For the last few years, I’ve wanted to try to take a week off from reading. I love a challenge, and this one sounded really, really hard. But each time I considered actually starting a reading fast, I just didn’t want to follow through. The idea was enticing, but the reality felt like a diet of bread and water — doable but grim.
The week of reading deprivation comes from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. While it might be unpleasant, it’s meant for good: to draw one’s attention back to her own words.
As Cameron says:
Reading deprivation casts us into our inner silence, a space some of us begin to immediately fill with new words — long, gossipy conversations, television bingeing, the radio as a constant, chatty companion. We often cannot hear our own inner voice, the voice of our artist’s inspiration, above the static.
As I’m in the beginnings of a new novel, I felt like now was a good time to try to listen to that voice — without the static. I hoped these open pockets of time normally filled with reading might lead me to my story. I hoped it might naturally have room to grow without the influence of other voices.
I tweaked the rules a little. I read a bit online and the newspaper. What I didn’t do was pick up a book in the afternoons and evenings or listen to a story while walking the dog or running errands.
As I expected, this was a huge challenge. More than ever I’ve been aware how vital stories are to my everyday life. I’m not sure the experience brought me any closer to my own story, but the quiet pushed me to reflect on my work, left space for thoughts I might not have otherwise had, and reminded me to be intentional. That quiet space has primed the pump for the work ahead.
I’m trying to learn to make space for silence. This week of reading deprivation has taught me it’s something I need.
Here are a couple related articles that might interest you:
How Information Robs Us of Our Creativity :: Open Culture
The Artist’s Way (and Reading) :: Project Mayhem
The Benefits of Reading Deprivation :: Helping Writers Become Authors
My Week of (Attempted) Reading Deprivation :: Clarissa Harwood
Fasting Story :: Project Mayhem
Caroline, this is such a good idea. I go through periods of fasting from the internet but have never tried to go without books and I wonder what that would be like. Thank you for writing about such an important topic. We all need silence in our lives to hear the still small voice of God. A blessed Advent to you!
You too, Vijaya. If you try this, please tell me how it goes.