In my life, I tend to take on a lot of projects. I’m a very project-oriented person, though my projects tend to be large and not necessarily focused on a certain end point but just on “working on” something. A fair number of these projects involve reading. I’m committed to reading the New Yorker each week, for example, to perusing Slate and Salon every day, to reading my RSS feed reader a few times a day, and to reading books as frequently as time allows. Another one of my projects is a book called Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This “artistic recovery” program has actually been opening a lot of doors for me in a very short time, and I’m optimistic about it, but this week is the biggest challenge yet. One week of reading deprivation.
The idea is that depriving oneself of reading is liberating, because it frees up time to do other things. I do agree to some extent, in that the daily pouring of news into my brain takes up a lot of time. On the other hand – and she said to expect resistance, so I’m not alone – not reading for a week is SCARY. She suggests that we blow off work or school assignments (just for a week!) and I admittedly can’t quite bring myself to do that. I’m going to do my class reading after this morning’s exam and then my reading deprivation will start. Maybe that’s cheating, but it is after all the first week of school. I also am not entirely sure that reading is an artistic block, especially to a writer. Reading makes me feel great, it inspires me, it liberates me. But I’ll give it a shot. I’m not going to try not to read at all, to the extent that things like checking my e-mail and doing projects require reading. My work assignments right now, for example, involve summarizing Congressional testimony (which requires skimming) and editing a briefing paper. So I’m saying that writing projects with incidental reading don’t count, nor does e-mail or skimming the headings of articles to decide whether to save them (another on-going project is reading-for-later collection). Working on shortening my paper so that I can submit it to an essay prize is okay. But no Google Reader, no Slate, no Salon, none of the fourteen ticking-time-bomb checked out library books, no magazines, none of that. I’ll let you know how it goes.