeeze in reading or TV even if I had wanted to. I was way too busy hiking and dancing and toasting hearing about my friends' love lives and travel adventures and job woes. I didn't have a second to miss reading at all.

Music was harder. I listened to silence in the car when I was running errands and several days while I was unpacking. But I did put on some old CDs while I  was emptying boxes. And I put on a record when a friend came over for dinner. And of course, there was lots of music at the wedding. But I think my true break-down came on Sunday afternoon when Alison and I had pretty much spent 48 straight hours together, had discussed everything we could think of, had been driving for 6 hours and NEEDED the radio on. Still, the stations faded in and out as the road winded around the mountains, so we had to talk anyway. And it didn't distract us from seeing a bald eagle swooping over the farmlands of western Virginia, so I think it was OK.

The first chance I really had to go back to consuming media was Tuesday when I had a 10 hour drive to Nashville. I probably would have gone crazy trying to drive 10 hours by myself in silence, so I was really glad I had some audiobooks and music and phone calls (on the headset!) to keep my brain alive. But I also spent some time with nothing playing, because I really see the value of being quiet with my thoughts. And when I got here and spent a day "working" with my 12 different windows open, flipping around between playing videos and checking email and Facebook and music listings, I felt like a total scatterbrain. I want to go back to that place of focus I had last week. So maybe a little bit of reading deprivation every day is in order. If you all would just stop creating such interesting things for me to read and watch and listen to, it would be a lot easier!

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